john hertzberg reviews

Orange County Register
by: Kinney Liftlefield

Friday, July 19, 1991

John Hertzberg's mixed-media collages look like the cross section of a mind about to blow. Currently on view at gallery 57, these intricate, polished visions toy with information overload. At first glance everything's neatly compartmentalized, but that's just a holding action. All the bits and bytes of cataclysmic news headlines, glossy media hype and private imaginings are at war, colliding in circles of confusion or slamdancing in slashing, intersecting lines.

Hertzberg's fantasies turn the mind into a miniature mirror of the cosmos. His juxtaposition of kinetic lines and floating concentric circles becomes a brave atomic blastoff into the unknown. Silvery pencil-shaded planets orbit intriguingly in a cosmos of rich black paper and deep magenta paint. All in all, outer space looks alot more inviting than the blitzedout inner reaches of the psyche.

Yesterday's news--Noriega, the Exxon Oil Spill, the Gulf War--visually spars with personal letters, photos of james dean, bucolic images of cows and wordplay on rosetta stone and the rolling stones. Gold dollar sardine wrappers spin though the air. The statue of liberty careens sideways on her crown.

Other images are more somber. Look at hertzberg's Spanish Plain and you see shades of a german montage-maker from another era named John Heartfield. Heartfield (1891-1968) crafted hard-hitting photomontages of the Nazi Era. Hertzberg's Spanish Plain, with its shadowy, repetitive faces and vertiginous circles, has a melodramatic heartfield touch to it. It seems vaguely, uncomfortably foreboding.

Also on view are symbolically inclined acrylic and mixed-media paintings by Barbara Posinoff. In Shadows, a wavy, holographic-looking face merges with an interconnected heart and triangle. Almost Squared-Off sets layered orange hearts and faces against a ground of small charcoal gray squares. This interplay of heart imagery with simple, textured geometries seems vaguely new agey, overly static and often trite. Posinoff's most successful work is more painterly and abstract. Where she blurs her canvases with layerings of horizontal lines or scratches she achieves an almost flickering effect, as if her images were scanned for television by alternating beams of electrons. The more her paintings take on the look of the small screen, the more arresting they become.

A small grouping of members' work in the rear gallery rounds out this exhibition. Unfortunately these paintings and color photocopies are only an ineffectual footnote to Hertzberg's sophisticated precision moves.

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