Los Angeles

Karen Neubert and William Ransom

Pasadena Art Museum

An exhibition of paintings, collages, and object sculpture by this husband-and-wife team range in content from Krazy Kat to an advertising campaign for Pop-sex. Karen Neubert (HERS) shows a very real affinity for paint and the things that paint can do. In her supersaturated non-objective canvases she uses a soft enameloid consistency, wet into wet, to produce viscous shapes precariously arrayed in the flux of the visual field. Ignatz Gets the Mean Reds, one of several stemming from Herriman’s cartoons (he would flip at all these soft edges), has a wit that works handsomely with the richness of paint. Her Untitled shows her abilities to best advantage, red-orange and blue grind their way through a series of many-layered greys with genuine excitement. Ransom (HIS) has three paintings, somewhat more restrained in color, and enthusiastic in the use of newspaper and other collage material, thickly applied. As paintings they have the urgent, anti-craftsmanship that is careful not to ingratiate. This lack of finish is more than compensated for by the finicky quality of his object-sculpture in the next room. Here a series of nude department-store mannikins have been duded up with all sorts of symbols right out of First Year Psych. and the message is S-E-X. The setting of Resurrection of Eros is gilt and red plush, waxed-fruit and fringe, all so clean and in such good repair that it resembles what Magnin’s windows might be were they to merchandise sex instead of its accoutrements. A European visitor would find all his preconceptions about our Puritanism and our proclivity for the antiseptic libido borne out here. Hugh Heffner (of Playboy magazine) strikes again. In the same room are some chic pasteups by Neubert using copy from girdle ads, depilatory ads, and other hilarious folk sources. It is all very arch and cute and in such appallingly good taste that far from being satire it is a cozy complicity with the hacks that turn out the banalities in the first place.

Ironically, in a nearby room at the Museum, is Klee’s Barberen Venus a watercolor of some thirty square inches that radiates genuine unabashed eroticism. She deserves mention, not as an unfair comparison, but because her relation to the show is somewhat like that of the fast tootsie that is not invited to the nice parties, but is there for the boys to visit when they get tired of the coy icebergs.

Douglas McClellan