Various Exhibitions

various venues

This season’s major show at the Phoenix Art Museum is the exhibit of paintings by Eugene Berman just ended. Berman is associated with a small group of neo-romantic painters formed during the 1920’s who recall the intensity and pathos of Picasso’s early Blue and Rose periods. In addition, he is linked with the surrealists in use of dream images and symbolism.

Berman is related to de Chirico in his structuring and tensioning of depth and use of varied points of view. This is emphatic in View in Perspective of a Perfect Sunset. Here the deep perspective of a red road and a setting winter sun vie for attention in a landscape strewn with classic columns and obelisks.

Strong color, often very weighty, reinforces such isolated classical figures as “Nike” or “Woman of Parma,” both seen from the rear. This brings the viewer immediately into the work and makes him a dweller with the figure in a private world of dreams.

A sunset hush of motion stopped and a taut perspective of the colonnade of the Greek temple at Tramonto are shown in three dramatic versions. Architecture, always a ripe and full style or ruined buildings as symbols of decay and change, is a constant theme. A consistent use of texture, patterned or imitative, and especially a kind of splatter color his paintings with a ripple of vibration. These culminate in Bella Venezia, a richly baroque building with an emphatic spattered texture over the imitative surface texture of the building. The abstract spatter marks become as real as the underlying architecture.

There can be no denying the theatrical element in these works. Berman is, in fact, a successful stage designer, and some of his most delightful smaller works are sketches for Giselle, Amahl, and Barber of Seville.

Frederick Black is the subject of a one-man show at the museum. These paintings are from the past year and represent a new direction for Black, the use of the image. Previously he had done large, implied landscapes which were essentially abstractions. The new paintings are a working of the figure integrated with a natural setting, however abstract. In handling the figure, Black has tried to create an image that stands or exists powerfully in and by itself while at the same time functioning with its setting.

There is only a subtle change in the character of the abstract landscape over the past few years, and in these paintings it is repeated with only minor adjustment and variation from work to work. The whole attitude is one of flattening areas of colors and tautly arching the action from color area to color area. In the structure of the canvas the immediate recollection is Diebenkorn. Angularity and sparseness in the landscapes provide a natural environment for the schematic representation of the figure which is a symbol’ yet treated as a readable abstraction.

Another outstanding fall show in Arizona is Tom Harter’s first one-man show locally in several years. In his exhibit at the Women’s Club of Phoenix, he brings maturity and the stamp of personal style. Landscape is the major subject of the show, and within a relatively objective framework, there is a great diversity of interpretation. Harter is emphatic in drawing and design, and color and light are manipulated with impact. Such a painting as Dead Cottonwoods has an abstract rhythm in pulsing whites and earth reds and yellows, all toned by deep umber. Whether in a recent Canal or an older Field Workers, Harter shows his understanding of the abstract power of color, while the rich orchestrations of Simi or New Growth show his response to light.

Several galleries in Scottsdale have provided good shows for the opening season. At R. M. Light, a survey of Mexican prints and Daumier lithographs have been best. O’Brien’s Art Emporium has the diversity of Lenard Kester’s coloristic sensitivity and the linear style of Lambert-Naudin. Recent paintings by Len Johnason at Udinotti Gallery and a group show of graphics at Main Street Artists are more exploratory in their direction. At The Stable Studio and Gallery, such diverse talents as Paavo Airola, Paul Dyck, and Bill Schimmel show the range from dramatic simplification to rich lyric interpretation to a fine objective technique.

Marian Miller