Los Angeles

Gerald Laing

Feigen-Palmer Gallery

A young English artist now living in New York, Laing showed two of his silver, flame and dotted astronaut canvases earlier this year in the New British Painting group at the same gallery. In this one-man show, his interests seem slightly broader—including automobile racers, sky divers, bikini girls, and Jean Harlow—but they still grow primarily out of an untainted American Pop mythology in which thrill sports and the silver screen remain wide-open innocence without a seamy underside. His techniques, however, relate less to Pop and more explicitly to the formal devices of hard-edge and optical painting; Laing dabbles in various of the currently modish techniques such as shaped canvases (usually built out of a basic rectangle plus an irregularly shaped addition), optical patterns, kinetic constructions, Ben Day dots (varied in size and density according to function), photographic and photo-montage effects, and acidulous colors. He frequently tries off-beat combinations of manner in one composition, so that sections of his canvases tend to become isolated pockets in which autonomous incidents occur: e.g., the mirror in the painting of Jean Harlow, the optical circle of “Deceleration,” or the motor and helmet of “C.T. Strokers.” His instincts seem purely linear, and he handles contours, detailed passages, and flamelike shapes with a certain flair. In spite of the glitter of silver paint, an occasional intense red or a cobalt blue, and some sharply defined contrasts between solid and dotted areas, the overall tone of these paintings is uninsistent and oddly pallid. Even the dramatic and swiftly falling parachutists of the huge “Wedding Jump” are notational statements whose impact is muted by the modeled diffuseness of the graded dots Laing uses. Unlike Lichtenstein, for whom the Ben Day dot technique is a sign of an impassive and tough anonymity, Laing exploits it with a personal, idiosyncratic touch. The resulting spatial ambiguities and varying densities he achieves become a metaphor for sentiment.

Nancy Marmer