Knute Stiles

  • Terry Fox Meanders

    WHEN I OPENED THE DOOR I heard a snoring sound coming from a tape recorder across the room. I had been apprised that a performance of Terry Fox’s The Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Different Cats was to be held one day in March. Next I tripped over a piton and ring fixed to the floor a few feet inside the door. I assumed that had to do with the industrial or warehousing use of the building; the first floors were still evidently in use for that sort of business, so a piton and ring might be left over from a former tenant. Only later did I realize that this also was part of the show, which

  • R. Cedric Smith

    An announcement arrived in the post informing me that Cedric Smith’s Loiter Piece was to take place in the plaza of the Bank of America from 11 a.m. until 6 o’clock. The postman had arrived well after noon, so I didn’t get there till mid-event. Smith had hired two hippies to go to the plaza and act as though they were loitering. They weren’t, of course, because they had been paid $1000 each to perform this service. The release had suggested that anyone could interview the hippies. When I arrived two girls were interviewing them. The girls informed them that everyone upstairs was talking about

  • Nancy Graves

    Nancy Graves came to San Francisco to teach a summer session and while here she constructed an elaborate thicket of fantasy plant forms. The stems are of structural steel rods, generally erect though in a couple of cases they zigzag like a staircase, perhaps simulating a climbing model. Each plant form is divided into leaves, tendrils, flowers, nuts, shells, bones, pods—too many on each stem to approximate anything we know on this planet; such an otherworldly place would have a botany of several sexed plants. The thicket entitled Variability and Repetition of Variable Forms is mounted in the

  • Karl Benjamin

    The title Variability and Repetition of Variable Forms would almost seem more appropriate for another show in town, the paintings of Karl Benjamin at the Sawyer Gallery. He has gridded his canvases with twelve six-inch horizontal and vertical blocks and founded the smaller square diagonal grid on the tensions of the other; he has used twelve colors (except one in which the greens and blues are left out to allow the violets to dominate). The first impression is that the grid is an unrelieved waffling of the square, but you soon realize that your own eye is completing the left-out divisions, and

  • Leo Valledor

    Leo Valledor was a precisionist, too, a while back. His work is still very simple, but he has become enamored with the brushstroke, and in his new enthusiasm the paint flies to the bottom of these canvases. Except for the framing color the monochromatic paint quality has a good deal of texture deriving from the runniness of the paint and the mark of the brush. A large upright rectangle painted a flat, even, coppery-brass-gold on the edges, about two inches wide, borders a quite juicy yellow center. The yellow has flowed in uneven scalloped patterns that tend to make the surface mosaic pulse and

  • Tom Akawie

    These paintings were part of the last phase of a group of shows mounted in the San Francisco Museum of Art this summer. Now that the season has begun in earnest museum-goers will be subjected to a constant fare of package shows specially designed for provincial museums; and experimental work, at least as far as the museums are concerned, will go back underground. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor (whose policy has been traditionally ‘moderne’ rather than ‘modern’ or that even newer contemporaneity ‘modernist’) regularly shows working contemporaries month after month. Rumors (and even

  • Joan Snyder

    The exhibition of Joan Snyder’s paintings at the Michael Walls Gallery gives San Franciscans their first opportunity on the West Coast to see some recent paintings seen and written about in the East (“The Anatomy of a Stroke: Recent paintings by Joan Snyder” by Marcia Tucker, Artforum, May 1971). Many of these paintings have never before been exhibited. Seeing the actual paintings rather than just reproductions reveals a large amount of powdered brass in the paint, as well as copper, bronze, etc.; photographs revealed that factor to a degree, but the metallic paint was apparently from an aerosol

  • Manuel Neri

    The last show in the summer salon at the S. F. Museum is of fiberglass castings that Manuel Neri has taken from his own earlier carved plaster figures. The older plaster pieces are also there. The fiberglass has taken the form of the carved plaster but the mold is not made to cast other pieces; instead the mold is the piece, a thin skin of various half-portions of the carvings. On a full-face one Neri has mounted some plaster on the head and recarved a new face in a more block style. The originals were fragments, and the casts are half as much. Neri’s work is related to archaeology; not puzzling

  • Carl Vilbrandt

    Another sculptor who has been using casting in an original way is Carl Vilbrandt (Bolles Gallery) who has taken molds of many faces—and hands, feet, and even genitals, and has pieced them together, glazed and fired them. One of the more innovative aspects of Vilbrandt’s technique is the use of a pump with small holes like a salt shaker to press the clay into fine strings like vermicelli. The form, when pressed into his molds, retains an element of the strings. These can be fired without fear of breakage in the kiln, because the heat dispersal problem (the bane of terra-cotta sculptors), has been

  • James Reineking

    The James Reineking exhibition at the Quay Gallery reveals a consistent development in his art. He has almost abandoned the moire-causing veil which represented the humming sound emanating from within as a visual symbol, the single draped veil in this show being attached to a tube coming out diagonally from the wall, and the veil coming out of a curving slot in the tube rather than the tube hanging in the veil. The tubes are no longer metal but plastic; the ends reveal a thickness whereas the metal tubes had presented no evidence of real substance to the edge and had thus appeared diagrammatic.

  • Rudy Bender

    I seldom review photo shows, but this month the San Francisco Museum of Art mounted a show by Rudy Bender that had some extra appeal which had the weekend crowds congesting the hallway where it was on display. There were rows of stereopticon binoculars lining the walls in the most popular part of the show and the view was of nudes, layers of them, transparently seen through each other, filling up the space. The imagery was so dense that at times a part which one had initially associated with one nude is revealed on closer scrutiny to be a part of another. A nude walks out of herself and moves

  • Norm Lofthus and Nancy Haigh

    The photos at the Reese Palley Gallery were more Dada Concept-oriented than (properly speaking) a photo show. Norm Lofthus had taken the pictures, and Nancy Haigh had tinted them, not by hand as the ad used to say, but with stencil and airbrush. The sitters were the VIPs of the University of California’s Art Department—or rather that part of them who were willing to indulge in the concept dialogue. Each had to wear the same corduroy jacket and fuchsia and black tie for their posing. It would be possible to guess who wore the tie in what sequence; its condition changed as the concept progressed.

  • Robert Hartman

    Robert Hartman was one of the first painters who showed us a painting full of sky, no horizon. The focus was originally on primitive airplanes and the sky was merely their element, but then we saw a whole show of skies, some seen with the cloud strata diagonal, as from a plane banking. The show at the Berkeley Gallery is all sky, no planes or horizons, but a graph of equally atmospheric but geometrically stratified planes of sky or, in another, grids of lines as though to parse the sky for some mundane calculation. There are carefully brushed portions, portions of stain absorbency and elements

  • Arthur Okamura

    Arthur Okamura has put painting aside in favor of graphics for a while. There is a frog just in the corner of the page which was, on first glance, a texture of greens. His block cuts, silk screens, and book illustrations are very Zen, even avowedly as in his illustrations for a book called Ox Herding which is a very traditional Zen sequence. Joel Weishaus, who wrote the poems, interpreted the text as“Search, traces, caught, taming, riding home, no ox, source, and city.” Okamura’s equivalent for city is a mandala of four circles of color around a circle of white. The traces are the oxen’s spoor.

  • Karl Kasten

    Very often a graphic period is an experimental phase which sometimes completely alters subsequent work in an artist’s major media. Karl Kasten was working in a very painterly way when I last saw his paintings. I did see a show of his collotypes which I thought were both experimental and resolved, though a distant leap from the paintings. Now he is back to painting and the results are at the Bolles Gallery, this time with acrylic and metal leaf and hard-edged forms which tend to project themselves as solids in a void, though they do also lend themselves to being read as the inside warp of the

  • Paul Harris

    Paul Harris has done a set of lithographs with metallic paper inserts glued before printing, with the printing upon both the page and its metallic patch. Rain is printed on vinyl with a brocade pattern for the wall and the raincoat hanging surrounded by the brocade wall, is yellow. One Morning in Munich is brocade with a flat violet tint as the relater. Girl on Beach has three variations of surface, a drawing-textured umbrella part, a flat blue beach part, and a spectral yellow-green-red sky part. There is also a small part of the girl—or is that she? And since we are looking up into the umbrella

  • Louis Nadalini

    In the last couple of seasons, San Francisco has lost several of its galleries. Some others have just recently begun operating but often with an entirely new group of artists. Some members of those apparently secure gallery stables that went out of business have found their way into other stables, but a larger group is without a place to show. I decided to look into such a person’s studio in my endeavor to find out what is really happening in the Bay Area art world. I went to see Louis Nadalini. His latest painting continues with the lattice of slats protruding forward with two variations of

  • Sargent Johnson

    The Oakland Museum of Art has sought out, researched, and mounted a retrospective of the work of Sargent Johnson who died at the age of 80 in 1967. I had gotten to know him well in the last 15 years of his life. He remained active and his work was experimental to the end. In the mid-fifties he was in Mexico and was excited about with the black clay from Ceyotepec (near Oaxaca). The Zapotec Indians had been kilning this black earth since pre-Columbian times. It has been used many ways, for example as a hard armature at the core of third and fourth epoch artifacts with a slip of softer

  • A Centennial in San Francisco

    THE FIRST PAINTING TO CATCH my attention in the painting section of the San Francisco Art Institute’s Centennial Exhibition was a great rosy canvas by George Miyasaki. I saw it glowing and I went closer to study it. All of the tonal variations were rosy, coral rose in association with fuchsia rose, subtle colors tuned for optimum vibration. A literary journalist came by and wondered why I was looking at the Miyasaki, and immediately began telling me about a more literary painting that he had just seen. I insisted that he confirm or deny that Miyasaki’s painting was a successful visual illusion

  • Vaea

    At the beginning of Vaea’s exhibition at the Berkeley Art Center he stretched a black plastic drop-cloth across the floor and unloaded a truckload of nice damp clay carefully worked and ready for a ceramics operation. He worked on the show each day for the duration of the exhibition, and at the end he cleaned up his clay, dumped it back in the truck and took it away. Firing the clay into more or less permanent ceramic pieces was not part of the idea. Hardness removes from clay its tactile liveliness, and this show was to demonstrate just that: it is easy to work, takes many forms with great