San Francisco

Frederick O’Hara

Original Prints Gallery

This veteran graphicist’s recent works evince little more than an aca­demic preoccupation with technical pre­cocity in the refined manipulation of complex, experimental printmaking processes. As part of the exhibition one is deluged with brochures elaborately ex­plaining the various multiple-relay transfers, novel emulsions, and chemi­cal washes that have been employed to produce certain effects––effects, it might be observed, that could have been produced as persuasively and more simply in other media. In contrast­ing these exhibits with O’Hara’s evoca­tive color woodcut Garden of Folly (circa 1940) one becomes aware of a general trend that has lately marked the decline of printmaking from a signifi­cant vehicle of powerful artistic state­ment to a mere virtuoso artisanship productive of decoratively composed es­says in precious textures and cleverly contrived surfaces. There is a patently chic quality about this sort of thing that suggests a commercial orientation to the mantlepiece of the “modern apartment.”

Palmer D. French