“East Bay Artist’s Association Exhibition”

This year’s East Bay Artist’s Exhibition is largely an assembly of artists who manipulate a great variety of devices and design layouts more customarily seen in the applied arts. It is curious that much second-rate painting does not imitate fine art, but rather picks up weak features from commercial art.

Those who have not settled for contrivances are the best in the show, although their work is, on the whole, mediocre. Henrietta Berk’s landscape is possibly the nicest piece in the show. In this canvas she has handled color with a great deal of sensitivity, but the structure of her painting was unfortunately borrowed from Diebenkorn. Others are Glenn Wessels, Karl Kasten, Lewis Carson and his wife, Pat Tavenner, all of whom look much better in this show than they have in recent one-man shows.

Several artists, e.g., Henry Rasmussen, display trompe l’oeil effects, such as making paint resemble a negative that has been tampered with in the darkroom. An odd work is Willis W. Nelson’s Geological Fright Light— a trompe l’oeil in reverse. Nelson has folded and glued a large piece of the embossed cardboard used for packing china and, apparently taking the shadows from a strong light for his guide has sprayed and brushed paint over the surface. It is as if Nelson had made an illusionistic painting of the effects of a spotlight in a luminous but deeply shadowed surface. The extremely economical solution to an artistic sleight-of-hand is admirable. Unfortunately, the painting has not much beyond this virtuosity to recommend it.

Robert Kingsbury shows a tall abstract redwood form, carved from dozens of small blocks of redwood. The smooth, highly polished shape is broken in places by small grooved indentations. This sculpture is such an astonishing bit of craftsmanship that it nearly obscures how chi-chi it is. It is the kind of sculpture that one is likely to run into at the Museum of Modern Art and it is to the credit of the artistic community that it has had the good sense not to locate this sort of brilliantly executed but shallow work as the hub and goal of artistic activity. It is perhaps a virtue of provincialism that dubious sincerity is relegated to a minor position, even though lack of talent is often not given the same treatment.

Joanna C. Magloff