Historical Journal

Journal Archives, Reviews

Reviews and Previews: Oct 22, 1974

October 22, 1974
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

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"In his first one man show in this country, glassblower Jon F. Clark reveals a virtuoso handling of the fluid potentials of his chosen medium. "

Hugh Kepets (Vick Gallery of Fischbach, thru Oct.). Hugh Kepets is an artist who depicts no people, only the implications of their presence. Unseen hands have fingered and locked the fittings, clipped and rooted the cuttings. A uniform vision for the inherent symmetry of an ordered and controlled world unfolds in 37 of his works now at the Vick Gallery. His picture plane is frequently defined by the territory bound by window frames. Fascinated by spatial description, we are treated to views from inside looking out, across and through other spaces. Mirrors reflect space on our side of the picture plane to which we have no access.
His paintings reflect a meticulous control of surface and edges, wrapping the color of images around all 4 sides of the stretched canvases. His build-up of acrylic highlights on a metal pull chain is done with the same care Rembrandt lavished on a string of pearls. But even in his impastos, Kepet: remains an orderly, cool painter. There is an easy narrative appeal to these views of hanging plants and squatting avocado pits. Yet this should not obscure the formal statement of his work. As an artist Kepets is deadly serious.
Lasuchin, Mangione, Adlen, Christian (252 Sept. 9-30). Michael Lasuchin is represented by large colorful geometric silk screens and an airbrushed watercolor entitled Confluence. This sensual study of biomorphic form in graded values of white and black works rumps, shoulder blades and clefts in the skin. Patricia Mangione, who previously has shown abstract works, is now using the female figure shown floating or anchored in a colored patchwork of flat space. Because the blank-mooded women relate neither spatially or psychologically to one another, the significance of the subject matter is at times beyond the viewer’s reach. Constance Christian, a Washington based artist, is a superb draftsman whose pencil drawings of stones, clocks and twisting vines suggest a shared dream of time and space. In a series of realistic acrylic still lifes which specialize in developing the potentials of the color white, Larry Adlen arranges unsettling combinations of anonymous bathroom bottles, delicately poised light bulbs and cantilevered tablespoons.
William Copley (Moore College of Art Gallery, thru Oct. 11). Does a universal sense of humor exist? Can a feminist find happiness with the art of William Copley? Working from a heartily heterosexual and slightly nostalgic point of view, Copley dishes out a world view in which multitudes of nude females and clothed males cavort and do battle in age old fashion. His style is sparce and primitive but certainly not naive. At times he can be extremely witty. The visual punch of his portrayal of such national heroines as Barbara Fritchey or Betsy Ross as voluptuous floosies would be similar to seeing an engraving of George Washington in a truss. In Viridiana (1973), a scantily clad woman on a swing kicks out her leg to us and reveals her snatch. Copley cleverly made explicit that which was covert in a painting by Fragonard of a swinging woman watched by her beau. In place of the latter’s carefully situated lover, we, the viewer, are forced into the role of voyeur. The funniest painting may be Whole Man’s Hunt (1961) where he puts on a work by pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt in which an adultress springs to a moment of consciousness while seated on her lover’s lap in front of a piano. In place of Hunt’s church sheet music, Copley supplied “The Spread Eagle March.” In his Birth of Venus (1951) Copley joins a well-known Renaissance title with a scene of Victorian sexual torture in which the axially placed female hasn’t quite decided if she likes it. A gnawing awareness of the political significance of his fluffy damosels may interfere with your total enjoyment of his work.
Woofy Bubbles (Southworks). At Southworks, Woofy Bubbles has created a total art environment peopled at the opening night by a languorous pair of his and her reclining nudes who chatted amicably under a canopy of his own design. A cool and sophisticated crowd took in the figures as their eyes slowly swept over the panorama. No one really “looked” at them. Even in the context of an art gallery it would have been considered gouche to respond to the qualities of the live figures by commenting on the beauty of the models. Woofy’s designs move in a hierarchical fashion from the simple phallic Woo to a double Woo or wootooth, to the grander and more complex woofette, woofer and woofini, and specific shapes found painted on the walls, laid flat on the floor or stuffed or worn. All of his creations have a definite stage presence and are seen by the artist as functional. His concern for a flexible, moveable art brings him to costumes, cushions and carrybags. He is himself his own creation, as are we all, but with a slightly more disciplined sense of consistency.
Painterly Realism (Clerestorey, Oct. 1-31). Painterly is one of those terms we inherited directly from the German. The Swiss grandfather of art history, Heinrich Wolfflin, used it to denote the opposite of linear, as in the paintings of Titian where form derives from patches of color and edges blend and merge. The thoughtfully assembled show at Clerestorey called Painterly Realism highlights three contemporary artists whose prints rely on rich fluid strokes to convey their imagery. Fairfield Porter achieves delicate wash effects in his softly colored lithographs of seascapes and interiors. Neil Welliver’s silkscreens of the Maine coast reflect the brushy concerns of his paintings. Alex Katz, currently featured in a solo exhibitibn at the Whitney, exerts great control over color in his powerfully simple scenes of setting suns and rising moons.
Embody Art! (Helen Dr.tt, Oct. 10-31) Embody art, a special display of body ornaments in the form of jewelry and clothing, is at Helen Drutt’s gallery in combination with the uncanny assembly of objects which normally live there. The wearables include costumes by Red Grooms and Woofy Bubbles, a quilted jacket by Dawn Polis, a fur cape and helmet by Marcia Lewis and a ceramic studded satin jacket by Mark A. Burns. Crafty people have been at work slowly blurring the distinctions between high (read “serious”) and minor (read “functional”) art. Useful objects do not require separate aesthetic criteria for evaluation; in fact, enjoyment may be enhanced just because we have to touch them so frequently.
Graphics of the ’70s (Langman, Oct. 11-Nov. 3) Viewing the extensive collection of prints in Langman’s commodious galleries should be the equivalent of a crash course.in contemporary printmaking. A staggering 130 artists are represented. A sample of Philadelphians include Italo Scanga’s lithographs, Lillian Lent’s woodcuts, Rochelle Toner’s etchings and Debbie Ray’s first seriographs of abstract landscapes. Notable too are the works of Folon, Nesbitt, Shahn, Vasarely, Sam Francis, Peter Max and Niki deSaintPhalle. Recent technical innovations are exemplified by Brook’s vapographs, John Silk Dechard’s dry points on plexiglass and Mitchell Lyon’s clay points.
Jim Licaretz, Jim Victor (Painted Bride Art Center, Sept. 15-Oct. 7). Two young Academy graduates are having their first show in Philadelphia at Painted Bride. Jim Licaretz’s epoxy resin figures have polychromed surfaces and carefully modeled volumes. While the stance of Sandra proffers a ripe, seemingly innocent sexuality, Las Vegas Icarus is more self-consciously posed in an elegant position, aware of his bronze colored body. Jim Victor’s works of plaster housed in plexiglas force us to confront twisted and distorted shapes and compel us to share in his demonic sense of humor and fantasy.
Richard Kagan studio and gallery. At Richard Kagan’s gallery the work of this country’s foremost woodworker, Wendell Castle, is represented by a few choice pieces of sculptured furniture. Castle, who came into the field with an MFA in sculpture, devised a technique called stacking, which allows the craftsman to build form in any direction. Robert Worth used this procedure to cantilever form in his black cherry table. While most are one of a kind pieces, Kagan also shows a limited edition slate coffee table by Daniel Jackson who uses hand-cut, dove tailed joints and exposed tenons as low keyed decorative elements on a smooth rectilinear form.
Richard Kiniry, Robert Rodgers (The Works, Oct. 6-30). The Works is featuring their first display of stained glass objects by two area craftsmen, Robert Rodgers and Richard Kiniry. The art of piecing small bits of colored glass and channeled lead flourished in medieval Western Europe only when certain conditions coincided. Enabled by the development of the flying buttress, it became structurally possible to punch large holes in the walls of churches to admit more light for the interior, and the once-lost technology of glass production was revived by contacts with the East. Outside of its continued use in ecclesiastic structures, stained glass became a desired art form only when people, such as the Victorian, William Morris, rejected mechanized products for those done by hand.
Rodgers, who has done the windows for Lickety Split, presents a copper box construction with its own light source illuminating a design of hand-held apples and branch of leaves. Kiniry has taken seriously the example of rich, jewel-like colors found in early medieval windows and used them in geometric compositions or art nouveau arabesques.
Philadelphia Collections (Vendo Nubes). One of the more interesting in this potpourri of paintings from four Philadelphia collections is an early work by Jack Bookbinder, a social realist’s view of a street corner in Conshohocken. Low keyed colors describe the intricate detailing and weathered surfaces of a prototypical Philadelphia view. Also noteworthy are Stuempfig’s Lumbermen of 1952, where various male figures exist in a studied world of light and air, and his Bacchanal focusing on two eery dancing females. Clayton Anderson’s pastel-keyed Parking Lot is the brightest of this group of dark toned paintings.
Selected works of 10 major American artists (Janet Fleisher Gallery, Sept. 14Oct. 12). Janet Fleisher has collected an impressive array of work by early American moderns. In addition to Demuth’s delicately washed watercolors partially occupying a white background, is an early ink drawing of actress Ana Held done in 1902 while he was still a student at the Pennsylvania Academy. Reginald Marsh is represented by two New York Harbor scenes and a popular beach scene. A large black and white drawing by Grant Wood called Spring and Tom makes optimum use of the linear patterns of pointed roofs, sprouting plants and hanging quilts. Opposite to the gentle warmth of nature radiating from Wood’s work is the autumnal gloom of Burchfield’s watercolors where plants sulk and perish in a deathly climate of drought. One of these dates from 1917, a year which Burchfield himself declared one of his best. John Marin, a seminal figure in the evolution of watercolor technique is seen in an early French street scene of 1908 and the more characteristic caligraphic slashes of the 1920s works. Lesser known are Bernard Korfiol’s study of two reclining women and Abraham Walkowitz’s watercolors of Isadora Duncan and various landscape views. A prize in the show is Edward Hopper’s watercolor of 1936 describing the clear blue sky and sandy mounds surrounding the muted surfaces of old houses near Provincetown.
Jon F. Clark (Wallnuts, Sept. 23-Oct. 15). In his first one man show in this country, glassblower Jon F. Clark reveals a virtuoso handling of the fluid potentials of his chosen medium. His clear bottles and containers present simple classic shapes with controlled decoration that undulates across the body or pushes down from the neck in expressionist scrawls. The fusing of small inlaid canes of colored glass between the inner and outer surfaces imparts a sense of depth of field, resembling a view through a microscope. Like Duchamp whose Bride Stripped Bare carefully utilized the advantages of glass transparency, Clark’s planned designs are enriched by the random reflections and patterns of the gallery setting.
The Delaware Valley Span series of blown glass forms are in fact elegant and sweeping sculpture whose surfaces vary in texture and color as their shapes change. Using platinum luster, silvering and acrylic lacquer Clark renders pearlized beiges, blues and reds, matt pewter or glossy reflective chrome. Small passages of transparency reveal the intricate interior construction. In some, stripes of color continue the rhythm of movement established by the segmented, loping forms. This amorphic flow resembles painted forms found in the works of surrealists.
Replicas of the Unicorn Tapestries (Brooks Goldberger Gallery, thru Oct.) The ability enjoyed by printmakers and sculptors to produce many identical works has modified the collector’s goal of owning only unique images. Even painters have been asked to replicate their early work for a second patron. When what you want is virtually unobtainable you may turn to exact replicas as the next best thing. The wide selection of historic French tapestries currently showing at the Brooks Goldberger Gallery has been recently manufactured in several ways. The least expensive are those with siIkscreen designs printed on woven fabrics. The more sumptuous ones, executed by machine looms set by hand, fully convey the textural richness of the originals in Cluny and the Cloisters. A particularly appealing 15th century design shows a young woman flanked by a lion and a unicorn pondering objects in a chest held up by a maid servant. The salmon background is filled with an encyclopedic array of plant life distributed across the work in accord with a delightfully medieval sense of horror vacua.
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