Los Angeles

“California Hard-Edge Painting”

Pavilion Gallery, Balboa

This compen­dium of recent California hard-edge paintings includes works by Florence Arnold, John Barbour, Larry Bell, Karl Benjamin, John Coplans, Lorser Feitel­son, June Harwood, Frederick Hammers­ley, Helen Lundeberg, Dorothy Waldman and last, but hardly least, John Mc­Laughlin. The exhibit itself was ade­quately, though, perhaps by the nature of the painting, disconcertingly in­stalled. There is no doubt, however, that the idea was an excellent one. Directed by Jules Langsner, chief semanticist and mentor to the hard-edge idea, the exhibit provides a valuable re-focusing on what is considered to be an impor­tant development of California paint­ing. If there is one over-all judgment, it is the obvious conclusion that no school is ever important in itself, but relies entirely upon the genius of its individuals. In this case, one will in­evitably arrive at John McLaughlin.

If we are to accept the recent his­torical documentation of the hard-edge sensibility then we must also accept its label as something of a misnomer. Per­haps, as Langsner suggests, “color­form” is the best definition after all.

The painters under discussion (with the possible exception of Coplans) are the only “California” justification for hard­edge, colorform or color-field painting. The idea, except in particular aspects of McLaughlin’s oeuvre, is hardly limited to the area, nor particularly engendered by it.

The hard-edge game is played differ­ently, and one wins by solving these problems: avoidance of gestural techni­ques; using clearly defined form, space, and color to create an indivisible whole; denial of materials as esthetic device; and meaning, which may include feel­ings of spaciousness, mystery, ambigu­ity. Automatic disqualifiers are any hint of optics, geometry, sensuousness, bio­morphism, romanticism or illusion. 

Claire Wolfe