Los Angeles

Group Show

Feigen-Palmer Gallery

The impression is of bright colors, clear shapes, and depths upon which no one insists. Uniting the five participating artists is a concern more to fill in shapes than to dazzle, or deepen with complex technique, more to color than to comment but more to comment than to compose.

On the whole, the comments are witty.

Kirsten Kraa’s funniness comes most strongly from her grouped work. She endlessly repeats a geometric man whose eyes and sunglasses have fused. He stares at us, abandoning some desultory amusement; blowing a bubble, playing a record, or sucking a sugar stick. Dutifully, he is about his function—consuming the little stuffs that make his world go, when he is suddenly immobilized by an unfamiliar thought. He is good-natured, bewildered and tired. Kraa’s deadpan approach makes humor but makes us feel that compared to her Art Brut ancestors, Dubuffet and Appel, her attitude is equivocal. Technically, her pictures are formed of solid masses filled with astringent color in heavy impasto. Often she solves with the design-school panacea, “If it’s a problem, put a black line around it.” She doesn’t fuss over esthetics.

Chilean Castro-Cid shares Kraa’s apparent indifference to composition, and her preoccupation with our thingification. Beyond this he is his own man, inventing anatomies. His work is more delicate than Kraa’s. His solidly colored shapes are lathed, his penciled outline drawings as calmly self-assured as those of Larry Rivers, if neither so witty nor so embittered. Colored viscera and drawings on white canvas combine into a hedonistic, rather cruel gaiety. Minor feats of optical warpage lend the pictures an unsettling and lubricated vitality.

Allen Jones, lightly represented, shows Bikini, a diptych that is about as funny as the average Playboy cartoon, and a Yellow Line Bus that fails for restraint. Neither are worthy of his English reputation.

Don Nice is of that genre of young artists who attempt containment of Abstract Expressionism’s painterly effusion within the forms of Pop. The difficulty of such a compromise shows in the inexpert and frustrated works.

Unfrustrated, Leonard Esbensen paints hard-edged flower symbols brightly upon simple backgrounds. The scent of late Matisse fades rapidly, leaving Miró. Esbensen shares his inherent naiveté but not his sinister Catalan overtones. But he is neither pompous for size nor derivative for resemblance. In Parthogenesis he repeats his organic symbols in plywood decoupages that stand, whimsically, about the canvas. A painting removed before the closing of the show for the Museum of Modern Art Optical show is of that tricky technique. In short, dernier cri techniques are part of Esbensen’s style, but they are employed too good-naturedly to be precious. He is an artisan, an intimist, and perforce, a decorator. White is for Purity exudes a genuine lyricism. It is as if a passionate sign painter irresistibly lettered in eight-foot characters, “I love you,” on the house of his beloved.

William Wilson