Los Angeles

William Turnbull

Pavilion Gallery, Newport Harbor

Writing recently of British artists in general, Max Kozloff remarked “. . . they risk becoming satellites of our art . . . at the same time they tend to give up what previous individuality they had.” Recent developments in American art, particularly those aspects stemming from Barnett Newman (as well as those from mass media) are not only urban in origin, but are also an outgrowth of an American mystique. Turnbull’s paintings, extremely large in scale, convey an impression of being studies of Newman’s space-color-form style, rather than being the product of an inherent conviction. Many of the sculptures (after 1963) which use impersonal industrial processes and materials, similarly are insufficiently self-generated. Their American derivation is too obvious.

His earlier sculptures of simplified totemic images in beautifully worked wood, stone and bronze, though formularized, seem to be closest to Turnbull’s strongest beliefs. But they omit the contemporary side of his nature. Turnbull comes closest to a successful reconciliation of these two diverse elements in one sculpture—Number 5, of 1964—a disc atop a zig-zag column of steel painted silver. A completely synthetic form, it involves a feeling of both the mechanical and the organic. There is an integrity in the simple, direct and honest use of material. One has the feeling that he is deeply committed to the organic, the calm, in addition to the tense and industrial. The tension created by the visual (rather than physical) weight of the disc, as well as by the way the column cuts through space, is in keeping with contemporary investigations into the illusions of space, while retaining a directness of conviction on Turnbull’s part. One wishes for more of this sort of investigation.

Carole Rathfon