1978, 90" x 78"
at Mt. St. Mary's College, Los Angeles
Photo: Grant Taylor


Painting Dualities

West Los Angeles—
Don Sorenson's productivity is surprising considering the elaborate brushwork and taping required to finish just one of his painting. Often as many as nineteen colors are layered in both tight and loose gestures. Deceptively simple zigzag motifs overlap, intermingle, weave, then separate, hooking your eye in their complex journey. This weblike network then unifies. It becomes atmospheric, like fog curling around you, drawing you into its depths. Sorenson's intentionally offbeat colors alternately offer anxiety and rest, adding to the diagonals' energy.

Sorenson creates his unabashedly beautiful abstract paintings from a love of that medium, now out of fashion, at least in some contemporary circles. A spendid selection of three year's work informs us that while Sorenson paints, he also thinks.

Appropriating modernist pictorial concerns such as flat to deeper space, overall gridlike composition, large scale and expressive gesture, Sorenson integrates them with a unique vocabulary of dualities.

Gallery director Jim Murray offers a handsome catalog with a forward by Nicholas Wilder and an informative introduction by Melinda Wortz., gallery director at UC Irvine. From the spacing of Sorenson's large canvases throughout several rooms, three categories emerge which reveal conscious analysis of his process.

In the Painterly series puffs and squiggles of brushed flesh tone intermingle with the taped lines of a multihued grid. A connection to pop art exists in the lightning bolt and cloud images and in the comic book colors. The working out of figure to ground ambiquity is perhaps too obvious when compared with later paintings.

A softer emotion comes through the Curved Diagonal series, while the background stabilizes as a needed anchor for the nervous energy of the lines. Subtle colors are introduced and show Sorenson's awareness of light. To me the images suggest a microscopic view of something large, as if they are fiber bundles.

Represtational illusions fade in the Field series, where figure and ground compete equally, producing waves of kinetic energy. Their oscillating motion is like static in sound where volume and pitch change according to various interruptions. Here is Sorenson's most complete synthesisof modernist rhetoric with his own passion.

Sorenson takes stylistic polar opposites such as "Intellect and emotion, order and randomness, control and accident, stucture and chaos, straight line and amorphous color, gloss and matte, literal flatness and illusionistic depth, figure and ground" (to quote from the catalog). He uses them with a oneness of spirit and a direct intention, thus unifying them. What at first seems contradictory, chaotic activity becomes smoothly resolved in each piece. These are stong and bright works that stand on their own, yet are also responsive to the light of their environment. Interacting with it, they take on another, deeper life.


Adrienne Rosenthal
ArtWeek, November 28, 1978


choose another review...