San Francisco

“The Nude: Drawings by Alvin Light, Manuel Neri, Gordon Cook, Bill Brown, Joan Brown”

California Palace of the Legion of Honor

The museum in pre­senting this exhibition avers that the drawing of the nude is a particular and special activity of Bay Area art, which for those who know the outside world is poppycock.

Light, an abstract woodcarver, draws a series of roomscapes in India ink, peopled with docile nude nymphets. Related to his sculpture only through the overallness of his handling of his image, the subject matter might be taken as an indication that he is short on sex. Since there is nothing abnormal in that––most men are, or imagine they are, the prissy refinement of his imag­inings is merely dull and illustratory. Neri, also an abstract sculptor, collages a series of Marca-Relli–like cutouts to form handless, footless, and blank-faced lay figures. A cool detached exercise of plastic logic which totally dehumanises his figures, but the technique is too obvious. Cook etches minute, nacreous, sentimental nudes in a variety of odalisque positions and Bill Brown presents dull, plodding and academic wash drawings. But it is to a woman, Joan Brown, that we have to turn to find the subject matter removed from mild eroticism of a genteel kind, academic drawing, or old hat conventions of beauty. Avoiding the issue of sexuality, but not the sex of her subject matter, she brutally and rigorously savages an image to intensify impact. The gouache­-bespattered collages could only eman­ate from an artist attempting to explore and create form free of mannerist prec­edent.

John Coplans