Los Angeles

Fifth International Hallmark Art Award Exhibition

Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park

Perhaps the nature of the “Big Show” dooms it from the outset. Individual paintings want to live their own individual lives; from the time of their birth they were never intended to be artifacts com­peting in popularity contests. High-minded, all-embracing goals of patrons and juries do not guarantee satisfying results. The pleasure of communicating intimately with paintings rarely has any­thing to do with whether we are wit­nessing a “trend,” “direction,” “tend­ency,” or “masterpiece.”

Hallmark Card Company, with the help of the Wildenstein Gallery in New York, has been putting on showcases of art since 1949. Admittedly, it would be difficult to imagine a more dis­tinguished jury than that which se­lected the works and awarded prizes for the current exhibition. They in­clude Charlotte Weidler, Donald Bu­chanan, Lawrence Gowing, Thomas Hess, Milton Gendel, Willem Sandberg, Arnold Rudlinger, Luis Robles, Rene Hughe, Juliusz Starzynski, Jermayne MacAgy, James Johnson Sweeney, John Maxon and Brian Robertson. Why, then, isn’t this a much better show than it is?

Entitled “The Question of the Future” and sub-titled “Painters of Promise,” the exhibition is a characterless com­promise. There are very few works of art included which do not fall into some eclectic category of unadventur­ous mediocrity. Notable exceptions, from the 57 paintings shown, are Pierre Alechinsky’s 1st prize-winner Homage to Ensor, Nicholas Marsicano’s 2nd prize-winner, Dream, Nell Blaine’s Interior, Robert de Niro’s Still Life and Chair, Stephan Pace’s 58-11, Fairfield Porter’s Farmland (all ex­cellent pictures) and perhaps two or three doubtfuls.

Mr. Hall’s (the patron) noble purpose is admirable, and is to be commended. However, he and his card company might elevate the quality of their con­tribution by arranging several smaller, less “important” shows (and, of course, continue to buy paintings) in place of the larger one, thus presenting signifi­cant points of view rather than a pot­pourri which is a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing. One or two jurors would be adequate, since too many jurors are as bad as none. Each jury of selection could then set itself the modest, reachable goal of creating a homogeneous document of what is going on in a particular place, or among a small segment of interesting artists. Pretentious unanswerables such as “Questions of the Future” or “Painters of Promise” are a waste of time, since art has to do its own job of persuasion.

––Arthur Secunda