San Francisco

Clayton Pinkerton, Morris Yarowsky

Berkeley Gallery

Clayton Pinkerton was formerly a competent and lyrical abstract expressionist. About three years ago he began to interest himself in the social context of the world around him. What is now known as pop imagery started to appear in his work and the quality of his painting radically worsened. The quality is coming back up, but the critical problem still remains.

Pinkerton shares with many other painters in suburban northern California (and in other parts of the country) an interest in the massive symbolic material pouring out of urban information centers. The pop artists (of whom very few come from large cities) have taken a stance toward this material that could almost be called urban pastoral. On the other hand, many Bay Area painters take a questioning attitude to the implications of this vast new quantity of information. They are searching not only for new subject matter, but also for new styles, since they want to comment on this material, not merely reproduce it. Pinkerton tries to bring to his current themes the same emotional intensity that he conveyed as an abstract expressionist, but his problem lies in his trying to produce this intensity with the same abstract expressionist means (e.g., rough, sketchy drawing and rugged painting). However, Pinkerton also seems to feel that the new subject matter calls for a more detached approach to the painted surface. There is an acute inconsistency to almost all his work. Half a painting will be carefully drawn, flat and brilliantly colored; the other half of the canvas will be painted as though color didn’t matter and drawing, was simply a sick sister to the brushwork. Pinkerton’s ethical purpose is clear. What is disturbing and robs these paintings of their strength is the diversity of means he is using toward this end.

Yarowsky’s paintings are based on graphs and charts which are meant to portray man’s inhumanity to man. They are shockingly bad paintings and were executed with such obvious haste and seeming lack of interest in art that their moral pretensions are embarrassing. The final irony is that these semi-abstract analogues of the atrocities of Dachau, Warsaw and Buchenwald are on such an infantile level that they mock and dismiss the horrors they are intended to expose.

Joanna C. Magloff