Los Angeles

Third Annual Exhibition of California Painting and Sculpture

Art Center in La Jolla

This grouping of 61 works, selected from over 700 entries, was juried by Thomas B. Hess. It is unfortunate that this fact makes very little difference and it is difficult to believe his catalog statement that “The optimistic light, intimacy and freshness that illuminates the exhibition is . . . a valuable contribution to international modern art from California.” The simple truth is that the large majority of better California artists do not submit to juried exhibitions and it’s hard to blame them. Those that do, submit through their galleries, and the works are more often than not leftovers from past exhibitions. Therefore, through no fault of Mr. Hess, the exhibition lacks quality. It is not a good cross-section either, in that over half of the selected works are from the Los Angeles area and there are only five from further north.

The exhibition’s only value is in being a proving ground for young talent and in this context a few items should be singled out. The Great American Warrior, a small growth of neatly welded rods and bars by Santos Zuniga indicates an understanding of materials that should evolve beyond a studied craftsmanship. Richard Pettibone’s Type 51, the portrait of a hung up racing car, displays a certain devil-may-care attitude and enough “new sensibility” to point to a breakthrough in the near future. Daniel Johnson’s politely titled Noire Nigar, a black steel rat trap carefully placed and mounted on a black ground, is good social comment. A photo collage by Dennis Hopper which presents three different textured and colored hat-makers forms projecting over a handsome photograph of the same elements is an excellent formal essay. A tiny painting, Blue.Sea. Moon, by Sheila Wells is a sensitive galoop of creamy blue pigment surrounded by an atmospheric halo. And Gordon Wagner’s assemblage shows a nice ability to arrange world-weary bits of worn wood into poetic relationships. The museum awarded its $1000.00 purchase prize to George Baker for his highly finished, self contained, welded bronze sculpture Watcher VII. They could have awarded it to Peter Voulkos for his painting, Cedar Breaks or to Robert Loberg for his Painting No. 17. They could not have awarded it to Roland Peterson, Arthur Okamura or Robert Crimean.

Henry T. Hopkins