James Monte

  • Looking at the Guggenheim International

    WHAT DOES THIS YEAR’S Guggenheim International do, aside from merely exhibiting works by twenty-one artists? If the intent of the exhibition can be reduced to a common denominator, one can sum it up in the following manner: so-called “Minimalism” for want of a better word is surveyed by the inclusion of pieces by Andre, Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, Morris and de Maria. Pieces depending on one aspect of Minimalism, exact site location, and derived from Andre’s piece entitled Lever, include works by Burgin, Dias, Dibbets, Long, Merz, Nauman, and Takamatsu. The sequential aspect of Minimalism, the aspect

  • Billy Al Bengston Retrospective in Los Angeles

    BILLY AL BENGSTON’S CAREER BEGAN at Manual Arts High School, a vocational training school in Los Angeles, which included within its largely industrial arts curriculum an excellently conceived Fine Arts program. This unique program afforded students such as Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston, as well as Bengston, the opportunity to develop sophisticated skills within the secondary school system.

    For Bengston, graduation from high school and enrollment in college in the fall of 1952 was the beginning of a series of misadventures with higher education. Dissatisfied with college, Bengston dropped out

  • Los Angeles

    Joseph Kosuth, at Gallery 669, in his quest to strip away from his art everything but the idea, has arrived at a series of dictionary definitions of the word NOTHING, executed (not by the artist) photographically, in black 4 by 4 foot panels with white lettering. A few doors away, at the Molly Barnes Gallery, is an exhibition of paintings by John Baldessari, who, in his way, is also interested in a strict elimination of “formal” esthetic encumbrances—as well as (in answer to Kosuth?) the idea: on one of his black-lettered-on-grey canvases is written, Everything is purged from this painting but

  • San Francisco

    A frolicsome, sprawling twenty-three year survey of the arts in San Francisco was unveiled in twenty-three locations in the Bay City last June. Evidences of the event were in virtually every neighborhood in San Francisco and included a gang-bang poetry reading at the Nourse Auditorium which recreated in kind if not content the non-stop rapping heard in similar locations ten, twelve, fifteen years ago. The names were the same: Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Lew Welch, Philip Whalen and many others. Seeing the poets, listening to their litany,

  • San Francisco Artists

    Manuel Neri’s new work exhibited at the Quay Gallery picks up at a point left roughly seven years ago. The period in between has been devoted to sculpting plaster effigies of men and women in assorted states of fragmentation. The new work in aluminum echoes Neri’s sensual use of aluminum paint over craggy plaster, interspersed with thin accents of bright color. The artist’s earliest abstract wall sculptures gradually gave way to the overt figuration familiar to California art audiences. The break seen in this show is drastic, unequivocal and startling. To try and sort reasons or clues in the

  • “Making It” With Funk

    ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO the artists in the Bay Area began to use the word “funky” to indicate a kind of wry approval of some particularly unlikely work by another artist. Nobody thought very much about it. At least not until Peter Selz, with his unquenchable thirst for finding Monster Schools, arrived in the Bay Area and started looking around for what he could claim as his very own. He found the word and then tried to find the art that went with it (see questionnaire). As the recent show in Berkeley’s University Art Museum demonstrates, he missed by a mile.

    It’s possible—but just barely—that a show

  • Robert Motherwell

    A selection of forty-nine paintings. drawings, and collages, representing the fifteen year period from 1950 through 1965, is the bulk of the Robert Motherwell exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

    In an interview between Motherwell and Max Kozloff, published in the September 1965 issue of Artforum, some insight into the artist’s position can be gleaned. When asked by Kozloff: “Do you consider that American painting ultimately rejected the tenets of French culture, as manifested in painting, during the forties?” Motherwell answered: “The moment the Americans were able to participate

  • David Simpson

    David Simpson has been a Bay Area resident since graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1950 (formerly California School of Fine Arts) and receiving a Master of Arts degree from San Francisco State. A ten-year retrospective of his work recently closed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

    Simpson’s work begins within a tradition of landscape. His early paintings combine the now familiar horizontal stripes with variegated spots and strokes of pigment, setting up an all-over diversity of directions with the picture plane. In the early work Simpson had already subordinated the

  • John Koenig and Masatoyo Kishi

    Beside the Motherwell exhibition, two expressionist painters, John Koenig at Woodside Gallery and Masatoyo Kishi at Gump’s Gallery, were on view at the same time in San Francisco.

    Both artist use complicated technical means to finish their paintings. Koenig uses a collage system where rice paper is glued over the canvas support and paint is applied over the paper as well as underneath. The generally thin, almost impoverished, look of the scrubbed paint is really the element that saves his work from becoming merely chic.

    Koenig’s paint and paste technique is quite straightforward when compared to

  • Jerrold Davis

    Jerrold Davis’s new paintings at the Quay Gallery are somewhat reminiscent of D. H. Lawrence’s Male and Female Allegories of thirty years ago. Davis is an awkward draftsman and a better than average colorist. The paintings are very powerful and are saved from abysmal ugliness by thin color application, running from transparent blues to creamy off-white.

    These current works differ from older examples in that Davis has decided to firmly render the figure rather than merely suggest it within the context of a basically abstract painting. Like Loran’s latest pictures, these seem transitional works

  • Fred Martin

    Fred Martin, the indefatigable collage-miniaturist of the Bay Area art world has, in recent months, devoted most of his energy to producing a series of etchings. The series was printed at the Crown Point Press in Richmond and bound in a limited number of handsomely designed books.

    The artist’s proofs were displayed at Dilexi Gallery and augmented by a number of preliminary drawings as well as some unrelated drawings. The series is called Bulah Land and contains depictions of the mythical landscape, objects, flowers and other paraphernalia of this sentimental locale. The prints are rendered in a

  • William Wiley

    William Wiley’s exhibition at Mills College Art Museum consists of paintings, constructions and poetry. The entire exhibition has an introspective feeling, but one is really unable to discern what form the introspection is taking. A piece entitled Art Through the Ages is made of that venerable history of art by Helen Gardner sewn up in a canvas bag and covered with beeswax. It is one of a series of constructed objects dealing with locked or sealed books. Wiley’s continuing concern for the paraphernalia of the art world is further exposed by a piece entitled The Red Easel. The easel in this case

  • San Francisco

    The Ray Parker paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Art look like history. They are “then” not “now.” Marcel Duchamp was right when he said the life span of a painting is twenty-five years; after that it becomes something else, an item for history. Duchamp was right but the span is shortening. For many this is a painful remark, too painful for most to consider and many to digest.

    Parker’s position is particularly relevant in this case. As little as seven years ago Parker’s work appeared like a shot in the dark. His personal commitment to a single idea, i.e., the brushy rendering of large

  • Jeremy Anderson

    JEREMY ANDERSON’S 17-YEAR RETROSPECTIVE at the San Francisco Museum is probably the finest show to be seen in the Bay Region this year. Many viewers, including some long familiar with Anderson’s work, really had not expected to be confronted with such quality in such depth as the show presented.

    The exhibition catalog, written by Gerald Nordland, the Museum’s new director, is free of polemics, and concentrates entirely on Anderson and his development. As Nordland points out, Anderson’s sculpture is informed by the traditions of Surrealism. The work looks backward to DeChirico’s metaphysical

  • San Francisco

    A recent exhibition at the De Young Museum of the paintings of Kenzo Okada executed between 1952 and 1965 presents the viewer with a built-in dilemma. Those familiar with Okada’s work of the fifties through the early sixties were delighted at the opportunity to see a large comprehensive exhibition of his work. During these years his own brand of Abstract Expressionism reached a peak of formal development based on tilting atmospheric planes. Each plane was carefully considered, taking into account its backward and forward thrust as well as its own uniqueness as silhouetted shape. Color is rarely

  • San Francisco

    A curious although not altogether unpredictable result of the Pop phenomenon in painting is the resurgence of a group of painters seizing the opportunity to reassert what is basi­cally naturalistic subject matter. Usu­ally the subjects are twice-removed from their natural or raw state and in that way reveal an implicit debt to the Pop practitioners. An example would be Warhol’s soup cans, first seen as three-dimensional objects stacked on supermarket shelves in mass displays, then schematically ren­dered in a series emphasizing their labeling with telling simplicity. At this point Warhol

  • San Francisco

    Apparently the Berkeley Gallery can’t miss; the first two shows in their new San Francisco location were first-rate. Boyd Allen’s figure and landscape paintings inaugurated the new site and William King’s naugahyde sculptures followed, both setting a high standard. The third exhibit, Tio Giambruni’s new sculpture, not only maintained the high level but was positively awe-inspiring in its magnitude, scale, craftsmanship and ambition. Before discussing the new works it would be worthwhile to look to the work Giambruni was doing in the 1955 to 1959 period. At that time Giambruni, along with other

  • William King

    William King’s genial giants at the Berkeley Gallery pose in their naugahyde skins as if they stepped out of a Vogue pattern with a detour stop at a cartoonist’s studio. Their bodies, in some cases ten feet tall, have flat, square torsos and enormously long thin arms and legs. The embracing couple entitled Just Friends have a Byzantine distance between their giant presences and the spectator. In spite of the scale of the works King has not succumbed to the obvious and made theatrical golems. On the contrary the sculptures have a certain humanness in spite of their size.

    The naugahyde material

  • Don Potts

    Don Potts, a sculptor currently exhibiting five large pieces at the Hansen Gallery, continues to explore an increasingly mature and unique artistic vision. The path Potts has chosen to explore parallels in some respects the large and extremely reductive sculpture being done by Robert Morris, Donald Judd and John McCracken. The piece titled Up Tight out of Sight typifies his work in general and also points out some basic concerns of the post-expressionist generation of English and American sculptors. The piece is a bare two feet off the ground and spreads out seven or eight feet from tip to tip

  • Daniel Shapiro

    Daniel Shapiro’s latest exhibit at Arleigh Gallery includes paintings, sculpture and drawings. In the paintings Shapiro compartmentalizes in comic strip fashion a series of biomorphic images based on the structures of human and animal forms. In some instances the color appears local, i.e., flesh tone on colored grounds. The forms are drawn in with charcoal with a kind of lost and found line under, over and into the flat form, creating sculptural illusion. The largest and latest of these works is by far the best in the exhibition. Rich purples and reds as well as lighter hues are painted over