When we think of realism in the the ‘30s and ‘40s we think of provincial social realist styles that pushed the New York school into abstraction. In the ‘40s, Milton Avery was one of the few links between the modernist legacy of Matisse and contemporary representational art. In a mini show of small paintings and a few etchings, Avery demonstrates the broad simplified color planes for which he is noted.
They congeal into home-spun scenes of a young woman clad in a yellow dress reading, and a long blond olalisque lounging in a bright red dress. Heads are teeny, anatomy is rough hewn and distorted, paint applied flatly so that edges are sharp and clean, giving figures the look of cartoon collages.
Avery was vociferously committed to realism--he published Reality magazine in the ‘50s railing Abstract Expressionism for being concerned with “mere textural novelty.” Yet, in a work like “Girl on Balcony,” Avery gives his realism the tactile, animated presence that made him a wellspring for ‘50s gestural realists from Fairfield Porter to Jan Muller. (Mekler Gallery, 651 N. La Cienega Blvd. to Nov. 1).