San Francisco

“Arts of San Francisco”

San Francisco Museum of Art

Through July and August all of the galleries of the museum are being used to present the creative activity of Bay Area artists. Intended to give the visitor to the city a view of the character of the arts in and around San Francisco, the show will be changing in part at specified times, to present a “view in depth” of the artists who contribute to the cultural vitality of the program. Seventy-five artists have been asked to show their work in a series of small one-man exhibitions of three to five works each. This type of show does penetrate the area activity, but does not give too deep a view of the individual’s output. It is a step in the right direction, however, and a great improvement over the massive annuals. As to display: the strength of the hanging lies in placing groups to bring out contrasts; the weakness, in crowding the eye-ball poppers into close quarters. Richard Bowman’s kinetogenics, oil and glow-paint on white canvas, need much more space and light for “kinetogenesis.” Optical stimulation from brilliant color combinations causes the colors to pulsate and form new secondary shapes. This needs room to work. The same problem exists in the Gordon Onslow-Ford exhibit. His work has a special little gallery of its own, far too small for the huge black-and-white spotted and be-circled canvases to function. They over stimulate the retina. As this discourse has already indicated, Bay Area artists are greatly concerned with techniques, and that concern is often more in evidence in their work than their reaction to environment. In an Age of Paper, it is only to be expected that they exploit this litterbug medium. Some have made of it solid concretions, extending the technique of collage. Sam Tchakalian has refined his surfaces, yet makes special use of the medium for subject-suggestion. Robert Loberg prepaints and tears his papers, letting the edges form a variable white line, and with these he fashions high-pitched carnival themes. Geoffrey Bowman’s intricately decorated surfaces of paper and oil paint are consistent with his complex abstractions. Not all of the artists rely on construction—Erle C. Loran’s recent canvases are almost flawless in their gossamer layers of thin, vivid color. He has the quiet voice of authority, is aware of the possibilities and the limitations of his medium and of the 20th Century exploration of space, and knows when a color will soar, and when it will sink. Ralph Ducasse follows through on the symbolic abstractions of Albers and Rothko, but with a very personalized set of colors and symbols. Byron Wilson and Fred Reichman keep in touch with the world of birds and small animals—Wilson exalting the decorative shapes of noisy waterfowl, Reichman unashamedly sentimental about a lark, a doe, or a squirrel.

E. M. Polley