AVATAR
No. 22, March 29, 1968, p. 8

Eben Given at the Paul Schuster Gallery

Many of the original drawings for AVATAR and a number of small paintings are displayed. Mr. Schuster has been a major collector and exhibitor of Eben, for some time. To Mr. Schuster's credit he was also first to exhibit the work of Omniversal Design. The gallery has several early examples of John Kostick's Cartesian phase.

The drawings are almost exactly like the reproductions in AVATAR. It is incredible that AVATAR's printing is so sophisticated that they record very exactly the character of the original drawing. Recently, Hyman Swetzoff of the Swetzoff Gallery, commented that, "I don't care very much for the content of AVATAR. They all love each other on the Hill. But I will say that what makes AVATAR unique is that it is graphically a very beautiful paper. Eben's drawings are superb, and visually the paper is very exciting. The Look of AVATAR is its greatest asset." If you love art you will love AVATAR. Why? Because Eben is a very beautiful painter.

In the past few months since the beginnings of AVA TAR Eben has gone through some heavy changes. The first cover had the chiseled firmness of an Expressionist wood cut. He had a unique way of carving out the shape, the rounded form of a nose, an eye. His images suggested a scuptural firmness.

Eben seemed to pick up steam as he worked with AVATAR. There was a biting political phase with the Miss Liberty series. One early favorite was the Psychedelic Indians throwing Panama Red into Boston Harbor. Tiring of' strictly political comment, Eben became more playful, there were amusing men children floating balloons and blowing bubbles in fields of NoNoNoNo smoke. There were Sebastians with apostrophe clouds hovering over them.

In the most recent work, Eben has concentrated on the portraiture of the people he loves. He conveys this love in caressing charcoal images that seem as if a hand has touched them, caressed their cheek, played with them in the shadows. Eben doesn't draw, he paints. Even though it is charcoal and is only black soot, he handles it like a brush and works it into velvety surfaces, deeply textured and rich with feeling. We see the light lovingly flowing over the dramatically lit face. The lips are poised in utterance, the eyes laden with sorrow, with sacrifice.

The most remarkable experience of this visit was seeing Eben's paintings. They are small like the drawings and are done on paper and canvas, as drawings. They are unique in surface. They are dry and chalky like pastel, but freely painted with the brush. The color is in the earth tones. They are deep but never murky tones. The eyes must adjust as to twilight. These are dim, melancholy images. The tones are exquisitely understated. Really it is as a colorist that Eben is most exciting. This is a whole new chapter in color, this is the color of impressionism, observed in a close study of nature. Eben is always looking, involved in the natural hues of nature. His figures are abstract and less specific in the paintings. He abandons all literal detail in paintings. They exist only as paint and color, all else is subordinate. There is great excitement in the handling of paint. This never gets out of hand for he handles paint with the luxurious sensitivity of Giacometti.

I have come to see the point in Eben's works. He has won me over. More and more the growth is evident. It's like something is really happening in him and he is communicating the level of his spirituality in a graphic means. He is so expert with chalk that I would love to see him over the lithographer's stone armed with a grease pencil and touche.

The current exhibition is very reasonably priced. In any event do see it. The Paul Schuster Gallery is down the street from Cronin's going away from Harvard Square on Mt. Auburn Street. Across the street from Cronin's check out Seymour Swetzoff for framing and gossip. One block over across the intersection and across the street from the liquor store is Designs 99. in the basement. There you may see the Omniversal Design Stars and other Kostick designs. There's a lot to see in that little area.

Charles Giuliano


Mel Lyman