Los Angeles

Pavel Tchelitchew

Rex Evans Gallery

Among the most contortive exploitations the figure subject has ever survived was that received from the fertile imaginative wanderings and probings of Tchelitchew. He possessed a surplus of academic skills, but seems to have been too radically effusive a personality to maintain a clear direction; each drawing then is a succinct performance, one of a series. How, examining each random sample from a span of twenty years, could this Humpty Dumpty go back together?

Equally at home with pen, wash, pencil, or gouache, there is always flair or polish. “Boy’s Back,” “Pansies,” the circus dressing room scenes, and “Four Children” demonstrate draftsman’s gifts and a realist’s clear gaze tempered by equal doses of Picasso’s Rose Period and a mature Old Master’s expressionism. The distortions of scale began—a “Study for Fata Morgana,” close by a Samuel Palmer or a symbolist dream—and the metamorphosis and surreal multiple imagery of “Leaf Children” and “Landscape B” and “C.”

The last periods mark his highest, most original point, with the deliberate. flaying off of surface, as in “Eye” and “Head with Veins” to create a vibrantly electric and crystal structure. The show ends with an enigmatically romantic “Head” (1949) whose slowly dissolving energies into black suggest at last a transportation to a mystical or spiritual realm, or at least a flight to meaningful fantasy.

Fidel A. Danieli