San Francisco

Group Show

Lanyon Gallery

Four eye-stopping canvases by Keith Boyle prove that a fill-in show need not be dull. Boyle is an enormously talented artist who can turn insignificant de­signs and brassy colors into a rich pic­torial statement. He paints a hard edge, but this is not hard-edge painting be­cause the form, not its boundaries, is the predominant structural device. The edge only marks the limits within which a shape or color can act. Occasionally army insignia and emblems that re­semble civil defense signs appear in his canvases, but are divested of their sociological connections. Once they were cliches; now they are merely forms, like a circle or a square, or any other structure that organizes a canvas. Pop art made this type of thinking possible, but there is no pop art intention here. The use of worn-out signs and minimal forms are the basis of a serial painting that is quite unlike anything with which it could loosely be connected. The paintings read from side to side, top to bottom or edge to center. No one central image is developed to the exclusion of everything else. Yet, the excitement these paintings generate depends, in the end, on Boyle’s sensi­tivity to color. He turns unsized canvas into a beige strip. White is used as a positive color, not as empty space. Neon pink and orange lines become necessities. If the color is dark, then the shape is lively; if bright, then the shape is just a narrow stripe. If the color is dull, then the form is large and unembellished. Line after line and stroke after stroke are measured and qualified, restrained or encouraged. Normally, this kind of confident delivery with its implication of endless reserves of power comes after a lifetime of work. But, Boyle is only thirty-four and a local unknown. The question now is: Why?

Also of interest in this show are some weird, tiny paintings by Jess Collins. Set in gilded frames and matted in velvet, the heavily glazed canvases com­bine the stance of Arthur B. Davies with the texture and color of mashed candy bars. These semi-abstract landscapes are so bizarre that they fascinate. 

Joanna C. Magloff