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Art review: Roger Herman at Jancar Gallery

October 9, 2009 | 10:45 am

Rh 86building 60x48 Roger Herman’s paintings of the 1980s, at Jancar, hold up well a generation after being swiped, streaked and scumbled into existence, better than many produced during that decade’s Neo-Expressionist surge. The German-born Herman lived in Northern California for five years before settling in 1981 in L.A., where he has taught (at UCLA), exhibited frequently and made paintings, woodcuts and ceramics prolifically.

The show’s two rooms divide Herman’s output neatly into figurative subjects (his parents, himself, a skull) and architectural (an apartment facade, bungalow, parking structure and auditorium). All of the canvases are painted with vigor, the forms distilled and generalized, the brushwork swift and strong. Most compelling is the friction between the physical, passionate, performative aspect of his work and his imagery of a cerebral, cool, even banal nature.

“Building,” for instance, presents an oblique view of the facade of a generic multistory apartment building, the windows and balconies defined in blocks of monochrome light and shadow. The institutional anonymity of the subject runs head-on into Herman’s brusque layering (emeralds, blues and violet beneath the black, white and gray), heaving textures and overall sense of visceral urgency. His empty “Auditorium,” a sober scene in black, white and shrill yellow, generates a similar shocking charge.

In these paintings of interior and exterior spaces, even more so than in the more emotionally -laden imagery, Herman seems to be addressing fundamental questions about where painting derives its power — from mind, body or soul? From the interpretation of immediate experience or the filtering of memory?

The questions remain relevant, and Herman’s manifestations of them potent.


Jancar Gallery, 961 Chung King Road, Rd., (213) 625-2522, through Saturday. www.jancargallery.com

--Leah Ollman


Above: Building. Photo credit: Courtesy of Jancar Gallery

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