Los Angeles

“Plane and Real”

Mount St. Mary’s College

This is a mounting of ingenious and theatrical experiments by UCLA professors Gordon Nunes and Jan Stussy. The impression of rhetorical academicism that is created by the mannikin figures which dominate the exhibition is extremely unfortunate for there are good works in the show, but they are the smaller two-dimensional objects.

Dozens of dummys’ heads are painted, sliced, decorated, punctured and broken. Full mannikin figures are covered with stretched canvas to produce sculptural effects. The only feeling we derive from them is a strained mannerism. Nunes and Stussy have both previously established emotional points of view; Nunes is fascinated with the subconscious and psychological, Stussy has a marked sense of absurdity.

If one might question the viability of academically based figurative art for the expression of such attitudes it is with the marked consciousness of questioning a deep commitment on the part of two worthy technicians. In the long run it is nobody’s business how they choose to express themselves, especially in relation to the present exhibition where we find painters working in relatively unfamiliar sculptural materials. They have chosen to retreat to their safest arsenal––academic draftsmanship––to cope with an unfamiliar form. If the results cannot be called creative achievements they at least will provide students with challenging set-ups for drawing problems.

Their pressed-paper reliefs and photo-lithographs find them emergent on familiar ground. They recapture character and produce fruitful results in their dedicated attempt to keep The Figure breathing.

––William Wilson