Los Angeles

Louis Elshemius

Janis Gallery

Moony and romantic, Elshemius was discovered by Marcel Duchamp who said, “He is a poet who paints like one.” He did, too; rarely has an artist achieved such touching imagery with such slipshod technique.

Despite training, Elshemius remained a primitive. When old he railed against an indifferent public, writing letters protesting to the newspapers that he was not only a great artist but one of the great lovers of all time. Meanwhile dealers pirated his work for nickels and dimes. His market rose constantly but he died in Bellevue Hospital, unaware of his rising reputation. He joins the thin stream of moonscape spiritualism dominated by Albert Pinkham Ryder and Ralph Blakelock that was to become such an important part of the rationale of American Surrealist and abstract art.

The Janis exhibit is a casual one. Ten paintings and three small drawings occupy a corner of the flea-market arrangement of the gallery. A Samoan landscape strikes the characteristic Elshemius note; sea, sky and bathing native girl are all somehow translated into a New England reverie. It is impossible not to both smile and wonder at a man who confidently draws the might of Niagara Falls on four square inches of hotel stationery. It all emanates a gentle and heroic imagination.

––William Wilson

#image 1#

#image 2#

#image 3#