Los Angeles

Jesse Reichek

The University of Southern California Fisher Art Gallery

The University of Southern California’s Fisher Art Gallery is showing a retrospective view of prints and drawings by Jesse Reichek. Although Reichek has been working in California for a number of years (he teaches at the University of California at Berkeley), and has had periodical shows in New York and Paris, he has been curiously neglected in Los Angeles; in fact this exhibition introduces his work here for the first time. It is not inappropriate that the selection excludes paintings, for Reichek’s most compelling ideas seem to find expression in small format, and in media which enable fine textural and tonal nuances in black and white. With the exception of the color lithographs done at Tamarind in 1966, some of which approach paintings in scale and conception, the most interesting are the series from 1958, ’61 and ’62 which are thought of as moving sequences of abstract organic forms. These are titled with times of day (10:48, 10:58, etc.).

From the dense, clouded arrangements of hatched, scribbled or shaded areas in the 1958 series the artist moved toward a simpler, dominating tendrilled form which, during the early ’60s, seems to have absorbed him endlessly. The several series based on this configuration, shaped from negative white paper by thin black lines, are suggestive of fluid microscopic formations projected in a continuously altering sequence. But the fine crispness and completeness of each image preclude a sense of amorphous, uncontrolled movement. The irresistible notion of projecting these drawings in split second progression has actually been carried out, and the results, on film, are enormously provocative.

At Tamarind Reichek made several suites besides a number of imposing large editions in black and white or with a third color. Two of the suites, E.g., a . . . and E.g., b . . . develop a single formal idea in an exhaustive range of color variations from allover near-blacks to deep, solid colors against white. There are also three tiny suites of 24 3-by-3-inch prints; the same series of images—going from spidery to simple, treelike forms—were printed in black and white, yellow and white and red and black.

The most recent works, a group of black and white drawings done in 1967, are probably the most sophisticated and, in this sense, advanced of all the works shown here: their new complexity in relation to the just-previous style is analogous to the difference between Analytical and Synthetic Cubism. In them Reichek elaborates upon shapes present in the small Tamarind suites, using them in complicated echoing, overlapping and interacting systems. Possibly, in the light of this latest series, the observer who only half-seriously categorizes Reichek with the “pure plastic theoreticians,” (PPT’s) is justified.

Jane Livingston