Not for 30 years has landscape been considered a subject for high art by the critical establishment. Lately, however, there are signs that closet landscape painters may be coming out. Malcolm Morley and Jennifer Bartlett, both certified high priests of contemporary art's inner temple, have indulged themselves in this noble tradition and been praised for doing so.
This does not mean that Susan Crowder, a sculptor from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., whose landscapes are on view at the B.R. Kornblatt Gallery, is in the vanguard of a new movement, but it does mean that her work can be evaluated in the light of this new acceptability.
Certainly if landscape painting is to be considered an appropriate pursuit, it must take an approach other than the frankly romantic one of the past. Morley, for instance, has injected an ironic nostalgia into his portrayals of fields of placid cows, and Bartlett's garden studies have that quality of the repetitive assigned exercise that is characteristic of all her work.
Crowder's approach, on the other hand, is to consider the landscape as sculpture -- a natural tendency since her training and much of her other work are in this area. In these charcoal drawings, which may be seen through Jan. 3, she has taken as her subject the formal gardens of the Frick estate on Long Island. All of these works concentrate on hedges and precisely trimmed boxwoods.
In the cold winter atmosphere she has determinedly captured, Crowder heightens the effect of strength and solidity by accentuating the play of darks and lights while the simplicity of these horizontal and ovoid forms creates a drama of controlled power. There are no accidents here -- either of nature, or in the careful technique of the artist -- and it is this factor that contributes to the intensity and presence of these works.
Crowder's landscapes have a purity and guilelessness about them, a directness that makes them very up-to-date.Etchings by Anthony-Peter Gorny-2.100 PTS LEFT
Anthony-Peter Gorny produces etchings that must be hung on hinges, for they are printed on the back as well as the front. He builds books four feet high and encases them in elaborate frames encrusted with carefully arranged objects that relate to his themes. He strings photographs of contrived, Magritte-like situations in a frame a foot high and eight feet long -- images hung on the line like wet clothes. And he produces lithographs that explore some nook or cranny of the imagination.
This is not an art that one can fit neatly into a period or style, for clearly it transcends taste or trends. What it does offer, in this show at Jane Haslem Gallery, is a glimpse into the mind of someone who thinks beyond, who is unconcerned with the mundane.
This is an exhibition that vibrates with the nervous intensity of Gorny's absorption with everything that crosses either his path or his mind. In his surrealistic vision nothing is at rest; nothing is resolved.
One work, an etching of Niagara Falls, is incomplete. Eventually it will include six or eight prints that, when hung together, will reveal the full panorama of the falls. But even now, unfinished, it stands as a metaphor for the artist himself; for Gorny is, like Niagara, pure natural energy.
The exhibition will continue until Dec. 22.