Los Angeles

Donald Llewallen

Ceeje Gallery

Donald Llewallen’s paintings at Ceeje are lucid and carefully executed works whose primary force of persuasion rests in their illusion of internal luminousness. The scale and varying geometric compositions of the canvases serve the impression of subtle, stratified light in frontal and retreating planes: Llewallen restricts himself to uniform vertical panels or undivided picture surfaces. The tonality is limited to black, white and grey.

Portal Series II, Two Ways (9 x 9’) is divided into equal halves. The left rectangular section is shaded at the bottom, lightening gradually upwards; the right side uses reverse shading, but the area and intensity of the whitish paint at the bottom is slightly greater than the comparable area at upper left. The illusion of two concavely curved surfaces created by the gradation from black to white is partially reinforced by the changing firmness of the central edge—but it is also a disorienting optical device, for it reads flatly as an irreducible straight line. Portal Series Ill, Intersection is divided into five panels. The flanking and center areas seem to rest on a frontal plane, with the two inner sections suffusing light in an indeterminate receding space. The appearance of three-dimensionality is, however, elusive; it is not a case of atmospheric trompe l’oeil as exemplified in Magritte, de Chirico or Dali, but an affirmation, on one hand, of the actual painted surface of the canvas, and, on the other, of the abstract potential of sprayed paint by itself to suggest luminous penetration and diffusion. By restricting himself to black, grey and white paint and applying it relatively thinly, Llewallen achieves an unbroken clarity in the approximation of suffused light without using either ultra-translucent pigments or the technique of superimposing grainy, variously colored pigments in the same field.

Horizon (7 x 10’) gives a vague impression of undulating motion because the paint is applied in barely visible horizontal layers with a subtly mottled area near the top. Owing to the somewhat metallic quality of the grey paint (this seems to be a function of light rather than a property of the paint), there results a paradoxical effect of hard material fixity imposed on the work’s appearance of clouded luminal disturbance within the picture plane.

Jane Livingston