San Francisco

James Suzuki

Worth Ryder Gallery, U.C.

Suzuki shows a series of paintings done since September in which he attempts to conciliate the current vogue for hieratic, regularized images with the format of shallow space, unrestricted range of color and texture, and all-over organization that survives from his earlier Abstract Expressionist style. In each painting circle forms of various sizes, singly or in groups, skirmish with a whole battery of contesting elements: sketchy A. E. brushwork, drips, stains, banners, hearts, arrows, letters, plus quantities of those restless, doodle forms that recall Pollock of the mid-forties (except that they are drained of organic impulses). Every engagement ends in a draw—the circles retain their identity but never overpower their adversaries. If this is what the painter had in mind, he is undeniably successful, for every picture surface is still evenly animated in spite of the diversity of pictorial elements.

Although the format of each work is a similar rough square, the configurations are endlessly varied. In one of the most recent, Pete’s Studio, the various elements are deployed in classical fashion. On a black square (a hard edge white stripe across the upper right-hand corner sets the spatial limit at skin deep), Suzuki posed a circle densely covered with pink/white hieroglyphs. The organization of a slightly earlier painting, Sunset on La Cienega, is more complex, but still orderly; a red “sun”—the titles are actually after the fact, and the forms apparently non-referential—surrounded by the white primed canvas is set about two smaller, blue-stained circles against a black-edged yellow square. Although largely painterly in quality, the forms cling to the surface or just below it. Even in such paintings as Swing with Ray, white brushmarks over a round grey figure do not function as highlights on an illusionistic globe—there is none of Greenberg’s “homeless representation” in these paintings. This is a most impressive and exciting show that reflects some of the most recent formal trends in contemporary painting.

Betty Breckenridge