New York

Lennart Anderson

Taylor | Graham

This brings us to Lennart Anderson, whose latest show was even more disappointing than the previous one. Anderson is one representational painter who did begin by painting human figures engaged in significant actions—or at least in actions, since whether or how they were significant and what they signified were certainly problematic, inevitably so. In a way, the question was whether the actions were to be taken as literal or symbolic; which is to say that Anderson raised problems that had last been actual in the thirties and showed that they were relevant once again. That was a very great merit, and while Anderson’s first show may not have been entirely successful, its interest was in having raised important and vital questions. The artist next showed accomplished, but not what I would call vital, still lifes and studio nudes, and since that time his work has grown increasingly inconsequential: little paintings, very often landscape sketches in the manner of Fairfield Porter with a strong admixture of Edwin Dickinson, which is to say a kind of genteel escape often rendered with a blurriness in respect of form that is very useful when one is unsure what one wants to set down. And now in the present show there are great, undigested pieces of middle Cézanne.

It is thankless, in fact painful, to have to review this show. The work in it is competent, and what the artist once showed was to my mind important. But since then the decrease in the size of his paintings, the increase in the obviousness of their derivation, and above all the abandonment of figures in action and the turning instead to studio nudes and to landscape and still life—all these things betoken a reduction or a loss of substance, conviction, ambition, importance, and one is left to wonder what caused the artist to turn so completely away from the concerns of his first, and in retrospect still an important, show.

Jerrold Lanes