Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

Art review: 'Roger Kuntz: Signs of LA' at Louis Stern Fine Arts

January 12, 2012 |  6:30 pm

Roger Kuntz
Roger Kuntz (1926-75) made some great paintings that should be better known. Some of the best, from his “Freeway,” “Sign” and “Blimp Series,” make up a powerful exhibition at Louis Stern Fine Arts.

“Signs of LA” goes a long way to remind viewers that artistic accomplishment and fame do not always go together. It’s a treat to visit a show in which the former exceeds the latter so disproportionately that you feel as if you are watching history happen. To see Kuntz’s point blank pictures of the means and mechanics of transport is to sense that you are getting a preview of the future, a time when these terrific distillations of modern life’s mysteries hold their own among such standouts as Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Vija Celmins and John McLaughlin.

Kuntz’s paintings are whip-smart and accessible. They break up space like nobody’s business, creating complex compositions in the tight confines of the picture plane. They play light against shadow with no-nonsense aplomb, giving form to time’s passage by compressing everything important into an instant. And with great economy of means, they conjure vast landscapes beyond their edges: both the endless sprawl of L.A.’s freeways and the unfathomable vastness of our interior worlds, which are filled with their own twists and turns, dead ends and exits, intersections and underpasses.

That’s a lot to take in. But great art usually works on many levels. And never the same way twice.

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times.

-- David Pagel

Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Ave., (310) 276-0147, through Feb. 18. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Image: Roger Kuntz, "Asphalt Triple Arrows," circa 1962. Credit: From Louis Stern Fine Arts.