Los Angeles

Fritz Faiss

Desert Museum, Palm Springs

The Upstairs Gallery of the museum has assembled an impressive retrospective by this German-born artist. Although there are numerous chrono­logical gaps because of Nazi confisca­tion and war-time bombing, it is imme­diately apparent that Faiss has worked deeply into, and searchingly explored, the life, dreams, and beliefs of man. The results, remarkably varied, range from Biblical illustration, to rhythmic abstractions, to German Expressionist-­like landscapes. During the years of Nazi Germany, Faiss defied the authori­ties to produce the series “The Life of Christ.” The surviving works, here and in the Wiesbaden Museum, attest to the artist’s masterful use of encaustic paint­ing. The soft mellowed color coupled with impelling composition make the series a most moving experience. Ab­stract Study II, 1921 wax crayon, and Theme: Three Points, 1947 drawing, appear as intriguing forerunners to the delightful Linear Melody and Poly­phony, 1954. The bright encaustic col­ors vibrate joyously in lines and solids, the result most appropriately titled. In the recent paintings Big Sur and Cam­bria Pines, the artist turns again to nature, skillfully imposing his strong de­sign sense on California’s North Coast. Farmhouse and Redwoods are con­ceived in arbitrarily colored and ab­stracted forms. The entire series con­veys much of nature’s mystery and pow­er. Although many works in this reward­ing retrospective are certainly related to Klee, Kollwitz, Munter, Kandinsky and others of the Bauhaus and German Expressionist schools, the relationship is not so much one of indebtedness as of common exploration and emotion.

––George Baker