To get the most out of Lorser Feitelson's lyrical abstract paintings from the 1960s at Grimaldis, a little history helps. Feitelson (1898-1978) was a painter who spent most of his creative life in Los Angeles and worked in a succession of styles in which he married modernism and classicism.
In early works of the 1920s, he rendered the classical nude in a semi-cubist style, in which some of the forms became flat planes but the nude remained recognizable. In the 1930s, he had a surrealist period, but without the elements of chance and automatic writing typical of original surrealism. Everything was rendered with precision and great control.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the surrealist phase modulated into organic forms that gradually grew angular and abstract. By the 1960s, when he created the paintings at Grimaldis, he was practicing what he called abstract classicism. It is akin to hard-edge abstraction, but not as geometric. His canvases feature irregular shapes and lyrical lines in subtly chosen color contrasts.
In several of the best, including "Untitled (Red and blue swaths)" (1967) and "Untitled (Chartreuse and black lines)" (1964), there is an undulating vertical shape suggesting a human body in graceful motion, as if dancing. They can be seen as abstract and figural and slip back and forth as one watches.
These are lovely paintings. They are not as austere or quite as strong as the works of his contemporary and fellow California painter John McLaughlin, with whom Feitelson has been paired in writings about the West Coast abstractionists. But they give a lot of pure pleasure, and that is one of the purposes of art.
In the rear gallery, the paintings of Ellen Burchenal, on small wooden ovals grouped together in varying shapes, also achieve a balance between abstraction and the representational. Nothing in particular is represented on them, but their colors and titles -- "Clearwater," "Cumulus #3," "Spring" -- often suggest landscape or atmosphere or the sense of something in nature. They have energy, but it's always in control, and they're graceful, too.
The C. Grimaldis Gallery, at 523 N. Charles St., is open 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through March 6. For information, call 410-539-1080.
At Galerie Francois
Paul Hotvedt's small landscapes of the flat Kansas countryside where he lives sometimes look like Dutch 17th-century landscapes, with low horizons and lots of sky. Sometimes they feature a tree and a bit of road. Sometimes Hotvedt gets up real close to some weeds at the edge of a field and renders them with a flurry of energetic little brush strokes. At first, these all seem like snippets of conversation or snatches of music, bits isolated out of something much larger.
They are, but each also possesses a completeness that has to do with the overall tone of these paintings. They exude a calmness of feeling that suggests a contemplative mind behind them, and that makes experiencing them a source of quiet pleasure. To look at them closely is to realize what an accomplished painter Hotvedt is.
Galerie Francoise et ses freres, in Green Spring Station at Falls and Joppa roads, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through March 2. For information, call 410-337-2787.
Faces of hope
A text at Gomez Gallery says of Tibet, "The 1950 invasion and subsequent occupation by the Chinese communists has resulted in the deaths of over 20 percent of the Tibetan people and the near extinction of their unique Buddhist culture."
Phil Borges has photographed these people in India, Nepal and Tibet, showing them for the most part straight on, looking out at the viewer. He tones their faces a sepia color but leaves the rest of the photo black and white, which makes the faces even more striking. The eyes speak of suffering, but they aren't lifeless, they haven't lost the possibility of hope, and in that there is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
Gomez Gallery, at 3600 Clipper Mill Road, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through March 7. For information, call 410-662-9510.
I'm retiring from The Sun. Except for one brief period, I've been here for the last 36 years, and for almost all of that time I've concentrated on arts and letters -- as feature writer, book review editor, restaurant reviewer (yes, food is an art) and, for 14 years, as art critic.
It got better and better all the time, and the art critic's job was the perfect culmination. When I'm on vacation, what I like to do best is spend my time looking at art. So this job has been for me the opposite of a busman's holiday. It's been a vacationer's vocation.
It's particularly gratifying that almost all of the news has been good on my beats. With extremely rare exceptions, our arts institutions have vastly expanded and improved. And they have been wisely, responsibly and creatively led.
Aside from the people in my life, three things have been most important to me: the arts, Baltimore and The Sun. To have been able to write about the arts in Baltimore for The Sun for more than a third of a century has been a privilege and a joy.
Pub Date: 2/09/99