San Francisco


Berkeley Gallery

An un­usually powerful group show. The ex­hibit includes three to five works from each painter, emphasizing quite plainly the direction pursued by the individual artists. Three of the four artists, except­ing the recent painting of James Kelly, have been seen within the past year perhaps too often in faculty group ex­hibits, juried exhibits, and large invi­tational exhibitions. It is notorious that single examples of an artist’s work be­come hopelessly lost or meaningless in most large group shows. One antidote, as shown here, is more works of fewer artists. Sometimes, however, a single well-chosen painting, even in a large group show, comes off better. The brace of rather large works by Felix Ruvulo somehow fails to come across as well as the single example he displayed at the 82nd Annual Exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art earlier this year. The artist seems to have loaded each work with so much visual data which hasn’t been fully formed that it seems his intent was to dissipate per­ception rather than intensify it. Robert Loberg’s toughly-worked, small white picture surpasses his other, larger works. It ceases to be a painting about collage and becomes a painting about painting.

The possibilities of manipulating what may be the deadest, driest paint surfaces in the world continue to fasci­nate Richards Ruben. From a purely technical viewpoint, Ruben’s paintings are second to none. His virtuosity lies in the building of close-toned hues, usually browns, greys and blues, into in­tense, romantic pictures having to do with landscape and frozen anatomical details. What Richards Ruben does with dust, Lester Johnson does with juice. Johnson’s painted heads remind one of a four-egg omelet, pan-fried in two inches of scalding olive oil, and topped with a thin, glistening blanket of asphalt tar. The intense materialness of John­son’s surfaces cries for either a more complex statement about the figure or absolute independence from it. As they stand, his pictures seem over-worked, yet underdone.

James Kelly, a one-time resident of the Bay Area and a particularly fine painter, is exhibiting work only vaguely relating to his earlier canvases which were concerned with highly-charged shapes locked tight in a field of knifed paint. Kelly’s approach to painting re­sulted from his years at the California School of Fine Arts, which was in turn very much in the Clyfford Still tradi­tion. The change in the new work is both curious and strangely rewarding—cur­ious because his early work had an open freshness about it recently dis­placed by an unbelievably suffocating intensity of color. The spectator is lit­erally submerised in a Hades of high­keyed dye colors. It is further curious because hard, arcing band forms have replaced what were in the past shapes informally brought to life by the work­ing about of viscous paint. The recent paintings are rewarding in spite of the fact that they appear to be an interim or transitional stage in Kelly’s develop­ment.

James Monte