San Francisco

Clayton Pinkerton

De Young Museum

Pinkerton’s list of degrees, prizes, foundation awards, and top exhibitions is a long and impressive one, but as with most painters today is more often than not a totally unreliable guide to merit. Pinkerton, in his current very large exhibition borrows Lobdell’s crusted paint surface (but totally fails to invest it with either the moral or plastic authority that is the essence of Lobdell’s art), and combines it with numerous superficial references to Jasper Johns’ iconography, Roy Lichtenstein’s use of figures and speech balloons from the comic strips, macabre skeletal images from Ensor, photo journalism at the corniest level and in one case, in a painting entitled “The Bird,” the most banal and weak academic painting. The exhibition is one of the most incredible mixtures of unabsorbed influences seen for a long time. The best painting is “Duke Baby,” of 1962, a large simply-painted image in which form and paint are fused with a greater level of plastic intelligence than is displayed elsewhere in this peculiar exhibition.

John Coplans