Los Angeles

Les Biller

Ceeje Gallery

Western art­ists have been seduced by the ele­gance, simplicity, stylization, and immediacy of Japanese art: Biller, unique­ly, has fastened upon its eroticism. Lustily, he translates it into English. Where oriental art is flat, his is paint­erly, where its colors are muted, his are the shades of the backdrop cur­tain at the New Follies. His attitude is that of a sailor on leave in Tokyo com­bined with that of an adolescent crazy in love with the exotic. In Biller’s hands their calligraphic arabesque becomes a gesture describing a sexy dame. Their perspective, as far as Biller is concerned, is flipped up to provide easier access to the ground or the bed. Japanese art believes in artifice; Biller, with apparent artlessness, ex­plains why a white-faced Hiroshige geisha has her upper lip rolled above her teeth—she is making it with a dragon, her white makeup drips. Lovely oriental landscapes, their color feverishly height­ened, are strewn with the nubile in­ventions of romantic auto-eroticism, with leering Samurai, and an artist whose calculating thumb becomes a penis.

Occasionally Biller’s enthusiasm costs him a clogged paint surface but it is nearly worth it. His personal ebullience unifies his works making them personal and believable in spite of an eclecticism that adds Monet, Matisse and Persian art to what has already been suggested.

One would only demur slightly: no­body cares about taste at a burlesque show, but if the comic were suddenly to begin comparing himself to Rabelais or Henry Miller the basic and important truth of his humor would be destroyed. It is impossible to judge with certainty if Biller’s subject of a bridge from the Venus de Milo to a Japanese landscape is an irony or a manifesto. If the first it is not funny. If the second it is sopho­moric.

––William Wilson