Frederick Hammersley at LA Louver (one fine day in May)

Why does this painting not look like a horizontally bisected square? I suppose it may be influenced by its neighbors – which really aren’t bisected at all, rather one is divided in thirds and one is divided according to some other/alternate geometry. Each of these black and white paintings is about 48 inches on a side (44 having checked the list). The leftmost in this installation has a 5 inch band of white horizontally covering the centerline, and a white 16 inch square in each upper corner. There is another white square at bottom center. The painting on the right, which is divided into thirds, has white at top and bottom and black at center. A narrow vertical stripe of white joins one white section to the other.

This leaves the center canvas, the one of my earlier question to myself. Of course it is cut in half by its colors, I know this, but my eyes, picking up subliminal glimpses of the others, finds depth where there is none and this depth allows the glimmer of a landscape to appear. (Where, of course, there is none. Right?)

Scape 1971, Back and forth 1971, Do you do 1970 (paintings listed in order of appearance)

These thoughts take me back to the first room, the organic 1960’s chamber. A modest-size painting on the east wall, on the right as you face it, also gave me the sense of a horizon; this one in a dreamy and maybe storm-tossed landscape. In the lower 3 inches of canvas a curving line describes hills, this is made of sections of pale grey, tan and a weirdly lavendered magenta. A super-dark teal shape breaks this curve and it reaches from the lower edge upward, it grows, splits and reappears elsewhere on the canvas. This teal intrusion at the same time ruins my earthly fantasy and it reassures me that possibly Hammersley also thought of the land when he made, or when he later looked at this painting.

A crazy appearance by Carmen Miranda in a painting just to one side makes me laugh outright and then stop short in appreciation of Hammersley’s ability to balance shapes and colors and weights. There is an orange biomorphic shape on a painting at the left that holds my attention, or rather it holds the attention of a gentleman visitor and the strength of his gaze captures me and after he moves on I look and then look some more.

Ground work 1964, Growing game 1958, Bring about 1964

There are three rooms of paintings and tiny wonderful lithographs in this show. Oh! Did I mention to you the frames? No? The hand-carved frames alone are a reason to visit Louver.

I put these comments out in such an abbreviated state because the show is open only until May 12. Today is Friday, May 5. I’m away this weekend and hope to visit again next week. Perhaps more will come of that possible future viewing.

You have seven days to see this show. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand….

By the way, I am aware that I am finding people and landscapes in work that is famously abstract. “One of the Four Abstract Classicists, you know,” and all of that surface only stuff. To quote an old song, “I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok.” I am not deeply invested in reading the paintings I have mentioned here as other than abstract, and the bare representation I notice in these paintings is not repeated elsewhere in this exhibition, so I will not and cannot extrapolate anything from what I notice. I will say that like anyone, Hammersley began his life as an artist by drawing people and things, and he was certainly aware of the earth around him, so some of this might have leaked into the work. Whatever. Who cares. You’ll see. The paintings are great. The frames are the closest thing I know to offer right now as physical advice for artists and they are magical. If I could, I would point and tell you to incorporate the thinking behind the frames into your own work, in your own way.

Images at the LA Louver site for the Hammersley show:

btw – check this out (our master’s voice):

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