07/14/2010 12:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

ACE Gallery: Three Artists

Hand it to Ace Gallery for not compromising on scale! If you want to be wowed by the sheer bloody visual WALLOP of art, there's no better place to go.

Of course, bigger does not always mean better. I actually kind of like small, but I admire the sheer chutzpah of the grandiose statement. If you go for grandiose, the current shows in both the cavernous spaces of Ace's mid-Wilshire gallery and the only slightly more modest Beverly Hills branch might knock your socks off. In the former you'll find huge exhibitions--both in scale and quantity--of work by two artists, Achim Freyer and John Millei; and in the main gallery in Beverly Hills, an installation of towering "Black Totems" by Herb Alpert. (Yes, that's right, THE Herb Alpert, of musical fame; he has been making art for some forty years...)

Achim Freyer's work is operatic in scale and operatic in inspiration. He was recently artistic director for the LA Opera's production of the Wagnerian Ring Cycle, and is clearly not only an admirer but an emulator of the composer's concern with the Gesamtkunstwerk, the "all-together-art-work" that aspires to combine art, music, theater, choreography--you name it--in one big, organic bundle. Freyer refuses to restrict his vision to the stage, as is evident in this assemblage of dozens of mostly large-scale paintings and three-dimensional works (giant figures constructed out of a variety of media.) The sheer quantity of output is stunning, when seen in the perspective of the artist's other obligations in recent years, and the paintings combine gestural and broadly geometric abstraction with such conceptual elements as words and letters. Their scale encourages us to step into their spaces as though into a theatrical set, and wander the multifarious paths their surfaces offers for our exploration.

(Photo courtesy ACE GALLERY website)
Color, too, is used to dramatic effect, appealing to the big emotional response. A critic, I'm sure (and I am not one!) could cavil about a certain unevenness in quality. Freyer seems content to just throw everything into the pot of his creative energy. But I'll buy into the sheer force of that energy itself and allow myself to be swept up in it.