San Francisco

“California Craftsmen’s Council Exhibit”

Stanford Art Gallery

The crafts show looks no better at Stanford than it did at the Oakland Museum where it originated. Presumably a museum holds a crafts show to indicate new artistic developments, but most of the work in this exhibit is either pointlessly arty or comfortably palatable. The great fallacy promoted by craft shows like this one is that a pot should either look like a piece of worked-over meat and have no bottom to it (arty) or it should be gooed up with the trickiest glazes imaginable and retain the bottom (palatability). Textiles and jewelry are usually far worse. What the crafts are doing under the guise of art is creating kitsch utensils for the upper-middle-class ranch house “modern” set. One of the finest ceramic sculptors in northern California who still throws a large quantity of pots is James Melchert (not in this show). His pots are not glazed in “difficult” colors (although it would be easy for Melchert to do so) and they do not resemble cow pats. Melchert understands that the form of a pot is a beautiful thing and he communicates this feeling totally.

Some of the jewelry in this show also transmits that respect for both materials and function basic to any achievement in the crafts. In particular is a bracelet in which square planes are mounted over an open-work base. This piece is multi-directional and mobile. It evokes constructivist ideas in a way that is sincere, non-commercial and respectful of beauty—which all jewelry must be.

Joanna C. Magloff