San Francisco

Al Proom, Peter Voulkos and Sam Tchakalian

Art Unlimited

Magic realism involves a technique that has very little of the artist’s hand in it (in the sense of a signature). Its subject matter is the transformation or alteration of mundane things in the direction of the ironical or unexpected. The merits of this sort of painting lie in a highly literary and specific combination of elements, as in George Tooker’s subway paintings. Al Proom does not consider the implications of the style he has chosen. He makes little attempt to modify what he sees and the attempts he does make (such as slipping cards into a bunch of grapes) are often so minor as to be scarcely noticeable.

When it comes to ceramics Peter Voulkos is one who can do no wrong as long as he holds the magic wand. In his case the wand consists of an affinity for certain basic forms: the circle, the cone, the square, a thick rectangular slab, the suggestive rip. They operate almost as a module and this comes in handy when he wants to put a show together in a hurry. Since Voulkos bases the forms for his bronze work on images he receives from the clay, it is hard not to feel that much of this show was done “just to keep his hand in.” The slapdash quality of much of the work shows up in the glazing. (Voulkos apparently did not bother to mix too many colors). The glaze works for several of the plates and some of the bowls (including a few that look older). These pieces have a finished look which comes of being well made and are, therefore, extremely handsome. The rest of the ceramics must simply be called strong.

Sam Tchakalian’s recent lithos are moving away from the dense black, solid mass that has generally comprised his graphic image into a quieter, more clearly articulated statement. More open space now shows in his work which makes the lack of variation in his line more prominent than it was formerly. It seems a bit early to come to any conclusions, but the change looks interesting.

Joanna C. Magloff