San Francisco

Arran Blackburn Stephens

Batman Gallery

This is the first exhibition of this nineteen year old, self taught painter. His drawing is not that of a primitive; he may have been influenced by fairly sophisticated draftsmen with whom he associated in Venice, California. The earliest piece here is a painting of an old man with Grecoesque distortions. Most of the others are concerned with the symbolism of the tarot deck, the cards of Cabbalists and fortune tellers, an enthusiasm which has captured the fancy of a growing circle of artists.

The production of the paintings in this exhibition parallels the gestation of the artist’s first born, and the moon card, with the sign of Scorpio, symbolizing sex and death is used in several pictures: the card in stylized form, a woman with the moon on her stomach (conception), a woman with a moon-round fetus x-ray drawn on her stomach (the birth announcement). Mr. Stephens is also a student of palmistry, and writes poetry. In some cases he recites his poetry in a sonorous voice with special lights illuminating the related painting. (This is an excerpt from a poem which he reads with the painting ‘Evokation’: “. . . The moon jungle / is full and shakily hovering / in the mind / in touch with great light / that flickers in the making / touching all that is bestial or sacramental in / original imitation of nature. . .”)

There are also found object assemblages, in which the found objects have not been altered, but only juxtaposed together. Bird Mummy is a found object, and also the subject of a painting, and the mummy head is indicated again in the shadowy background of still another painting.

Knute Stiles