Los Angeles

Reuben Nakian

Felix Landau Gallery

An exhibition of small terra-cottas, bronzes and drawings by Reuben Nakian is at Felix Landau. Most of the works are from the sixties; all but a few are involved with classical idyllic imagery. The pervasive subject concern is with antique archetypes of female eroticism: Leda and the Swan, Europa, the nymph and the satyr.

Most of the terra-cottas are sgraffito drawings, characterized by sparse, fluid delineation. Two Ledas (1965) exemplify these at their best, exploiting the sinuous linear potential of the traditional composition, transformed into a distinctive (if Picassoesque) idiom.

Remarkable, in view of the fact that Nakian is fundamentally a sculptor in the roundest sense, the sgraffito terracottas, drawings and small bronze reliefs in this selection are more engaging than the free-standing sculptures. Some of the ink studies of female nudes are surpassingly beautiful; there is also an elegant small series of ink-and-wash abstract drawings.

One tends now to regard Nakian as a powerfully inventive but firmly old-guard force in American sculpture. There is a distinct poignancy in the fact that in his recent work the former vigorous, driving exploration of monumental sculptural form has subsided. These small sketches, for all their liveliness, are basically gentle, nostalgic reminiscences of a very distant artistic spirit.

Jane Livingston