San Francisco

“The Molten Image” at “Arts of San Francisco”

San Francisco Museum of Art, Civic Center

The sculpture section of the Arts of San Francisco has a catalogue and a title of its own. A title that is somewhat misleading, since some of the sculptures suggest a burgeonation that belies the slow-flowing quality of “molten”—Peter Voulkos’ huge bronze Vargas, for instance. So much latent power is suggested in this figure that we almost join in the struggle to break through the “skin” of the metal. However, no title is ever completely descriptive, and today’s sculptors with their suggestion of continuing movement are releasing sculpture from the frozen art it once was, making of it the creative, living art that it should be. The whole esthetics of sculpture have undergone renovation—it no longer adheres to the academic formula of hard forms for hard materials, soft forms for soft materials. While none of the sculptors in this show force their materials beyond endurance, they do prove that metals are a more sensitive medium than generally realized. They are a group of artists connected with the University at Berkeley and Davis who organized their own metal foundry, pooled their knowledge, and are revitalizing the lost wax process of casting. They use both traditional as well as most unlikely modeling materials to obtain more interesting castings. Reed McIntyre uses cloth, cardboard, wood, plastic, string and rope (materials considered almost traditional now). The result is not the Dada creations one would assume—transformed into metal by way of lost wax they take on a classic quality. Julius Schmidt constantly searches for new tools and new processes while working IBM textures in the manner of an ancient Chinese imagist. The faint dusting of blue on Iron Sculpture is reminiscent of Shang Dynasty castings. Harold Paris comes pretty close to Dadaism with his amalgamated-iron Big Mama. With the nurturing-remnants of decaying Big Mama draped over a broken chair (which somehow retains its sturdy and dependable form), Paris extends the Tennessee Williams character in his own way. He is the most philosophical of the Seven. Tio Giambruni suggests loricated crustacea with his spiraled sculptures fringed with busy tentacles. Richard O’Hanlon and Donald Haskin complete the roster of the Seven.

E. M. Polley

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