Los Angeles

John McLaughlin

Felix Landau Gallery

Perhaps plain abstract paint—a-novel, a-illusionist—is simply, these days, an undernourished form: if it’s not completely universal to begin with, it’s a little dull. But when it works, it’s wonderful. That is the wall against which John McLaughlin, our seventy-year-old hyperaustere neoplastic master keeps butting his uncompromising head. My reaction to this newest exhibition of a dozen or so small oils, all seemingly containing the primaries with black, white and grey, is ambivalently intense. One of my first experiences in a painting really dawning on me (the blue, here, pulls the grey, here, over just enough so that the white . . .) was in the same gallery with the same artist, several years ago, under the erudite narration of a Hofmann student. McLaughlin’s work, rigidly honest, a delicate juggling of modesty and craft, still seems to me, in all its right-angled, pure-hued correctness, satisfying. On the other hand, I find McLaughlin niggardly; he will not give an ounce of lubrication (à la Bolotowsky) to his machinery of timelessness. The works demand, and get, respect. Love is another thing.

Peter Plagens