Los Angeles

Jack Zajac

Pavilion Gallery Newport Beach

For some reason contemporary sculptors have had remarkable success in maintaining their individuality. While in painting it is difficult to think of an important artist without immediately associating him with a movement, style or progeny, our leading sculptors—Giacometti, Moore and Lipchitz, for example, leave enormous spaces about themselves.

If Jack Zajac does not quite yet belong in the same room with them, it is equally true that none of them deserve to share quarters with the others. They demand to be taken singly if for no other reason that they have subverted contemporary historicism. Zajac’s Newport retrospective uses forty-three pieces to characterize his ten-year career. At no point does the showing allow the viewer to go fudging off thinking about his followers or the History of Art, or anything save the look and content of his pieces.

From the earliest Standing Lamb (1955) to the solemn grandness of Big Skull and Horn in two parts IV (1963–64), Zajac’s work tends to exist in all time. Without that quality it could not avoid morbidity, involved as it is with death, sacrifice and suffering. It is shot through with a sense of human continuity and renewal. If we are uneasy with it, it is because we are so out of the habit of speaking straight-facedly of nobility. Zajac’s statement is less earthbound than Moore’s, the form of the pieces tends to a spiritual weightlessness. He is more patient and less angry than Lipchitz, more selfless than Giacometti. Recent work seems to increase his chances of numbering among them. Since his abandonment of mannerism his form is not only improved but his basic theme of sacrifice comes clear and cauterizing, as great tragedy.

William Wilson