Los Angeles

Donald LeWallen and Dennis Ashbaugh

Jack Glenn Gallery

Late last spring, Jack Glenn, a businessman transplanted from Kansas City, opened his gallery in Corona del Mar, a sun, fun and surf community south of Los Angeles. Eschewing La Cienega Boulevard as too smoggy and about to be bisected by a freeway, Glenn felt that anyone wishing to buy the sort of art he handles wouldn’t mind the hour’s drive from Los Angeles. Glenn’s Gallery is a bit of chic appreciated by the California south of Los Angeles—hip deep gray carpet-ing and beige suede cloth on the walls to which pictures are attached by Velcro strips. Esthetically, the gallery has the flavor of O.K. Harris West at times, although it must be said that Glenn looks at the work of almost as many artists as Ivan Karp, and Glenn handles a number of Los Angeles area artists, among them, Jerrold Burchman, J. J. Chicago, Dennis Ashbaugh and Allan McCollum.

The present exhibition of recent paintings by Donald LeWallen fits nicely into the Glenn reference. LeWallen, who had an exhibition almost concurrently at O.K. Harris, worked several years ago in a hardedge-optical manner. At that time he was much involved with figure-ground ambiguities and spatial shifts developed by modular, wedge-shaped forms, juxtaposed one to the other, and alternating point up—point down. The “base” of each wedge would be black which gradually faded to gray to white at its tip, thus acting as “ground” for the black portion of the adjacent wedges. A vestigial, yet rigid geometricism lingers on in LeWallen’s work, although the surface textures. and color washes now mark- him as a lyrical abstractionist. Geometrical systems or orders upon or within which colors are applied seems to be a mark of much of lyrical abstraction. Many practitioners of this style seem to require that the process of intellection remain visible, to insure that their work not be considered as Abstract Expressionism by another name. If the sires of lyrical abstraction are Abstract Expressionism and color field painting, hard-edge painting is its godfather at the very least. LeWallen and others, too, seem compelled to state that their paintings are not casually executed and that the final appearance is the product of both intellect and technique, subject to existential chance and accident only in small part.

A group of six small plastic resin paintings by Dennis Ashbaugh accompanied LeWallen’s larger scale exhibition. Ashbaugh, a young Californian, has been working with resins for some time. It is a medium which finds favor in California. Ashbaugh’s works are small—perhaps four or five feet across, and informal in shape. Ashbaugh pours and works resins of various colors (and no color) onto a sheet of formica, then lifts them free when they have hardened. The resultant work is thin, less than an eighth inch thick, and informal or organic in silhouette, the outline following Ashbaugh’s working of the resin. The works are translucent, and, depending on the density of their color, are influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the tonality of the wall on which they are mounted.

Ashbaugh too finds it necessary to use a form of geometric structure. In his work it is a large, oval, dark shape filling the entire center of the painting and across which the other colors are dripped, rolled or splashed. It is a simple unitary form however, and not intense, sometimes being almost entirely obscured by other, pigmented layers. These colors move through and beyond the oval, which may serve to integrate the work, but does not dominate it.

Thomas H. Garver