PRINT November 1966

“Four” in L.A.

AN EXHIBITION CALLED “FOUR” at Cali­fornia State College at Los Angeles presents the work of several artists little-seen in the La Cienega galleries. In the exhibition are Howard Bond, Charles Emerson, Shirley Pettibone and Thomas Eatherton.

Viewed mid-change, the main body of Howard Bond’s work is composed of forcefully obvious geometric illu­sions. Whereas numerous practition­ers of optical or geometric painting have utilized the Renaissance system of single-point perspective (as Cun­ningham and Riley), other individuals (locally Bell, Davis, DeFrance) turned several years ago to the isometric or parallel method. This system, lacking a vanishing point, fully respects the flatness of the picture plane while providing a series of anxious, tension­-filled events. Bond makes the most of these effects with pure-hued sections and stripes, designed shading in tun­nel-like “interior spaces,” and dimen­sional, box-shaped canvases.

Having successfully explored this area with considerable skill and vari­ety, Bond is currently moving in a more absolute direction, following Ron Davis, Clark Murray, and Judy Gerowitz, creating thickened shaped canvases, single hued and multipart, positioned in spatial relationships. His contributions to another group ex­hibit (Feigen/Palmer Gallery) demon­strate the rapid reduction of means and scale to which he is subjecting his art, resulting in a tentative, pov­erty-stricken look. Yet to achieve resolution, The Through remains the most ambitious, complex and conclu­sive attempt in this newer area.

Thomas Eatherton is creating optics which, while geared to maximum contrasts, wring, at each end of these value polarities, a scale of miniscule closeness. Light, small, coin-sized dots are arrayed in symmetrical and cir­cular fashion upon a black ground. The panels are mat and textural, with a nap-like density, which opposes the luminous transparency of the dots. These spots appear achromatic, but closer examination reveals a series of palely sprayed bands of color (yellow, reddish, blue) which cause a pro­nounced flickering resonance. The symmetrical arrangement permits the pictorial structure to be grasped eas­ily, compensating for the slightness of the elements. The tactile qualities of the vaster ground and subdued coloration of the dots treat the forms and spaces to a continuous flux.

Eatherton has provided a bull’s-eye center upon which to fix as he pro­ceeds to affirm and deny the plane and generating orbs, juggling molec­ular vistas which are modestly and tartly intriguing. His potential is to construct quite diabolical “machines.”

Charles Emerson is working out an older direction. From his brief catalog statement, this is an open-ended proj­ect: the continued reinvention of the same picture of freely formed bio­morphic lyricism. With Arp, Miró, and Gorky, this mode centers upon tragi-comic aspects of personal and primordial symbolism. Emerson’s con­figurations are based on safer, less expressive grounds, the neutrally unparticularized arabesque floated within and atop a dense ground. The contours are calculatedly nervous, re­calling the tortuous meanderings of Hokusai’s sea foam, vapours, and vegetation. Accumulations of these forms wrap about a center core, and trailing organisms undulate buoyantly to fill the remaining space.

The mixtures of media, the combed impastoes, metallic sprays, florid blendings, and fully orchestrated color are conscientiously rendered, attrac­tive and comfortable. Missing is a sense of risk, urgency, or necessity. His multivalent indulgence is designed to please.

As strong and single-minded as is Shirley Pettibone’s presentation, a di­gression should point out the under­lying unifying theme; the patently explicit or implicit femininity of her elements. Previous works––organic sculptures, body-part drawings and photo-collages, flowers, maps, rain­bows, and explosion bursts––have provided a sequence of explorations of subjects worked out and recom­bined to the exhaustion of possibil­ities. Involved now in the replication of water and clouds these variegated subjects are processed from photo­graphs and silk-screened. The Warhol gambit of endless repetition of a motif is the obvious source, but the units are cooly abstract and poetic for all their factualism.

Water combines linear ripples and speckled patches in a gently diagonal eddy. The smaller Clouds are softly clotted, dappled and inert. Both prints are cropped, treated to an isolating, suspending process. Opened out again, the views are presented in pairs or larger groups of multiples. The arbitrary colors of print and ground are subtly and delicately varied, and a close, but changing, mood or atmospheric situation is sug­gested within the serial progression of each set. Monet comes to mind.

The overall patterns, despite their indications of spatial recession are directly tactile and provoke a fragile preciousness. Some are like velour or cut velvet; the quiet breath of magi­cal agitation. The larger Clouds are of sturdier stuff: the enlarging of the photo’s halftones projects the grain of the image, assuming in the screen­ing the quality of a gauze print on fab­ric. Spread materially thinner they are even more porous and elusive. One enters into the very substance of the subjects, and thus into dream.

––Fidel A. Danieli