Los Angeles

Recent American Painting

Pomona Gallery

This show consists of assemblages, silk-screens and paintings by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rosenquist and Wesselmann. All the selections are taken from private collections in the Los Angeles area, and although most of the selections are typical works of the artists, they do not give the full range or depth of any of them. Rosenquist is represented by three widely diverging canvases which are not among his best. The best of Lichtenstein’s comic-strip works is “Scared Witless,” a painting of a sweating, crawling soldier in combat. The bulging of the muscles on his hand, the jagged rendition of his cheek, and the exaggerated eyebrows contrast with the predictable regularity of the rest of the head. The soldier practically “pops” out of the picture plane; his gigantic scale and the strict planes, which do not interlock, almost deny the format of the canvas.

Wesselmann’s “Great American Nude” is a masterpiece of sly humor and good old-fashioned satire. In the assemblage there is constant interplay between illusion and reality, the phony and the more phony. There are real wax flowers, flowers cut from a seed catalog, and flowers on a Matisse poster on the wall; there is the painted cold flesh of the nubile nude, her voluptuous lips, paper lips cut from a magazine. All are fakes, cheap phonies, supposedly pleasing imitations of the real thing. The nude becomes part of the decor of the room in every sense and is actually secondary to some of the details on the wall; no longer is she the most important thing, but must, we feel, come in a variety of “decorator” sizes and colors.

Warhol’s superb sensitivity to light and dark and negative and positive areas is evident in his four silk-screens. His method, which is a combination of photocopying and silk screening, frees the canvases of the personal touch of the artist’s hand, and lends an air of cool objectivity to situations which .are, in this case, tragic. Especially good are “Orange Car Crash” and “Purple Electric Chair.” He succeeds in removing the original meaning and feeling from the objects and lets them play upon themselves so that they become gaily morbid instead of depressingly tragic. His humor, which often has an air of sly naivete, comes from his use of a color background which is blatantly incongruous with his subjects, and from elevating these images to “subjects” at all.

––Emily Wasserman

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