Los Angeles

“Painted Sculpture”

Mount Saint Mary’s College

This exhibit is another interesting compendium of works related not by style, school, movement, time or place, but by a technical device. It has provided the interested Los Angeles audience with a rapid summarization of relatively recent developments by, for the most part, relatively recent talents. Unfortunately the best of those who paint sculpture were absent. This specifically includes John Chamberlain, Kenneth Price, and Larry Bell.

The upsurgence of painted sculpture originates in two sources. The first is an almost automatic and inherent color sensibility stemming from the assemblage of found objects. The second is an increasing interest on the part of many sculptors in utilizing the gestural and expressive connotations of color as it is used by painters. Foremost of these painterly techniques applied to three-dimensional mass are the works of Lloyd Hamrol and Judy Gerowitz. Hamrol’s wooden sculptures are totally committed to a strong, chromatic color that is as direct and clearly defined as his simplified, bulky shapes. Sticking to essentially primary colors, he utilizes essentially primary shapes. The result is an almost altar-like monumentality.

Gerowitz’s concern, on the other hand, is a preoccupation with an organic sexuality rendered in painted plaster. Like the “colorform” idea, the color also assists in defining the shapes, which are sometimes used as a bas-relief protruding from the three-dimensional surface. Her color-sense is astounding, and one senses an almost spontaneous abandon in selection. For the most part, they create fascinating tensions; but they can become burdensome unless one is willing to accept a considerable degree of whimsy, if not wit. A case in point is Fetish V, which has some truly weird, sometimes banal colorations painted over spiraling, undulating forms topped by greenish-yellow feathers.

Many of the pieces are painted only to unify the scuptural surface, and have no particular identity as paint technique. These are usually white or black, or a meaningless brown. In the romantic-junk school, the color part is often a simple patina of aged wood, yellowed lace, etc., and frankly has very little to do with the subject––which is perhaps just as well. The exhibit happily includes H. C. Westermann’s 2063 A.D., a varnished box, faced with glass, and containing a flat white surface violated by an intense, mysterious gouging. Rarely will one ever discover an exhibition that runs such a direct gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime, but the majority of the works displayed show that any possible direction toward painted sculpture is certainly a valuable area of exploration.

––Clair Wolfe