Los Angeles

John Thomas

Esther Robles Gallery

In organizing his anonymous models screening off a deep void of corner-like perspective, in exterior architectural setting or in the landscape, Thomas displays appropriate current concerns. There is ambiguity of two and three dimensions, the integrity of the positive and negative shape relationships, and a skill in simplification and stylization. Add to these, the constructive loaded stroke, bravura pacing and intensified color, and the description should be recognizable as the immediate, if superficial, attributes of an “a la mode-San Francisco” look. These canvases are set apart in that they I resemble more invented performances rather than direct and edited responses to reality.

In works of 1961–2 as Woman with Red Hair, and more exactly in “Forest” and “Landscape with Root” we see Matisse, muted and structured. In “Children in Pink Landscape” the effect is light and economical, suggesting a strong tendency toward smart and beautiful illustration.

The recent paintings show the artist knows more good moves: the entire field must now be activated. And so his tasteful development of nuance often leads him up (or is it down) the garden path to decoration, when the hand becomes quicker than the eye. His is a love affair with traditional European “touch,” where surface description and pattern-making merge. Leafy trees and their cast shadows provide ample opportunities for excessive manipulation, and, surprisingly enough, often become muddled and dense in certain passages. The final splatter of tiny red spots across his monotonous chartreuse and deep blue vegetation seems unnecessary, but perfectly reasonable in character. Thomas’ paintings are the fruits of a well-disciplined “Salon machine” designer, and lacking clearer selectivity and direction, give continued assurance of high-level competence and promise. And these, in themselves, are no mean accomplishments.

Fidel A. Danieli