Los Angeles

William Pettet

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

As opposed to the dedication to flatness and deductive structure of, say, Noland or Stella, a group of painters, deriving perhaps most directly from Mark Rothko, and including such artists as Robert Irwin, Jules Olitski and Agnes Martin, continue to work within the confines of a tense, only partially resolved, shallow three-dimensional space. William Pettet’s paintings, in his first one-man show, fall into this latter category.

Like Olitski, Pettet shifts the emphasis to the possibilities of a structure based on color alone. One sees, at first, a group of monochromatic green spray paintings, which shortly become differentiated into an experience of many different hues, fusing into a nostalgic color-light. At their best, they communicate a tingling sensation of color, free from a residue of the rational; but at their worst they degenerate into flat color samples, impassively accepting their surroundings.

A few monochromatic painters have felt it necessary to pull the square out into a shape upon the wall, like the emblematic, wall-gridded picture-puzzles of David Novros. Pettet’s reliance upon the unaltered square declines a gambit; one of the brilliant things about, for example, Olitski, is the successful manner in which he dynamizes the passive rectangle. When Pettet’s paintings are successful, one sees an underlying tightness within the unimaginative square format; a faint, over-all gridding of hue concentration, with light-sweeping passages of color variations. The show is a handsome and controlled first exhibition.

Susan Snyder