La Cienega Area

A quick glimpse at the passion and concerns that motivated the celebrated 1930 Social Realist painters Ben Shahn, William Gropper and Moses and Raphael Soyer is about all that's offered in a current exhibition of their work. With the exception of Gropper the artists are represented by only a few examples and most of them appear to be studies and images made outside the political arena where their work had such force. In the case of Shahn's three drawings, only the two small cartoons convey the artist's ability to wring depression era pathos out of naive, simplified line and Cubist, compressed space.

Gropper's work is more fully represented, from the political cartoons of bureaucratic fat cats he did for such publications as "Vanity Fair" and "New York American" to some beefy charcoal drawings venerating American myths and the nobility of the worker. Like the works by other other artists shown here, Gropper's paintings in this exhibit are not the strong political statements that he was known for but more whimsical and colorful figurative pictures such as "Adam and Eve." They seem as far removed from the poverty and corruption of the times as imagination can get. Surprising only in the intensity of the color and the playful way they sometimes tip pictorial space, these works seem like the Busby Berkeley musings of an artist escaping from the day-to-day reality of a world of bread lines and impending war. (Heritage Gallery, 718 N. La Cienega Blvd., to March 25.)

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