San Francisco

All-Campus Faculty Show

University of California at Berkeley

Since the University of California is such an incredible educational warehouse, it is possible, using only its faculty, to hold 51 another “Artists’ Environment: West Coast” show. This exhibit is, in fact, just as regional as Frederick Wight’s earlier effort, only this show is a crashing bore, largely because the best artists working for the university are only instructors and the space was limited to professors. The display in the University Art Gallery is supplemented by a Berkeley-campus-only show in the art building. The advantage it gives to Berkeley is probably fair, since Berkeley has, by and large, the best artists. Davis, however, is the only campus without a style fixation—yet. Wayne Thiebaud teaches there, but it is highly unlikely that Davis will take to canonizing pop art. (Mel Ramos is his only disciple, so far.) Thiebaud shows two little paintings—one a very early “Meat Counter” (1955). His good work is presumably all out at galleries and museums.

The southern campuses show reams of California figurative—all of it abysmal. Lee Mullican, an exception, brings a decorator’s touch to a pointillist problem and winds up with marbled book end-papers. The other exceptions have approximately the same category of substance.

Berkeley, having fossilized its painting department at a slightly later stage of development, exhibits mainly abstract expressionists. Felix Ruvolo, perhaps the only painting professor who is still developing, shows a large, curious work in the art building. The canvas is composed of clusters of Gorkyish heart-forms with three tiny faces peeping out of the center. Although the painting is sizable, the effect is strange and nostalgic, rather than impressive. This is an entirely independent and original step for Ruvolo and his paintings are still tight. Years of “push and pull” have weakened his color sense and in this recent work, which calls for flat color, the pastel shades are slightly cloying.

The best work in the show is some of the small sculpture. Harold Paris exhibits a tiny, tripartite “Mem Shields” which are the exquisite little warriors the title suggests. The small facets in the surface, which are either unseen or annoying in his larger sculpture, show up here to best advantage. Although some of Wilfrid Zogbaum’s recent large works have not been his best, his miniatures are still extremely beautiful. The one shown is a delicate, polished clock-like work, done with the most incredible elegance and gentle finesse. Robert Arneson displays a beastie (“Gargoyle”) made from torn and twisted clay. The treatment is strictly out of the Voulkos-dominated clay movement, but Arneson has added, as he usually does, a touch of humor and caricature.

Although most of this show is deplorable it must, in all fairness, be said that few colleges and almost no other large university in the country could do much better. Perhaps the chairs in the groves of academe are a little too comfortable.

Joanna C. Magloff