Los Angeles

Bernard Cohen

Ceeje Gallery

Bernard Cohen has at least temporarily set aside his fragile, semi-Surreal figural mode (represented here last year in a series of drawings) to experiment in lyrical color and abstract shapes and patterns. His twenty-two tiny acrylics (about 4'' x 6'') at Ceeje. are surely conceived more in the spirit of experimentation than as matter for lasting preoccupation. They obviously call for close-range scrutiny, and one is reminded, if not for the first time, of the astonishing power of scale alone to control modes of visual apprehension. There is a certain immediate attractiveness in these delicate paintings when seen together, but very few satisfy this initial anticipation when studied singly. Formally, each is entirely different. The only real consistency (apart from size) is their prevailing air of arbitrariness. With the exception of five or six, it is as if they were designed in a mood of casual, free-associative play rather than with any thoughtful purpose.

The several intriguing works, notably Nos. 5, 9 and 15, do bear some closer attention. The first of these is a faintly Klee-like pattern of angular shapes, each of a different hue, fitted together with real care both for color relationships and an arresting overall design. The effect is quite rich color-wise, and there is even some spatial interest. No. 9 is one of two slightly larger paintings and one of the least original, in terms of basic delineation, being composed merely of horizontal peach, lavender, green, blue and pink stripes. But the slightly irregular stripes are attractively proportioned, and the creamy colors do wonders for each other. In the last of this selection, Cohen shows what happens to pure color, mostly purple and orange, when it is half-hidden beneath a fine, semi-opaque layer of white brushed acrylic. The design is geometric, with a set of vertical stripes in the center which have the texture of raw silk and a delicate luminousness.

Jane Livingston