Los Angeles

James Weeks

Landau Gallery

James Weeks’s recent late-afternoon paintings of figures, still lifes and landscapes at Felix Landau are at the same time serene, totally objective and nostalgic. He builds his compositions with solid planes of color, choosing subjects—figures at a piano, bare groupings of geometric still-life objects—which are inherently free of complicated detail. Their overall structural character is analogous to a wooden puzzle perfectly fitted together. The austere framework is secondary, however, to their luminous and chromatic qualities. In Large Park Landscape a thick, beautifully organized clump of trees in the center forms the compositional core, with obscure brownish tones coming into the foreground at left. To the right of the central grouping is a passage of vivid new-leaf green on a grassy area and gold light falls on a segment of wall. The feeling is strongly evocative of clear autumnal light.

In the figural works, one is aware of Weeks’s not-too-distant relation to the so-called Bay Area Figurative school. Music Lesson depicts two young girls at a piano, one of them obscured by deep shadow, with diagonal shafts of light falling in on the walls and keyboard from a window at left in the manner of Vermeer. These slanting lines are picked up in the opposite direction by the dark raised piano top.

Two Musicians (a guitarist and a pianist) is larger and richer in color and detail than the others. There is a patterned carpet and an expanse of wall behind, broken up by irregular squarish panels and varied lighting into spatially irregular units. Something in the figures—a certain cardboard stiffness of bearing, or the clichéd, rather amateurish treatment of their typological aspects—brings this work to a lower level than the rest. It is just slightly akin to cocktail lounge art. This has of course been the great failing of the secondary work of the San Francisco figurative style, but on the whole Weeks has avoided the pitfall with a structured approach which is very much his own.

––Jane Livingston