Los Angeles

“Collector’s Group of Modern Masters”

Paul Kantor Gallery

Alphabetically from Arp to Villon, the exhibi­tion spans this era’s visual chronology through paintings by Rouault, Dufy, Gleizes, Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, Du­buffet, Giacometti, Bacon, de Stael and de Kooning. To some, the works shown may evade the label “major” because they haven’t been reproduced in histori­cal texts. Yet quality remains the only valid basis for constructing echelons, and from that viewpoint Giacometti’s Stove of 1954 and Picasso’s 1946 goua­che Faune are sleight-of-hand produc­tions which would never justify their creators’ stature. A change in estimation might arise from seeing the show’s luscious Dufy still-life, for 1920 found Dufy sharing the structural insights of cubism without partaking of its initial austerity. Combining in profuse undu­lation decanters, goblets and an abun­dance of fruit, the shapes and lines coil like snails traversing a jeweled aquarium. His ala prima paint handling is lavish and fresh, accentuating by con­trast the cumbersome simplicity of de Stael’s Yellow Pearl. Only de Kooning’s nuzzling rectangles match the Dufy for the pleasure of pigment used as tactile handwriting within a consis­tent pictorial structure.

Red in the Net a humorous geo­metric Kandinsky of 1927 has a network of pink, fuchsia and blue pennants flirting with an ochre underpainting that keeps rouging its cheeks in happy anticipation. At the opposite emotional extreme and frighteningly effective, Klee’s oil on fabric In Memory of a Criminal, 1939 looks like the towel no­tations of one who could no longer com­prehend the connection between his bloodied hand and the imprints he leaves. The unforgettable quality of de­rangement Klee was able to construct makes Bacon’s literal grotesqueries pure Grand Guignol. Beyond emotions or nar­rative, Jean Arp dedicated himself to perfecting the plastic possibilities of an ovular microcosm. Heavenly Objects, 1961, plays gentle visual games.

––Rosalind G. Wholden