Los Angeles

James Gill

Felix Landau Gallery

James Gill is a good, deluded figure painter. In this show, including works of 1962 and 1963, we can see the tragedy of facility untempered by a personal philosophic stance. Gill’s 1962 oil paintings of nudes in suburban environments are marvelously witty if not exceptionally profound statements. His multiple image pictures—successive views, either in time or vantage point—are seductive approaches toward a solution of the space-time problem in figure painting. The failure, though, at least as far as can be told from this show, is that Gill just hasn’t gone far enough. He has been seduced into a dependence on rather unfunny rehashes of popular subject matter—a multiple desk portrait of J.F.K., much less interesting than the more formal multiple nudes; successive movie frame images of John Wayne; portraits of Robert Q. Lewis on a TV screen; and so on. His approach rests on easy-to-take Pop art: what he has learned from Bacon and Diebenkorn has, in effect, been misused—subverted to the cause of virtuoso display. A word should be said for his technique of working wax crayons on a gesso-coated masonite. He scratches, buffs and scrapes the medium into a fascinating, impersonal looking paint surface. When Gill, though, finds something more personal to say with his obvious facility, we may find an important painter.

Don Factor