Los Angeles

Milton Avery

Felix Landau Gallery

The figure and landscape have occupied Avery’s unsophisticated but complete devotion for more than 40 years. Shown were recent canvases (1962–3) and a half dozen from pre-1945; in effect, a capsulated retrospective. His contemplative distillations, as ever, exhibit constant characteristic tense placement, edited simplification, and a contracting limitation of sensuousness. His space is a compressed one, about the center of which movement ricochets along abrupt perspective and exaggerated scale changes. Tipped axes are pinned in permanent, empathically active suspension. The leaning woman of “Yellow Skirt,” the upward climbing “Orchard and Mountain” and the diagonal opening behind the “Visitor” best exemplify his sure, brisk moves.

Dependent to a major degree upon graphic solutions, sitters’ features and details are picked out awkwardly with a splayed brush line. And this, accompanying the flattened terseness of contours reduces his figures to doll-like, vacant vivacity. Applied to interiors and the landscape this manner yields most child-like, cut-paper scenes. Within a dry, tart range the thin turpentine washes systematically repeat a sweet warm color, a resounding dark, and some pales. These areas are looser than before, more open, aspiring to clumsy directness through minimal means. They are humorously gentle, respectable, but a pale ghost of their Expressionist origins and hence vaguely disappointing.

Fidel A. Danieli