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Joyce Zemans

Hans Hofmann at the David Mirvish Gallery
LeMoine Fitzgerald at the Morris Gallery
Gino Lorcini at the Marlborough-Godard Gallery
(1973)


artscanada, May 1973, #178/179, pp. 77-78.
[ 1,030 words ]


The floating rectangles and spatially complex style of Hans Hofmann's major oeuvre are familiar to most who have followed the development of Abstract Expressionism. The exhibition at the David Mirvish Gallery of paintings on paper only recently released by the Hofmann Estate presented a different view of this artist. Like Hofmann's Renate series, they cover a much broader stylistic range than we generally associate with the artist, but unlike the Renate series these works are whimsical and playful rather than majestic or romantic in nature and they reveal the artist in a very personal way. In a variety of media — sometimes a quick oil sketch, more often a pencil or painted drawing with a wash or gouache addition of colour — they convey a tremendous sense of freedom. It is the immediacy and spontaneity of work painted for the artist himself, or close friends, perhaps in preparation for larger canvases and perhaps simply as an alternative to the sometimes restrictive formality of the 'masterpiece'.

There is little evidence in Hofmann's major paintings of realistic iconography after about 1945, yet in these small works, painted long after this time, images evolve from representational through abstract. They strongly suggest that even in his period of non-objective expression Hofmann drew stimulation from nature and that the formal, spatial plays and tensions of abstraction may well have their source in works like these. These works shed great light on the relation between Hofmann's private and public modes of expression and will be available for viewing on request for several months. I urge you to take advantage of their presence.

LeMoine Fitzgerald at the Morris Gallery

For those who love the exquisite drawing and Cézannesque strength of LeMoine Fitzgerald's art, the retrospective at the Morris Gallery, from the collection of Fitzgerald's daughter, was a rewarding experience. The paintings evolved from a series of small, sometimes gloomy landscapes done as early as 1911. Although occasionally brightened with touches of cream or red, for the most part these early works are heavily under painted and their colours are the typical dark brown and green of the Barbizon school. Yet in spite of their derivativeness, Fitzgerald's basic sense of formal arrangement rescues them from anonymity.

A delightful group of tiny oils from the 20s, simple landscapes, almost mood paintings in their concentration on a single element of the scene, revealed Fitzgerald's growing concentration on form and contrast of forms. Impressionistic in their handling of paint, these canvases are generally organized in coloured bands. It is not however until the later 30s that Fitzgerald came truly into his own. With a tremendous emphasis on formal elements and relationships between forms, Fitzgerald built up complex passages in both pencil and paint. In Apples and Window each element assumes an abstract value. It is a composition of horizontals and verticals, diagonals, and softly curving forms, rather than a window frame, ledge, apples and tree trunks. In the crayon drawing Driftwood (1942), there is a less frequently observed element of Fitzgerald's style. Perhaps it was inspired by the work of his good friend and correspondent over many years, Bertram Brooker. In this drawing, the wood surges powerfully from the foreground up into the composition. Its primeval shape and the rhythmic pulsating of the sure form create an immediate contrast to the softness and lightness of the almost Impressionistic broken touch of the background landscape. This drawing in fact almost misses, but it is that lack of resolution between the compositional elements and the surging power of the line, both atypical of Fitzgerald, which captivates.

These last mentioned works represent Fitzgerald at his finest; and over and over I am struck by the simple strength of his best artistic statements.

Gino Lorcini at the Marlborough-Godard Gallery

Gino Lorcini was born in Plymouth, England, in 1923 and emigrated to Canada in 1947. He is currently Artist in Residence at the University of Western Ontario in London, and recently presented a dazzling display of sculpture at the Marlborough- Godard Gallery in Toronto. The exhibition ranged from work of the late 60s — shiny rectangles of aluminum arranged in patterns on a two-dimensional surface and hung from the wall — to recent maquettes, small free standing columns, of the 70s. The latter are aluminum and on several occasions bronze and, although I was at first put off by their preciousness, they are elegant polished works carefully treated (often hand milled in a thumb-print-like design) to catch, hold or reflect myriad light patterns with their varied surfaces.

There is a logical evolution from the reliefs to these later pieces. In the earlier works, the sculptured relief elements are intricately interwoven with the solid elements and the shadows they cast. With the evolution into free-standing units the question of holding and reflecting light becomes much more complex. In the first of the column pieces each element appears to be precariously poised in relation to the others and the mood is one of derring-do, closely related to a child's balancing act with blocks. In the later column pieces, variations in finish, hollow sections in the columns and the use of light to suggest immateriality, solve the problems of relationships between units in a whole much more successfully. They are apparently simple, yet eminently complex; and almost all these works are immediately attractive. The spectator is drawn to touch, turn, and examine the contrasting light effects which changes of position create.

Yet there is a dimension to Lorcini's work which was not observable within this exhibition. Many of these free-standing pieces, as enjoyable as they may be in maquette-size, are actually ideas for larger sculpture. Duet, one of the simplest yet most exciting pieces in the show will be created in monumental size for a Montreal commission. Cleft Column II will be translated from aluminum to an 18' bronze for a Toronto commission. I think Lorcini is wise in choosing bronze for the large versions; the fantastic, detailed light effects possible with aluminum would not survive enlargement. What will remain is the inherent elegance and grace of the slender columns — the relationship between the various elements of each column and the intricate play between them


Text: © Joyce Zemans. All rights reserved.

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