San Francisco

“Small Format Paintings”

San Francisco Museum of Art

The Museum has gathered together small paintings, and constructions by artists who ordinarily work on a much more grand scale. It is interesting to note that Faralla has a couple of wood reliefs here which are more original than those we have seen in shows of larger pieces. The new direction, if it is such, looks something like the bark of trees. David Simpson’s horizontal line color paintings are simplified in this size, and are painted on unusual shapes (arches, crosses, etc.). Diamond Back is indeed a diamond, and has an inch-and-a-half edge painted like the front, green between purple contrapuntal to orange between yellow, resulting in a constant strum of vibrations. Geoffrey Bowman’s painting-collages are characteristically bright, cheerful and complex, all parts merely reduced in size.

Actually painting small requires special considerations which these artists have not been thinking about: if one has familiarized oneself with Vermeer through reproductions, one is likely to be surprised to find, on first seeing an original, that the monumentality is not a matter of proportions, but of concept. Among the moderns, Schwitters realized this fact. Or the picture can be heraldic or emblematic; or a small but intimate view, or poetic insight. But to merely scale it down only makes it more difficult to see across the room.

Along with Bowman, Faralla and Simpson, William Wiley displays some three dimensional constructions, elegantly conceived, which pursues the odd iconography of his Columbus Re-routed paintings into new areas.

Knute Stiles