Los Angeles

“Artist as Craftsman—Craftsman as Artist”

Newport Pavilion

Although there are a number of excellent pieces on view, the show in general falls short of its projected goal. Some of the 75 exhibitors seem to be neither artists nor craftsmen. Organized by Dextra Frankel, and presented in a handsome display by Jerry Rothman, the exhibit ranges be­tween the trivial and the titanic.

Easily the most exciting work in the show is by Robert Cremean. His figures in wood, plaster and metal are spooky, but fascinating. Combining superb craftsmanship with a powerful punch, his work is far in front of most of the junkier of contemporary sculpture. Since California potters have abandoned clay for cast metal, many seem to have aban­doned their wits as well. Svetozar Rad­dovich, out of the nine people display­ing in this medium, seems to be the only one interested in putting vigorous ideas into visible form. In the clay me­dium Jerry Rothman’s elephantine shapes are quietly powerful; John Stokesbury’s raku pieces sensitive and Bertil Valliens’ whimsical sculpture is good fun. Also outstanding are David Cressey’s joined-pot sculpture and Raul Cornell’s handsome slab wall and black stoneware sculpture (a third piece on exhibit by Cornell is a strange example of commercial silliness). Probably the most unhappy and disappointing situ­ation in local crafts is the lack of in­terest in combining functional pottery with any visual excitement. Apparently embarrassed by the melmac trust and looking with avarice at the prices sculp­ture is bringing, the better clay people hesitate to show work that is even re­motely usable. The result is that the vast number of the clay pieces are non­pots and they are only occasionally ex­citing.

Stitchery and appliqued fabric on view are healthy, bright and extremely decorative. Work by Nik Krevitsy, Jean Ray Laury, Eleanor Neil and Martha Menke-Underwood were especially fine. By contrast, two of the major craft areas weakly represented were enamels and weaving. Mainly characterized by tired ideas in dull form, there is nothing ex­ceptional.

The jewelry in the show is generally competent, with a trio of exciting pieces by Warren Cohantz, Ray Hein and Al Pine outstanding. Furniture, as usual, is dominated by Sam Maloof. One of the best examples of functional craftsman­ship with real zing is an enormous bronze birdcage by Charles and Dextra Frankel. It is a piece of aviarian archi­tecture designed to make the most in­dependent bird yearn to roost.

Probably the weirdest example of artsy-craftsy in the show are some dis­torted glass bottles by John Burton. Considering the theme of the exhibit, they seem to have lost their way.

John Fassbinder