Los Angeles

Jacob Landau

Zora Gallery

The coincidence of the premiere West Coast showing of the prints, drawings and paintings of Jacob Landau with the opening of Zora Gallery’s new quarters on La Cienega proved to be an exhibition block-buster. Easterner Jacob Landau employs an incongruous prismatic palette while depicting the staggering tumult of mankind’s less commendable activities. The bright rainbow hues enhance the most disturbing performances and set one’s esthetic teeth on edge. The sense of drama is both compelling and repelling. The heavily populated conceptions embody the most corrupt and violent things man is capable of doing to himself as well as to others. There is a riot of noise, of movement, of confusion, of nakedness, of death and damnation. His victims require, but obviously do not possess, the kind of perseverance and endurance attributed to Saint Anthony and Job.

Affecting some of the fearful mystery of Ensor’s Entry of Christ into Brussels and a lion’s share of the terror engendered by Shirley Jackson’s story of The Lottery, Landau paints a universe of perpetual agony experienced in an atmosphere of imminent and inescapable doom. All of this, to boot, is presented in sparkling primary colors as if death and destruction possessed that one saving grace. Although Landau’s forte is chaos there is nothing chaotic about his style. All the details are carried to just the right degree of completion to tell you the whole ugly story without getting tedious. Nor does the artist bore us with accusations or solutions. Instead we are free to inspect this encyclopedia of sin, unoppressed by guilt. In the black and white prints the conflicts and dangerous pursuits seem more apropos but no less brutal. Tugging, straining, and pulling, humanity takes on the look of thickets, the thorns composed of legs and arms stretched in powerful diagonals. The wealth of histrionics may in the end dull the initial and total impact, but the dirge lingers on.

––Curt Opliger