Auspicious and indicative are the words that define the current exhibition at the Downtown Gallery of William Brice, 27-year-old painter-son of Fanny Brice who canvases belie his age. Though Brice (born New Yorker now residing in California) has been represented in numerous national exhibitions, this is his first New York one-man show.

In viewing the solidly constructed and intricately rendered oils and drawings, it is not difficult to understand the Gallery’s enthusiasm for its latest discovery. Brice’s paintings have an inventiveness and maturity that make it difficult to believe that one so young could have come so far. Though contemporary in approach, his canvases reveal a classic purity and timeliness grounded on a sound foundation that proves to be a rare experience. There is no slip-shod throwing on of pigment, no confused techniques, only a keen undulating drive to perfect a highly personalized expression.

It is unusual to find today a craftsman who sometimes spends a year completing a painting; yet Brice does that and his meticulousness is brilliantly evidenced in his fully realized compositions.

The fourteen oils range from Brice’s earlier works, when he was predominantly concerned with establishing disciplined purity of form and spatial relationships (Hat Dummies), on through the patterns and rich textures found in Sea Rocks and Abalone Shells to the freer expressions Kelp and Bleached Wood with their subtle color gradations and strong organizational rhythms. Portrait of a Young Woman possesses a simplification of statement and penetrating realism that places it with the best contemporary portraiture.

To this reviewer Brice’s work indicates a new and healthy direction in modern American Painting. (Thru March 5.)—Marynell Sharp.