San Francisco

Graduate Student Exhibition

Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland

The high cali­bre of this show is determined mainly by the presence of three graduate paint­ers, all over 25, whose work possesses a certain amount of maturity and con­viction. Consequently, it seems better to detaiI these three than to skim over a large exhibition in which much of the work is still too tentative to offer any fair picture of the artist.

Norman Lockwood places too much faith in the ability of bright red-orange and aqua to carry a statement that is solid enough without their interference. Powerful V-forms, digital protrusions and big slabs of color reinforce an out­look decidedly masculine, military and aggressive, in the sense that all large dangerous machinery is aggressive. Lockwood gently shades his colors in order to make his forms jut forward menacingly. The strength of the indi­vidual canvases rests on the capacity of Lockwood’s energy to overcome a considerable technical know-how that tends to make his work appear slightly contrived. He seems to have that energy.

Carlos Villa is a student in name only, since he has exhibited on the West Coast for some years. His earlier works contained a few shapes surrounded by a crust of paint. His shapes are now linear complexes and his crust has turned into a blanket of paint which precludes the possibility that any dis­crete images will assert themselves. His largest canvas––a red one––is startl­ingly like the work of Sam Francis, but nevertheless retains Villa’s own con­cept of environment. Since just the surface matters, the paintings seem huge, even though only one canvas in this show is larger than six feet. Villa draws in a curved boundary which makes the paintings appear to end where he chooses, instead of at the arbitrary limits set by a frame. Villa is going after all-over painting in the mon­umental way it is treated by Still and Francis (to whom he is, as yet, too indebted). Except for one canvas in which there is an annoying rip, Villa puts his world across with considerable aplomb.

A child’s garden is often a place in which to bury adult ideas. Jane Smyth manages to slip among the X-marks picket fences and clouds with a felicity that shows she knows something about the pastoral. Her most successful paint­ings are the ones in which she pares down her symbols, so that they function plastically as well as suggestively. Miss Smyth’s format derives more from the kindergarten than from Klee and Miró. The exception is her numerous drawings which, although ably presented, have the look of being timid borrowings. The weakest aspect of her work is her slight­ly precious color range (usually candy pink, grey and white). Her work is still unclear; if she drops the bluebells and cockle shells, she will draw closer to the kind of child-pastoral that is really an adult expression.

––Joanna C. Maglott