San Francisco

Gordon Onslow-Ford

M. H. de Young Memorial Museum

Mr. Ford has a ten-year retrospective show filling a quite large gallery. He has wisely refrained from crowding his exhibition, allowing ample room to view the works. It reveals his struggle to break away from color, to re-state Cézanne’s basic formula to his own version: the line, the circle, the dot; and to develop a paint medium which allows for immediacy. Emphasis has been placed on his most recent paintings, total abstractions using only black and white and texture. This has cost him some of his following, since only to the very sophisticated and the extremely naive does textured black and white, by means of vibrance, suggest a tremendous range of color and evoke a number of responses. With infinite variations of size and direction of lines, circles, dots, black and white he has created luminous, vibrating canvases suggesting the beginning and the end of everything. His content concerns outer space with its vastness beyond comprehension, and the little vastness contained within man, equally incomprehensible. Physically, man is only a skinful of molecules energetically bumping each other about in space. Even the containing skin is molecular affinity. Perhaps he had this in mind when he painted the largest and most complex canvas in the show and titled it Man is Space.

E. M. Polley