San Francisco

Hugh Curtis, Paul Pernish, Robert Brotherton, and Joe Clark

Bolles Gallery

Mr. Curtis and Mr. Per­nish are apparently sympathetic with one another’s methods and have, in fact, collaborated on one painting in this exhibit. The vernacular of their idioms aligns them with the so-called “Pop Art” movement. Mr. Curtis’ dominant theme is the motorcyclist. The typical mode of treatment consists in goggles, helmets, moustaches and prim­itive cartoon-physiognomies stated as black geometries against white, ellip­toid, “face-blank” cartouches which are defined as negative space, “cut,” as it were, from flat, massive “blocks” of vio­lent red or yellow on billboard-size can­vases. Mr. Pernish draws his inspiration from the railroad yard and dwells, also in terms of arresting color contrasts and massive geometric simplification, with the sides of freight cars. There are, however, some minor “brush-work” modulations of intensity within large areas of single color, as well as a little attention to surface in distinguishing, say, boards from rails. Hence, in Mr. Pernish’s work there is more “mood,” while in Mr. Curtis’ there is only impact. However, the monolithic and startling hieroglyphic simplicity common to both of these artists, while commanding enough at first, seems an easy tour de force. But the paintings hardly encour­age contemplation: any given canvas imparts everything it has to say in from a half-second of scanning time (for Mr. Curtis) to five seconds of scanning time (for Mr. Pernish). But blatant immediacy of total impact is obviously among the definitive characteristics of “Pop Art,” and to quarrel with this feature is per­haps only to betray essential non-sym­pathy with the terms and viewpoint of the genre.

Some small, spindly pieces of metal sculpture by Mr. Brotherton go a bit further, and may be described simply as “Non-Art.” If “Pop Art” telegraphs its total message at a glance, Mr. Brotherton’s sculpture would communi­cate nothing if one gazed at it for a century. A gallery blurb rhapsodically ascribes to it “soaring shapes that are reminiscent of the spires of ancient (sic) European Cathedrals.” More prim­ly ornate and unsoaring pieces of bric­-a-brac purporting to be “sculpture” would be hard to come by. A few knobby verticularities are hardly “Gothic,” but remind one rather of the grilled pagoda­lids of dime store incense burners.

Some large, expressionistic welded­-metal sculptures by Joe Clark, carried over from a previous exhibition are dis­tinctive. Hence, an exhilarating explora­tion of topological space, generating in­triguing movement and syncopated rhythms, suggests the paradox “stabile mobiles” as applicable to this work. “Surface” intermittently “opens” to re­veal, in varying perspectives, quasi-­Klein-bottle labyrinthine hollows and convoluted pockets. Such are the purely “abstract” features of technical idiom. In total conception there is usually an oblique but unmistakable reference to the human figure. Overall contours within this reference sensitively exploit “sculptural” evocation of kinesthetic tensions.

Palmer D. French