San Francisco

Fred Martin, John Coplans, Daniel Shapiro, Wally Hendrick

San Francisco Museum of Art

An experiment in group exhibition which will roil the blood of die-hard traditionalists. It refutes the conventional wall hanging, “which tends to bind the work too rigidly to the architecture of the building and interferes with the spectator’s perception.” The aim is to stimulate greater audience participation. This even at the expense of comfort (which is only a sedative anyway). Coplans, Shapiro and Hedrick all have huge canvases which are set directly on the floor, like screens, to be viewed from the painter’s position. They are spaced to allow for a walk-around, to see the work from all angles, even the how-to-do craftsmanship. Martin’s little fly-leaf collages mounted unframed and unmatted on untidily put together cardboard pillars, placed on worn rugs at intervals through the show, call for a more intimate study and strike a discordant note. This is a calculated reaction, since one point of the exhibition is to present four artists of different backgrounds whose goals appear to be antithetical to each other. Discord is to be expected. And the spectator is in the middle of it, trying to see the whole and the parts at the same time. But in this staging the whole is less than the sum total of the parts and the spectator becomes a scrutineer, engaging each artist singly. Hedrick’s hermetic subject matter could have illustrated an ancient almanac. Coplans sums up the frustrations of the struggle for immaterialism, spiritualism and togetherness. Shapiro blacks out the vanities of Eve, substitutes the trappings of Adam, then blacks those out and settles for a splash of gilt. Martin explores the little world—the drop of water or grain of sand—for inspiration.

Elizabeth M. Polley