Los Angeles

John Barbour, Lundeberg, Mclaughlin, Feitelson, Hammersley, Peter Krasnow, Elise Cavanna, Eva Slater, Karl Benjamin

Esther-Robles Gallery

This show of work by ten artists, all working in the general area that has come to be known as the “Hard Edge,” attempts to delineate a specific involvement in Southern California prior to the 1958 Abstract Classicists exhibition. That such an involvement existed throughout the early fifties has been well documented, but rarely has one been given the opportunity to see its range.

This range, insofar as it can be seen in this small exhibition, goes far afield from a specific concern with edge. Rather, it would appear that these painters were all interested in developing an abstract art composed primarily of precise forms and a kind of rhythmic geometry that drew from a variety of earlier European and American sources such as the Synchronism of MacDonald-Wright, Orphism, the Constructivists and de Stijl. In addition, and particularly in the work of Peter Krasnow, one sees certain relationships to American Indian art of the Southwest.

Of the ten artists shown here half are familiar locally—Feitelson, Benjamin, Mclaughlin, Hammersley and Lundeberg; more obscure are Elise Cavanna, Peter Krasnow, John Barbour and Eva Slater. It is unfortunate that more examples of the work of each of these painters could not have been shown, and particularly more work of the period. Some of the artists are represented only by recent paintings. An expanded version of the exhibition, which was prepared by H. J. Weeks, will be shown in the Long Beach Museum of Art in June, and may remedy these defects.

Although this exhibition points up an interesting period in contemporary West Coast art it does more to explain the movement’s great lack of popularity. With a few exceptions (Mclaughlin, some recent Feitelsons, and some of the more recent work of Karl Benjamin) one finds a tendency to be involved with variations and extensions of earlier themes, a sort of gratuitous sticking to a proven, projectable idea which, in retrospect, placed them no further along than the quasi-Picassoesque stance of Lebrun and his followers. Their works, one cannot help concluding, have, for the most part, lingered in the ambience of a depleted European tradition at a time when Hard Edge painting had already begun to explore the new possibilities offered to it by the major break with that tradition which was occurring contemporaneously in New York.

Don Factor