San Francisco

82nd Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Institute

San Francisco Museum of Art

On the first page of the catalog for this show, a line is quoted from the Bylaws of the Institute as follows: the 82nd Annual of the SFAI “is to exhibit the best and most vital of the various approaches to art in the Bay Area in conjunction with the work of other parts of the country, and to provide an opportunity for unknown artists to have their work recognized.” The two words, “best” and “vital” are sure to rankle many persons, artists mostly, who are working in modes which the Institute considers un-best and un-vital. The statement is likeable, though because it says “best” and “vital” without equivocation; happily, so does the show at the San Francisco Museum.

Younger known and unknown painters and sculptors are everywhere in evidence. Llyn Foulkes, William Geis, Louis Guttierrez, Cornelia Hudson, Robert Hudson and Roger Jacobson are all younger people with outstanding work on exhibit in the current show. Numerous other artists whose work has never been seen in this area are included in the exhibit, affirming the last phrase of the quoted bylaw.

The exclusions of a myriad of modern styles such as cubism, impressionism, surrealism and neo-classicism could have been anticipated. In the main, these styles have been corrupted by artists who have in the past and are in the present trying to re-paint or re-sculpt the classic statements which have been done to a turn by their progenitors. In exhuming a past style, even a recent one, the artist must bring a creative drive that re-shapes and reevaluates the past scaffolding upon which his painting or sculpture rests. The work of Bacon, de Kooning and Giacometti are particularly relevant in this context. The omission of hard-edge work is disappointing but is probably due to few entries. The few examples of neo-dada or pop-art were inferior, generally. One expected to see many more examples of these two idioms which are so widely exhibited on both coasts.

The concept of inviting twenty-four painters and sculptors to participate in the 82nd Annual jury-free, had been bitterly attacked. The fact is, the jury chose a group of the most influential painters, sculptors and printmakers in the entire area, influential both as artists and teachers. The disappointment is that many of the influential artists, and artist-teachers have inferior examples of their work on view here. Frank Lobdell’s painting is not near the level his work usually attains. Richard Diebenkorn’s painting is equivocal and unresolved. Elmer Bischoff’s work is appallingly inept. James Weeks’ painting reminds one of a mishandled Chardin. Nathan Oliveira’s drawing is a diluted example of his best work. These five artists have all had a profound influence on the rising generation of artists in the area. It is unfortunate that their work in this exhibit doesn’t give a clue to their individual strengths.

Thankfully, examples such as Honk by Peter Voulkos, are outstanding. This particular piece is by far the finest cast sculpture Voulkos has exhibited to date. Hassel Smith’s All American Girl is a sharp, bright comment which harks back to Smith’s earlier work. Nell Sinton’s painting is a lovely work with a tighter, more centralized image than is usual for her. (The placement of Mrs. Sinton’s painting, and those adjacent, was an error. The high panel dividing the space allows no reflected light into the area.) James Budd Dixon, whose work it is a pleasure to see exhibited again, has a solid painting displayed, as do Joan Jacobs and Robert Downs. Both Julius Wasserstein and Felix Ruvulo display paintings superior to anything either has shown in the recent past. The large, painterly canvas of Julius Hatofsky is one of the highpoints of the exhibition. Alden Mason’s Intruder in a Roman Bath arrests the interest with its juxtaposition of hard and soft shapes and its exquisite, tasteful color.

For the first time in the history of the Art Institute Annual, the sculpture exhibited tended to push the paintings closer to the wall. The sculpture of the San Francisco Bay Area has reached a maturity in the last two years that was unthinkable five years ago. Michael Frimkess, Manuel Neri, Alvin Light, Wilfrid Zogbaum, Sidney Gordin and Arlo Acton each have high caliber pieces in the exhibit.

The annual this year is not a doubtful success. It is rather a hellbent, foot-stomping, yea-saying affirmation of aliveness. It is the purest example of the image of San Francisco painting and sculpture that has been organized in many years.

Awards in the 82nd Annual consist of invitations to exhibit up to five works each in the 1964 Annual, which will consist of these works only. The award winners are: Arlo Action, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, James Budd Dixon, William Geis, Robert Hudson, John Ihle, Jack Jefferson, Alvin Light, Seymour Locks, James Melchert, Win Ng, Harold Paris, Deborah Remington, Charles Ross, Felix Ruvulo, David Simpson, James Weeks, and Morris Yarawski. Honorable Mention was given to Jerome Johnson, Dana Goldman, Llyn Foulkes Elmer Bischoff, Matt Glavin, Rodger Jacobsen, Gordon Cook, Manuel Neri, Gardiner McCauley, and Paul Banai.

James Monte