San Francisco

Harry Lum, Tio Giambruni

Berkeley Gallery

Harry Lum’s painting is a strong, full-bodied image that connotes the figure by suggesting its bulk and physical reality rather than by painting it directly (although he occasionally does resort to the form of the body as well as its substance). In some places Lum seems to be picking up from Bacon and Giacometti.

Abstract expressionism has generally shown an insistence on physical and visual values. Lum accepts these values and carries them over into his loosely figurative subject matter more successfully than many New York painters, notably Elaine de Kooning, have been able to do.

However, Lum is an atrocious craftsman. Cheap paints often ruin the effect, and while his flesh tones are excellent, nothing is easier than his heavy-handed use of black and white, colors highly inappropriate for the statement he is after. It would not make any difference were Lum a bad painter, but he is one of the best abstract expressionists in Berkeley still willing to cope with the machinery of the tradition. His negligence is very disappointing.

Tio Giambruni, a bronze sculptor, is, on the other hand, a master craftsman. There is not a ridge, facet or inch of patina that has not been gone over to make it as beautiful and luminous as possible. As a result Giambruni achieves perhaps the finest finish of anyone working in bronze in the Bay Area.

As sculpture, his work has improved considerably in the past year. He has broken away from his tendency to convolute every shape in the piece and is trying to move towards a more spontaneous image. Nevertheless, in his desire to also realize an image in the round, Giambruni tends to make his work too busy. There is a kind of Lipchitzean compulsion expressed in Giambruni’s efforts to point up every curve. As a result, much of his work is redundant and bumpy (think how monotonous is Lipchitz’s endless repetition of forms). Furthermore, Giambruni’s shapes correspond closely to the easiest way to make a form in wax. Wax is more flexible than Giambruni seems willing to admit and a finished sculpture should not look like its wax mold. Nevertheless, even within these limitations Giambruni is capable of realizing a stately and rather elegant effect.

Joanna C. Magloff