New York

Richard Lindner

Spencer A. Samuels

The watercolors by Richard Lindner are not up to this artist’s best level, but they mark another step in the recovery of his work. Until about the mid-’50s, Lindner had achieved some remarkable things, which fused the deep space necessary to basically figurative erotic images with a flatness and schematism of design that translated in fascinating manner the fixated quality of that eroticism and the rigidity of the conscience that repressed it. They were also beginning to combine the eroticism, which until then had been highly personal, with images of a more public nature, into which the artist tried to project or into which he tried to infuse his private experiences. But after the mid-’50s Lindner seemed unable to find a repertory of subjects that could provide a suitable vehicle for these problems, with the result that his work retained only the look of what it had been before, and even that rather hesitantly, since the formal pattern in his work had really been a function of its content.

The present show consists of watercolors, most of them devoted to the theme, “Fun City.” It is a world of Panthers and Angels, pinball machines and shooting galleries, much of it rendered in Lindner’s characteristically nocturnal palette, a kind of flattened-out expressionist coloring. In the leather jackets, tight slacks, exaggerated sunglasses, and stoplights, Lindner often finds images to which society has given meanings that are agreed on and which, at the same time, lend themselves to the tabooed sexuality that is the essential content of his art. In this public world, the taboos are certainly more tenuous than they had been in Lindner’s earlier art, as the violence is more overt; and it is very odd that the artist has not continued to exploit, as he once did, the figure of the policeman, in which both these elements might be resolved. These watercolors are not ambitious things, but they make one want very much to see a group of Lindner’s recent oils for the first time in several years.

Jerrold Lanes