San Francisco

“Drawing International”

San Francisco Museum of Art

This exhibition is noteworthy, not for its content, but its omissions. It consists of one hundred drawings selected by Gordon Washburn during his perambulations around the world to pick the last Carnegie International.

Statistically, at any rate, the British are the topnotch draughtsmen. They are represented by eighteen items, with the Japanese as close runners up with fourteen items. Evidently American artists don’t draw, or if they do, they are not worthy of inclusion, other than the two items by Keonig and Masurorsky.

The overwhelmingly large British selection amply demonstrates the organizational efficiency of having an official body, the British Council, to press entries into international exhibitions. You know, old boy, the export drive applied to culture! Nevertheless there are two fine drawings by Alan Davie and Eduardo Paolozzi.

But as everyone knows, it is really the Japanese who all draw well; their work has a deadly perfection very different from the Western use of drawing as a critical search into the very basis of art, more typical of the work of de Kooning, Franz Kline, Guston, Motherwell and many others. The exclusion of these artists is as much a mystery as the exclusion of Picasso as against the inclusion of two of the imitators of his graphic personality, namely Ceri Richards and Saura. Missing altogether is that giant, Giacometti. Debuffet is represented by a minor work, but this is made up for by including a Dutch imitator of his more typical and important plastic discoveries. Pomodoro is represented by that typical cliché so common amongst many sculptors, the drawing after the sculpture. This exhibition fails lamentably to isolate the momentous change of ideas that have occurred in post war art in relationship to drawing, in that the time barrier between perception and execution, which formerly distinguished drawing from painting, has dissolved.

John Coplans