Los Angeles

FIVE YOUNGER LOS ANGELES ARTISTS

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

An exhibition designed to present the recent work of the five winners of the Contemporary Art Council’s New Talent Purchase Awards. These awards were established in 1963 to provide a year’s financial subsistence to a most promising young Los Angeles Area artist, in return for the opportunity to select one work for the Museum’s permanent collection.

The show presented five young artists, all functioning within the current modes of advanced art, but there was little reaching out, few risks. Each has found an imagery and technique that gives him a personal trademark but none (with the possible exception of Lloyd Hamrol, who unfortunately showed only one recent work, a departure from his previous style) appears to have attempted any real extension of his own understanding of the contemporary visual vocabulary.

The two most solid artists were Melvin Edwards and Tony Berlant. Edwards is probably the most traditional of the group, but in his welded steel and found-object sculptures there are extreme and evocative tensions drawn from the play between heavy masses, suspended tortuously within steel frameworks, and a finely articulated accumulation of curvilinear forms that evoke a series of destructive, painfully contemporary images. Berlant’s recent work consists of large, free-standing house-shaped collages of metal, enameled commercially, and, in one piece, combined with linoleum. Though free-standing, “collages,” appears to be apt because the three-dimensional house shape seems used mostly for the purpose of extending the surfaces with which the artist has dealt in his earlier two-dimensional work. The imagery of these surfaces derives from his earlier work and represents refinements of it. Llyn Foulkes is the best known of these five. His work depends mostly on two esthetically opposite devices. One a kind of abstract photo-like landscape image, and the other a flat geometry that surrounds these images. The illusionism of the “landscapes” is checked by the device of repetition within a given picture and by the geometries that border them. One is forced to see in these the spatial organization as the primary subject, but somehow a sense of excess diminishes the idea.

The series of acrylic paintings by Philip Rich were all based on a sort of hat shape combined with other abstract forms and presented in a flat space that appears, with Surrealist overtones, to be an almost mechanical depersonalization of Abstract Expressionist technique. The space of action painting is used by Rich to present a precise, finished form, but at the same time it appears too tentative. One expects something more from these pictures than they offer.

Lloyd Hamrol’s large yellow corner sculpture relates intellectually to the recent work of Judd and Morris in New York. It is a large triangle that projects outward from its apex in the corner of the wall to its base, somewhat forward of the corner, filling the space between the walls. The effect is environmental in that it deals with the room space and directs attention to changes that it makes in its own environment.

That only one Hamrol could be shown reinforces an overall impression that this exhibition was unfortunately premature, and both the timing and the nature of this show raise questions regarding the Museum’s role in the community. The Museum so far has seen fit to accept only one painting by one of the winners; thus, one might assume that the staff feels the other four have not risen above the “promising” position. If this is the case, why should the Museum exhibit work that it feels is of less than museum quality? If the intent were further encouragement of these artists by exposure of their work, then it might be justifiable, but each of these artists has received considerable previous exposure. Llyn Foulkes has had three one-man shows in the area, including one at the Pasadena Art Museum. Melvin Edwards has recently had a one-man show at the Santa Barbara Art Museum. Tony Berlant has had two one-man shows at the David Stuart Gallery. Lloyd Hamrol has shown at the Rolf Nelson Gallery and Philip Rich at the Ferus. All have been included in group shows and most have been recipients of previous awards. If the Museum intended to show an example of some of the best work being produced in this area by younger artists, then why hasn’t it acquired some of the work, having already paid for it? This was not intended to be a survey of new talent nor of recent Los Angeles production. Rather, one must assume that the show was intended as a recognition of excellence. But, if this is the case, then the Museum’s commitment to excellence seems rather vague.

Don Factor