New York

David Hare

Allesandra Gallery

David Hare is almost 60. In the 1940s and early ’50s he was among those artists whose concern with myth as a metaphor for creativity drew them to tap the deep atavistic forces in the Jungian “collective unconscious.”

Now the spotlight of relevancy has moved on, leaving Hare and his work in the shadows. He says, “I’m not interested in history.” Does he mean the history of new trends and ideas? Perhaps he means the recent thousands of years of history since we started to write and since the death of the early gods. Dylan Thomas writes in A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London: “After the first death, there is no other.”

For Hare, the “first death” is that of Cronus, the father of Zeus, devourer of his children, a dark, creative/destructive force in the ancient Greek pantheon. All the paintings, drawings and sculpture in this exhibition (Hare’s first in New York since 1969), are based on the myth of Cronus. Hare writes in his catalogue: “I use the myth as a symbol, as a jumping-off place. Cronus is part man, part earth, part time. I use him as a symbol of growth through time. Primordial mud growing into man but always remembering its beginnings.” The theme is a grand one and the artist sticks stubbornly to his old occupation of acting as the medium through" which eternal forces are expressed.

Then there is the work. It is strangely tame, as if the witches’ brew were prepared by a French chef. There are echoes of Picasso in most of the paintings. The power of the theme is softened by attractive art-making moves. Hare uses collage passages in most of his paintings, yet the jumps and discontinuities inherent in collage always yield to grace and harmony.

The sculpture is at first harder to take. Constructed of metal with burnished surfaces that jar with rough materials and translucent plastic, they incorporate elements of drawing and color from the paintings. They are quirky and idiosyncratic, combining the industrial finish of their metal and plastic components with qualities of fetishes or cult objects.

I am left with mixed feelings. My admiration for Hare’s ambition and tenacity is somewhat undermined by my uneasiness about the over-civilized stylistic modes he uses. I think of the art of black Africa, or of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest, and wish that Hare’s symbols had come with their own inevitable forms. Yet I know that no one artist today can function as if he (or she) were a tribe or an entire people. Hare tries for this wholeness, but I cannot receive the form and the meaning as one fact, as if known in advance.

––Paul Brach