San Francisco

Harry Lum

Richmond Art Center

Lum’s exhibit consists of about a dozen largish canvases, which were originally conceived and are arranged here so that they can be viewed either singly or in sequence, as variations on a theme. Bowing slightly in the direction of Jasper Johns, Lum sets both his pictorial and dramatic idea with a “Tenement,” painted in a sort of “New Realist” manner—broadly brushed but plainly representational. As an allegorical image, this dreary container for Everyman embraces the two antithetical motifs figured in the other works: “ovens” and “bodies.” The rectangular image of the “Tenement” also sets the formal theme of the series. As it devolves to the centered squares of the “ovens,” on to the squared circles of the “bodies,” from the ashy grey to the garish pink, from the quiescent to the frenzied, its significance becomes all too plain. In fact it would be too much—too literal, too obvious, too pitiful—if it were not that these paintings are also meaningful as paintings.

Bruce Boice