Los Angeles

William Hesthal

Esther Bear Gal­lery, Santa Barbara

William Hesthal, a respected member of the Santa Bar­bara group of working artists, reports on his recent progress with an im­pressive body of work. There are 20 oils and about 50 works in other media, drawings, gouaches and mixed.

In general the work shows a gentle growth and enriching of a style which was essentially formed by 1960. His mode is abstract-expressionist, but kept from academism by undertones of the most somber human considerations, treated as allusions, always vague. Con­fetti of gaudy scripture whips and drib­bles, establishing a temporary eye­ carnival. Then, as if to cancel the fes­tivities, grey tonalities are brought over the confetti, establishing the dominant mood, a Bartokian sombreness. One large oil, Two Against One, stands apart from the general impression, dif­ferent in that it solves problems raised in the other works and suggests a pow­erful future direction. First, Hesthal clarifies his subject much more than in the other works. He reveals here what was only hinted at elsewhere––that he is intensely concerned with the com­merce of human emotions in terms of archetypes. Second, he unifies his pic­torial language in a way superior to the others: the cancellation of callig­raphy by tonality, noted in the other work, is now altered to a mode where texture, play, and color-seepage enrich the generic shapes which are the real subject. The result is a painting which gets at us in the primal way of a Dubuffet but minus his burden of trucu­lence. We need painting like this to soften the sting of “enfant-terribilisme,” which seems to be very much in the air these days.

––James McMenamin