San Francisco

“San Francisco Art Institute Art Bank Show”

M. H. de Young Museum

The total effect of this non-juried show was disappointing. But very likely your reviewer had the misconception that a giant wing-full of local contemporary art has to be a blockbuster, a real index of what’s going on in the area. In the large gallery we saw some excitement—paintings by Fred Reichman, Art Holman, Joel Barletta, Louis and Lundy Siegriest, Joseph Romano, Bruce Conner, John Saccaro—but elsewhere there were more yards of mediocrity than we like to think about. The Art Bank’s capital might well be bolstered: some of the bay area’s best don’t choose to join the institute and some of the big names seem to have dropped from the ranks. What was especially worrisome was the sterile, earthbound imitating of someone else’s inspiration, the pallid exercising in angle-bound abstraction and hopefully soaring landscape—which didn’t. An awful thought came to us: an Art Institute show can, on its own more progressive grounds, be as deadly as a Society of Western Artist’s annual. Now that’s something to worry about. But let’s not worry too much. The show did offer fine talents like John Edwards Richard (a richly colored, strong boned still life), Lucille Brokaw (a sort of an indian rug of a louvred collage), Lois Lazarus (whatever her statement is, it jumps from the canvas) and William Finch (lovely color combinations here). Joseph Brooks demonstrated an exciting feeling for the spacious and poetic in a slightly Snelgrove-ish landscape which says a lot in a very small space. Jerrold Ballaine certainly deserves an A for improvement in turning out a figurative number which is very direct, expressive and esthetically jelled—not to mention sexy, which is really the point. Samuel Provenzano, in a relatively colorful mood, provided some first rate dynamism. The excellent entries of Roland Petersen and Nancy Genn should not go unmentioned—and Alexander Nepote. But Mel Ramos, Jason Schoener, David Simpson, Peter Shoemaker and William Morehouse are not represented by their best work. The sculpture is, in numbers, a minority group. Not much happens artistically to make it major. Seymour Locks seems to have embroidered his nail-on-wood style to achieve a more plastic, less austere kind of expression. Shiela Rousseau Murphy has tacked something on the wall with real guts to it. I also met Serge Trubach’s Summit Gargoyle, an assembled, life-size man, and if I heard him correctly he said, “Look, I may not buy my clothes at Brooks Brothers, and I may look sort of scary, but really, I aim to please.” (One footnote: We’ll bet the Barletta painting was hung upside-down.)

Arthur Bloomfield