San Francisco

Sam Tchakalian

Dilexi Gallery

Tchakalian’s early work (1958) consisted of flat paper collage fused with discrete stains of color; the collage elements later evolved into a rugged and puck­ered accretion of paper with the edges determined by areas of flattish paint. Up to this point, whatever criticism one may have had of his work, it had, at least a signature and a brutal look that was very much his own. This has now been lost. In his current exhibition, he continuously gropes around in other artists’ territories, notably Clyfford Still, Hassel Smith, Michael Goldberg, as well as early Ed Corbett and James Kelly. In this latest work he replaces the clotted lumps of paper with the brush and paint, but in doing so he stops the progress of his work and any possibility of growth by a facile substitution at the last moment of another artist’s well known look. This substitution is com­bined with a very disturbing elegance of touch, a touch that seems to replace searching self-criticism by mere facility in pushing paint around. Tchakalian’s early work was more interesting by virtue of its crudeness and the possibility of growth––now replaced by suave eclec­ticism. The lithographs exhibited also thresh around on well known ground, covered ten to fifteen years ago. There is no real need for these images, the milieu is full of them from the past; they add nothing new except another quantity of canvases.

––John Coplans