Los Angeles

“Modern American Painters”

Everett Ellin Gallery

The viewer ricochets between the painterly bravado of Hassel Smith and Helen Frankenthaler to the stasis of Frank Stella’s monomorphic works. Stella’s pin-striped black enamel canvas has the scale and obstinacy of a wall. The painter seems to share the “art is not” viewpoint of Ad Reinhardt. Perhaps by excising so much of what has previously been considered essential to painting, one does arrive at “purity,” although that might be a euphemism for the “lowest common denominator.” Stella forcibly emphasizes through repetition the obtuseness and inscrutability of two-dimensional surfaces.

A contrast in quality is presented by comparing Richard Diebenkorn’s fluid abstract pictorial skills with Jack Youngerman’s heavy-handed attempts at dynamism. Diebenkorn’s work done in 1953, shows his concern at that time with the interplay of free linear elements among color passages that loosely fluctuate. The liberties taken are more than justified by the responsibilities each element assumes for the others. Youngerman pushing an eight-inch brush laboriously in diagonal strokes of undiluted vermilion, cadmium orange and white has managed to create shapes similar to a rising sun that decided abruptly to fall. The edges of his colored zigzags are blunt like torn paper and the work itself, if done in collage, might at least have had some textural interest.

Provocatively unlike Stella yet sharing more in common with him than with the Diebenkorn is a large painting by the late Morris Louis. Louis used chemical dyes for serape-like colors. Here they swoop in stripes across the vertical center of a large unsized canvas terminating in a bend to the right. The work is certainly vivid and memorable although more in the sense of a handsome wall hanging than a painting.

Rosalind G. Wholden