Becker's fourth show features painting and sculpture by five Dutch artists - Hans van Drumpt, Pieter Heynen, Sjak Marks, Jacques Timp and Han van Wetering. It consists of only 12 pieces in a relatively small space, but
because these are mature artists they offer a lot to chew on.
Stylistic affinities are few, however. Van Drumpt and Timp are abstract painters; Marks is a minimalist sculptor; van Wetering is an assemblage sculptor, and Heynen, who studied with Joseph Beuys, is an installation artist.
Their show bifurcates roughly into "hot" and "cool" aesthetics. Van Wetering's sculptures, which feature elements cast from natural objects, are spiritual in a rough-hewn way, and van Drumpt's small expressionist gouaches describe a series of synergistic energy fields.
At the other extreme one finds Marks, whose geometric metal cutouts recall similar explorations by Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Mangold, and Heynen, whose installation consists of seven small plywood panels coated with beeswax and marked with paint so as to suggest a series of doors. It's a meditative piece that plays the tactile quality of the waxy surface against the more intellectual concept of "portal."
Stylistically, Timp is the man in the middle. His paintings balance a loose, painterly gesture and a deliberate compositional structure; each is a series of interlocking passages evenly distributed over the canvas.
One wishes the show were larger, for each artist would be worth seeing in greater depth. (Becker is planning to give Marks a solo show next year.)
For his second show at Red Column Studio (he showed his own work first), Benz has chosen a series of 28 paintings by Cathy Raymond titled "Scenes From an Unknown City." In oil on paper, they depict contrived narrative situations.
Raymond has taken images from movies and the theater and tried to transform them so that ordinary scenes appear mythic and dramatic ones mundane. Her goal is to demonstrate that perceptions of reality are interchangeable, that random moments can be perceived as poetic within an appropriate context.
The source material is evident only in glimpses, and then only if one happens to be tuned to Raymond's wavelength. If you look at these pictures long enough, you begin to sense that she's staging a kind of Pirandelloesque drama populated by acrobats, cowboys, sumo wrestlers, nudes and horses.
The scenes appear narrative, but they don't make sense unless one reads them symbolically. Their mood is frequently violent or agitated; one of the recurring images is a double-gabled red house with flames shooting from the roof.
The raw material in this work is fertile, and yet only occasionally does Raymond achieve the lyrical transformation she seeks. The component parts of these pictures still assert their individuality, rendering the transmutation incomplete.
Furthermore, like many young artists, Raymond seems to believe that sincerity can compensate for casual execution. These pictures would generate a lot more magic if they were more meticulously painted.
Larry Becker, 43 N. Second St. Hours: by appointment or by just ringing the bell. Through May 31. Telephone: 925-5389.
Red Column Studio, 2101 Lombard St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Mondays through Fridays by appointment. Through April 30. Telephone: 546-2947.
GIANNETTA GALLERY. In his three previous solo exhibitions at Giannetta Gallery, Alfred Ortega has demonstrated a marked affinity for old-style German expressionism. There's nothing "neo" about Ortega's interpretation; he adapts stylistic antecedents quite literally, as if he were painting in the early 1920s instead of the late 1980s.
In his new exhibition, Ortega seems to have his eye on Picasso of the Blue and Rose Periods. His figures, although still ectomorphic, have become more dignified; some are even melancholy. Ortega moves in this work from group scenes to single figures and from a jazzy palette to a more subdued one that at times is nearly monochromatic.
The show is composed of 19 pictures, 14 oils on paper and five on canvas. They include a series of women, the most Picasso-like figures, that resemble weathered frescoes; they're painted warmly in ochre, mauve, peach and gray, with the outlined figures barely emerging from the ground.
In his earlier work, Ortega frequently produced a nervous angularity that reminds one of Beckmann without the irony and the classical underpinnings. These new pictures favor Picasso's early classicizing style; they're somber and restrained and they try to look antique.
Ortega's insistent paraphrasing - like the Brancusi Sleeping Muse head on one of his male figures, the Modigliani neck on one of his women, and the harlequin that turns up in a third picture - still seems excessively imitative. On the other hand, we aren't accustomed to seeing artists of the current generation turning directly to early European modernism for models. Ortega is still a developing painter; with each exhibition, he inches toward a more assured and individual voice.
In this work, he has further refined his focus and his technique. Presumably we will reach a point in the not too distant future when an Alfred Ortega show will remind us only of Alfred Ortega.
Giannetta Gallery, 1712 Walnut St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through April 30. Telephone: 545-0862.