Los Angeles

Robert Frémont

Esther-Robles Gallery

At Esther-Robles, California artist Robert Frémont is having another exhibition of clever, colorful oils and drawings. There is a great deal of spoofing—plays on words in French and English, recurrent Pop banalities and a few semi-scatological references. Frémont doesn’t really belong to American Pop art genealogy, however, and his Surrealist-symbolist French origins show themselves in a number of ways. The ascendant stylistic influence comes from Chagall, in the way of stained-glass color applied in flats, compartmented composition and even a few idiomatic borrowings such as winged females and cats. There are also Redon-like bunches of flowers and Matisse-like decorative patterns.

In a work such as Landscape of the Young Girl Frémont proves that he is not only conscious of his European predecessors, but can freely acknowledge their presence. A nude, viewed from the rear, gazes into a mirror which is right out of Picasso’s mirrored women of the ’30s. The “tribute” is offered with irreverence, possibly, but not in malice.

There is nothing malicious, in fact, about these rather literary works. Accordingly, they arouse neither indignation nor any grave reflection on our human follies. One is first struck by their decorativeness, and then amused by their inventive entendres. An Ingres odalisque, from the rear, appears in the midst of assorted other images and words in A Taste of Life. Espagne, A Mexican Landscape, seems to record a trip to Baja. There is an angel, a cat, a strange bird-like creature with a human face—all looking like cheap Mexican pottery. Beneath the angel are the words LA BAJE DES ANGES, and a little map to demonstrate that ESPAGNE and NICE are not far apart. And so on. Frémont charms and cajoles and tries not to be too serious. And yet one cannot but notice in his art the seriousness of a very definite talent.

Jane Livingston