Los Angeles

Group Show

Rolf Nelson Gallery

The heterogeneous opening show at the gallery’s new quarters in a courtyard off La Cienega successfully establishes an avant tone, a hyperborean air. Shown are works by Nicholas Krushenick, Llyn Foulkes, John Chamberlain, H. C. Westermann, Charles Mattox, Alfred Jensen, Lloyd Hamrol, George Herms, Judith Gerowitz, Phillip Hefferton, and Peter Saul. These make for a lively if extremely uneven grouping, dominated by an aggressive Krushenick “new abstraction,” an icy, double-imaged Foulkes, and two contrasting Chamberlain sculptures.

Krushenick’s Sebring brilliantly combines the intuitive possibilities of free form, melodramatic statement, and the currently indispensable hard-edged handling of paint. His colors are violently bold: large areas of violet and electric blue, sweeping forms of dynamic yellow, intersecting bands of hygienic white, and unequivocal broad black outlines, which function as buttresses and suggest the nature of the restraints operative here. Unlike some ascetically static hard-edge painting, this is a work which invokes the excitement of swift movement without the circumlocutions of optical illusion. A further excitement derives from intense spatial activity, in which the stylistic manner used postulates a flat picture plane, but the colors and forms, particularly the use of a white grid and the placement of vibrant blue areas, manage to contradict this implied two dimensionality.

After the Senecan rhetoric of Krushenick, Llyn Foulkes’ large untitled painting, by virtue of its tonal coolness and pictorial irony, seems the expression of an Augustan sensibility. Two almost identical images (one feels the need to search out asymmetries as an affidavit of “hand-craftedness” in the duplicated picture) occupy, side by side, the picture plane; they are meticulously bordered and separated by a flat pastel grey-green background, which in turn is bounded by a framing zone of darker green, uniting the two parts. The central images, like somber Iberian mountains or obscure constructs of elephant skin, are painted so as to suggest a three-dimensional actuality; they loom forward, stereoscopically set off from their flat backgrounds, brooding and ominous with the weight of their geographic presence. The textural effects achieved here are surely handsome, though cheapened by unsubtle contrast with their non-textural backgrounds.

Of the two small Chamberlain auto-metal sculptures, the older (done 2 1/2 years ago) is the more modestly earthbound. Untreated, peeling, rustworn metals and aged grillework are assembled together into a space-enclosing unit, in which ragged excursions from the core are nevertheless felt as centrally rooted. Built-in memories of mechanical violence are domesticated to form a humble but satisfying piece of work. In the second Chamberlain, executed this year, the intimations of automotive catastrophe are even further suppressed, all names changed to protect the innocent. The motion is outward, suggesting linear flight weightless freedom. Bright coats of applied paint adequately disguise the original material; slick perfection of detail and jazzy color complete the transmutation from raw to cooked. One misses the smell of blood.

Judith Gerowitz’s painted car hood also eschews any connotations of motorized power in order to play with the decorative surface and erotic symbolism of the automobile. Hood might be a cover design for The Insolent Chariots. Miss Gerowitz skillfully works on the auto metals in glaring new abstraction colors. plays off oranges against blues in an excess of world’s fair zeal, and then generally weakens the impact of the total image by some inconsequential patterning.

Lloyd Hamrol’s Belaire Majestic, a painted aluminum sculpture, looks like the tombstone of a child star who died of old age. The frontal, coldly rigid form of the work is the stage for art nouveau designing and the juxtaposition of intensely hot and cool colors. Red, normally an eye-catcher, here is a rest home.

The exhibition contains two boxes, one a poetically suggestive Westermann construction entitled Beginning of a Brand New City, in which aluminum strips and geometric shapes, nail-heads, and pieces of mirror are used to good effect; the other, a romantically uninspired combine by George Herms of pseudo-memorabilia. Alfred Jensen’s thickly impastoed pair of paintings from 1961, entitled World Night, are also shown; primarily black and white, though dotted by color accents, they present a mystical game board of mathematical and directional signs, or a possible solution of the enigma of the fever chart. The kinetic sculpture of Charles Mattox is scientistic by comparison, and its pleasures (if one’s ears can tolerate the grinding sound of Green Twist long enough) optical.

In this ambience of cool calculation, the carelessness of Hefferton’s Drawing is at an unfair, though probably deserved, disadvantage. But the vulgar amateurishness of Peter Saul’s Ice Box Number Eight is a particular “bête noire.”

Nancy Marmer