“Six Formalists”

various venues

Two shows of local artists gave indication this spring of both the degree of activity and of the quality of work being done here. The group of artists known as PAC, which is an outgrowth of the old Phalanx group, has as its aim, exhibitions. A storefront on Halsted, like many of those used by painters for studio space, has been painted and lighted, and has become a cooperative gallery. The “Six Formalists” show was good in spite of the misleading title.

Only the group of small paintings by John Cannon, in black and white, had any legitimate claim to the “Formalist” title. This young artist has for several years followed a direction which is cool and detached and very restricted. His larger and best works were not included nor was any of his recent sculpture which is based on projections of his paintings into space.

Roland Ginzel’s recent paintings presage a new direction for this artist. Discrete cut-out shapes, opening into a second plane, they suggest many possibilities although still a bit stiff, a condition that should give way as the new direction develops. Both their clarity and directness were good.

One of Jordan Davies’s two paintings, a 20-foot long panel, high-lighted some of the problems in his work. The large expanse of all-over bands, modeled curved surfaces, an interlaced grid in high color, lacked the tension which his small paintings have and suggest that the size increases the decorative quality without a corresponding compensating factor. The problem of discrepancy between means and content was also evident in Vytautas Virkau’s work. From a series which has held the attention of this artist for several years, they are involved with the light and shadow play of the surface of a leaf-filled pond. These, the latest, retain the organic elements, flickering and insubstantial, bounded by the grid of parallel strips and superimposed circles painted in hard, bright acrylic colors. Their quivering flicker has yet to be replaced with another balancing note.

The paintings of Miyoko Ito, although abstract, were convincing in a structural sense (Oracle). The ribbons of color are treated almost like slabs and planks and the artist adheres to a logical pattern. Their presence is that of some visionary image-formations with their own established reality in a world illumined by a highly personal, even intimate experience. The image has about it a strong, clear poise, rich in muted color, and resplendent in physical presence of paint and canvas.

The bright, gaudy color of Paul La Mantia’s group of large drawings was in keeping with their vernacular style. Blending elements such as unmodulated inked line and flat colored areas—ink-impregnated paper like the printing ink of the comic strip—he is evolving a personal idiom well suited to his subject. These drawings are almost rich enough to be paintings with their strong episodic character—a “Lucy in the Sky . . .” quality.

Whitney Halstead