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Arts Magazine, January 1981

(Janus Gallery, Los Angeles, November 5 -29, 1980)

New York artist Elaine Lustig Cohen’s beautifully crafted geometric abstractions make use of squares, rectangles, right angles, trapezoids and triangles. Luscious colors enhance the angular shapes, creating a harmonic geometry akin to de Stijl or Contructivist works. The solo exhibition of paintings, collages and gouaches betrays the artist’s proclivity for thoughtful utilization of color long established through her association with architectural and interior design industry (Lustig Cohen was design associate with her husband Alvin Lustig, until his death in 1955).

The harmonious bars, bands, stripes forge a compelling balance. Cautious manipulation of the painted surface and the faintly tinted or raw canvas interval in between the colored volumes, cause a dynamic interaction of elements – color, shape, tone. These ingredients comprise essential features which give Lustig Cohen’s work a precisely integrated continuity uncommon in painting of the late 1970s and early ‘80s

Border to border, content to content, and element to element harmonies are mastered in Lustig Cohen’s paintings. Resembling architectural designer’s flow-plans for building interiors or choreographers’ plots, these judicious, thoughtful, energetic, and impeccable orchestrations reveal her to be a maestro of stagecraft. Color and form are managed in complex, immediately understood series of movements. Elaine Lustig Cohen’s forms retreat, advance, impose, and relax in a flow of contrast and constant counterpoint, working the limitations of the canvas with a brilliance akin Oskar Schlemmer’s dance plans or the choreography of Evita, The Wiz, or Marta Becket.

Lustig Cohen’s excellent paintings are accompanied by a selection of cast paper pieces, collages, and drawings. Exploring particular facets of her vocabulary the works do not detract from the paintings. Especially fine is a suite of collages produced during the artist’s summer in Spain; these collages carry the artist’s magic into a profoundly graphic expression.

Companion to Lustig Cohen exhibit, German artist Raimund Girke presents monochromatic paintings in the gallery’s anteroom. In participation with the Los Angeles Bicentennial exchange program with Berlin, Girke shows a promising suite of paintings on paper and three large canvases. The artist’s paper works possess a range of subtle colorings white to gray, resting in the valleys of heavy rag stock; the entire surface is covered with a pale white wash. Raimund Girke’s large canvas paintings hold austere military or industrial associations; the monochrome, precisely brushed fields of plate steel colors recall battleships, tanks, armaments, skyscraper girders, and unpainted automobile sheet steel.

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