Los Angeles

“32 Americans”

I Gallery, La Jolla

The I Gallery’s inaugural show is impressive­ly rostered. A lot of variety for rooms not overlarge, but unbewilderingly arranged. There are constructions, oils, gouaches, bronzes, lithos, collages, drawings.

Lithographs are by Louise Nevelson, Sam Francis, Diebenkorn, Vicente, Rob­ert Mallary, Yunkers. In a sense all the lithos are successful. That is, the artist says in this medium what he’s said in others. Diebenkorn’s cave girl is the same careless self she was when she was larger and set by the window with brushmarks in her lap. Nevelson pro­jects her complex concern for antiquari­an elegance on to stone, Adja Yunkers, of course, is living in a house he built, and that makes a difference.

In sculpture, McClain, Voulkos, and Mason have all been on the rampage in recent years against the exigencies of the potter’s cylinder. In addition, Voul­kos really roughs up the sculptor’s tra­ditional axes of reference and the work shown here sprawls on its irregular bronze base in that disconcerting man­ner that’s reserved for the very strong. McClain’s small bronze is aristocratic and lyrical and makes one wish to see more by this almost secret artist. John Mason’s characteristic constructive en­ergy is enhanced and made mysterious with thick, almost somber glazing in the piece shown here. An artist who does not seem to have been previously shown in California, John Manno of New York; contributes a welded polychrome, “Blue Streak,” very jaunty and witty.

Constructions and construction-plus­-something-else are shown by Anthony Berlant, Conrad Woods, George Ortman, John Baldessari, Dennis Hopper, and Guy Williams. One of these is outstand­ing, a small, grouchy and very personal construction by John Baldessari, “XOD”; three objects conjured from the alpha­bet mine and laid to fitful rest on a rough, dark plank. Ortman’s indifferent­ly conceived plaque, “Birds,” is a bore. But Berlant’s “Jeannie” (cloth, paint, and falsies) headless, akimbo, and sump­tuous, is a treat and a half.

Collage and collage mutants. There are several here. Woelffer as usual pro­ceeds intensely. But the best things shown are two tissue-paper works by the veteran American sculptor Gabriel Kohn, discourses on composition and serenity, buoyant and gentle, and a large collage-and-oil by Matt Glavin, “Lorenzo de Medici,” in which paint and paper glow like a special dispensation for the rightfully rich.

And there are paintings and drawings. Two miniature worlds in oil by Richard Allen Morris, two oriental-like watercol­ors of horses by Peter Agostini, a bright autonomously-lit oil by John Grillo, two pocketsize oil-on-paper paintings by Llyn Foulkes that somehow manage to avoid being ridiculous and hold their own and more.

A group of seven gouaches, all un­titled, by Donald Dudley would make any show worth while. They are small (an anomaly for this artist) but their scaling is perfect; there’s no feeling of compression or inhibition. The artist was involved in them, and his formaliza­tion of this involvement is just right. As he extricates himself through the act of painting he leaves behind art, instead of the mere deardiary that remains when the artist leaves only himself, as self, strung on the picture plane, hungry for a bride of eyes.

John Reuschel