Today's landscape painting -- large, bold, unsentimental

Contemporary landscape painting continues to forge ahead despite its general lack of support by major museums and the tendency of many critics to view it as less interesting and important than other forms of art. Such attitudes are ill-founded and shortsighted, and would, I believe, disappear were greater attention paid to the work an increasing number of landscape painters are producing today.

These artists are fortunate, however, in the number and quality of smaller-museum and gallery shows that are being mounted to focus serious attention on their work.

Such shows help to inform the public that the current art scene is both richer and more broadly based than our major museums and art journals would have us believe.

The John Meyer exhibition of landscapes that closed recently at the David Findlay Jr. Fine Art Gallery here is a good case in point. The paintings -- which are still available for viewing at the gallery -- are all fairly large, simply and boldly designed, and representative of the direct, unsentimental, and precisely delineated kind of outdoor imagery that has come to the fore of late. There is no fancy brushwork, no technical or expressionistic elaboration, and no modification of the appearances of nature for the sake of a geometric or other formal ideal.

In their place are direct, no-nonsense painting, a clear sense of place, and evidence of very careful planning. Much of the success of this kind of work depends on how effectively shapes, colors, and details are coordinated to best convey the appearance and basic character of a particular view or site. Such attention to design and structuring before even one touch of paint is applied is of crucial importance.

It was, in all, an excellent exhibition. Mr. Meyer obviously knows what he's doing -- and he does it well. He produces the kind of solid, down-to-earth landscape painting that may not challenge the achievements of Constable or C'ezanne, but that should help bring back at least some measure of dignity and respect to this recently maligned form of art.

By and large, sculpture doesn't attract the wide and appreciative audiences painting enjoys. For one thing, it strikes many as less accessible and a bit too formal, and for another, it is more difficult to transport and to place. In addition, some art lovers have never stopped equating the words ``sculpture'' and ``statue,'' and so haven't rid themselves of the notion that anything sculptural must be big, rather pompous, and in all probability, depict a general on a horse. Numerous 20th-century sculptors have done their best to alter this misconception. Brancusi, Moore, Mir'o, Calder, and Giacometti, in particular, made sculpture more accessible, and occasionally, more delightful. And such recent artists as Nancy Graves, Judy Pfaff, and Joel Shapiro have added entirely new dimensions of informality and color to this form of art.

For anyone still in doubt, I recommend the small but illuminating exhibition of sculpture currently on view at Arnold Herstand & Co. here. Its 30 pieces run the gamut from a Dynasty XVIII Egyptian black granite torso to Gonzalo Fonseca's ``House of the Foot'' executed just last year.

Also included are works by Arp, Calder, Dubuffet, Ernst, Maillol, Noguchi, and Leger, as well as examples by other 20th-century sculptors, and a dramatic painted wood figure from Celebes Island, Indonesia.

Outstanding even in this group are Joseph Beuys's remarkable ``Tierfrau,'' Mir'o's two bronzes, Richard Stankiewicz's ``Stick Figure,'' and a delicate and lovely 2nd-century Roman marble entitled ``Portrait of a Woman in Profile.''

At Arnold Herstand & Co., 24 West 57th Street, through March 2.

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