FEITELSON (1898 - 1978) was an "artist's
artist". When he arrived in Los Angeles, already having lived
and worked in Paris for seven years and having been included in
exhibitions at the New and the Daniels Galleries in New York,
he was immediately encircled by a small but intense group of artists.
Stanton Macdonald Wright, Nick Brigante, Peter Krasnow, Ejnar
Hansen, Knud Merrild, Ben Berlin had been meeting and exhibiting
together in Los Angeles since they had gathered after the cessation
of World War I. By the early '30s, they were joined by Helen Lundeberg,
Dorr Bothwell and Grace Clements - as noted by Susan Ehrlich in
her catalogues for "Turning the Tide" (Santa Barbara
Museum of Art, etal in 1990) and "Pacific Dreams-Currents
of Surrealism and Fantasy in California...." (UCLA/Hammer,
et al 1996). The mural division of the Federal Arts Project demanded
his time and attention until the heat of war swallowed the Project
in the early '40s.
Feitelson's figurative work continued to be legendary. However,
by the mid-'40s those neo-classical and post-surrealist opulent
forms evolved into anthropomorphic and abstracted 'Magical Forms/Mirabilia'.
Figurative, yes!; recognizeable imagery, barely! Feitelson wrote
in 1970: "In Mirabilia I have tried to create a wonder-world
of monumental form, color, space and movement ..." The 'Magical
Forms' are a link into the geometry, the hard-edge abstraction
of the 1948 Space Situations and the subsequent 'Magical Space
Forms'. Curiously, two small 'architectonic' watercolors of 1920/21
predict this hard-edge vocabulary.
Lorser Feitelson's confident, broad, flat geometric paintings
were described by Jules Langsner, critic/curator, as 'colorforms';
Langsner also noted parallels in the works of John McLaughlin.
With no perspective or recognizable imagery, with no background
or foreground, the colorforms were flat, intact, without 'parts'.
In 1959 Langsner curated "Four Abstract Classicists" for
the Los Angeles County Museum of Art - adding Frederick Hammersley
and Karl Benjamin to Feitelson and McLaughlin. This exhibition
of colorforms also travelled to London, at the ICA, where it was
subtitled "West Coast Hard-Edge" by Lawrence Alloway.
By the 1960s, hardedge angles were evolving into monumental boulders'
(see Untitled of 1962 and 1963 and, finally, into the reintroduction
of the curve, as epitomized by the four-way Untitled 1969. That
sensuous, tapering line never left Feitelson's work again, becoming
the most elemental, most minimal reiteration of the human form....where
he began in 1916.