San Francisco

Third Biennial Statewide Crafts Exhibition

Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento

A limited view of the current trends in California ceramics, weaving and small metalwork, sponsored by the Sacramento Creative Arts League. The display, designed by Gene Viacrucis, so successfully competes with its raison d’etre that some of the more subtly de­signed craft items are all but lost among assorted rusted cans, porcelain door knobs and gaudy remnants of Foster and Kleiser billboards scrounged from a nearby urban redevelopment area and used as props. It is most frustrating, especially to those who scan the cata­log in vain for listings of junk items of decoration which much too closely re­semble contemporary sculpture.

It is an exciting but spotty show, disappointingly small. Both crafts and display have high and low points. Peak performance is reached in the metal­-work section, where excellence of craftsmanship plus imaginative design within honest limits of material have been stressed by the four-man jury. But display reaches a low level here (no pun intended), with much of the work shown at knee level in complete disregard of spectator comfort. And some outstand­ing crafts, such as Frederick Lauritzen’s Sterling Vase, are tucked in among cor­roded metal scraps, weathered beams and antiquated locks.

Weaving and stitchery are not notable for originality of concept, although good workmanship was obviously a criterion for acceptance. California’s textile peo­ple apparently prefer a safe and de­pendable approach. But they, especially the rugmakers, do hold their own against the nearby colorful poster sections used as display “support” which add a pop art touch of their own.

In his statement on pottery in the excellent catalog, also designed by Via­crucis, juror Charles McKee declares that “we found some new ideas and kept some old ones.” What they also did was to keep so many of the new and so few of the old ideas that the ceramics sec­tion presents a somewhat cultish ap­pearance, with very few decently crafted pieces. Followers of such avant-gardists as Bob Arneson, Peter Voulkos and Charles McKee dominate the show; fol­lowers of more traditional potters like Prieto, Wildenhain and Kim are given only token acceptance. In an area exhi­bition this limited horizon would be ex­pected. In a statewide competition it is deplorable. New trends should cer­tainly be included, but yesterday’s avant­garde (today’s traditionalists) should not be dropped so soon.

There was a record number of entries this year (978) and space was no prob­lem, hence there was little excuse for accepting a show so small (142 pieces) that display men must extend it with props. Yet however small the pottery section, for whatever reasons, it is stimulating in its presentation of some of the newer concepts of ceramics. Po­larities of expression are found in two of the prize winners: a set of lip-ripping, hand-bruising, hackle-raising cups by Aaron Mosely which the jury considered “Best in Show,” and a superbly crafted, line decorated vase by David Cohen which was purchased for the Crocker Art Museum Crafts Collection. 

E. M. Polley