Los Angeles

Duane Lunden

Molly Barnes Gallery

The problem with Duane Lunden’s exhibition of black print drawings is indicative of the big flaw in the L.A. scene as a whole: the extreme availability of ideas and techniques puts a burden on esthetic and ethical tough-mindedness with which, most of the time, it is impossible to cope. Lunden shows sixteen 14 by 16-inch drawings; the series involves itself with a central linear square, bifurcated horizontally and vertically. The use of a “margin” along the lines, and the editing of portions of possible lines allows Lunden to document various permutations of the format, and the results are arranged in a horizontal sequence of increasing complexity. What, then, are the possible virtues of this business? Decoration? The drawings offer little optical pleasure as such. Contemplation? One can contemplate virtually anything, from navels to quasars, the quality of the harvest depending entirely on the powers of the contemplator. Innovation? Newness is pointless unless it is spiritually necessary, like Pollock’s drip painting or Sonnier’s use of flocking and neon. Solution? Graphic problem-solving is not only tiresome, it has the smell of moral abdication about it: “Don’t ask me, lady, I’m just doing my job.” What we are left with is a house-broken Minimal-Conceptual exercise, which is a pity, since Lunden, by osmosis, seems to have talent. Since I like Sol LeWitt’s drawings, which fall roughly into this category, these are a few of his virtues, which I do not see in the present show: 1) he lays it all out, number one to 192; 2) he does it directly on the wall or the paper; and 3) he, somehow, indicates his philosophical necessity for such an art. The openness of the scene functions less like Utopia and more like a mine field.

Peter Plagens