San Francisco

Northern California Annual

Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento

Northern California Arts, Inc., formed in 1937 as a service organization to promote art activities in the community, has had its ups and downs, swinging fitfully between “modern” and “conservative” styles of painting.

In this, its 10th Annual Open Exhibition, it goes conservative to the point of being reactionary. Apparently the artists noted the jury panel, comprised of Ken Morrow, Dr. Marcus Reitzel, and Robert Rischell, and the outmoded terminology, and submitted accordingly. Why, after 26 years, this organization still clings to the silly categorizing of its shows into modern and conservative is a mystery.

The show is, for the most part, less than mediocre, and one suspects the preliminary pigeonholing has much to do with it. There are no real “moderns” included, nor many conservative moderns or even modern conservatives. David Dangelo, James Estey, Don Yee, Tom Allen, Lucille Harris and Betty McCoon are each represented by good enough works, but lack the strength to beef up the exhibition even with the help of the watercolorists.

California boasts a number of topnotch watercolorists, who specialize in bright and crisp, or moist and moody landscape genres. Their work is strongly and freely rendered in varying degrees of abstraction and pictorial illustration. A number of them are represented here, in what is the highest categorical level of the show, although Harold Gretzner, usually among the best, is disappointing in his view of Union Square. Jade Fon and Don Yee offer polarities of technique: Fon with gauzy transparencies, Yee with textured opaques.

Ray Radliff should have some sort of award for “Worst in Show.” His watered-down and saccharine versions of Paul Dougherty’s colorful seascapes reveal so little imagination and originality one wonders how they pass an experienced jury. Radliff himself must be tired of his seascape formula.

Elizabeth M. Polley