San Francisco

“Painting, Drawing—'63”

Richmond Art Center

The excellence of this annual is partly due to the juror, Tony DeLap, who abandoned from the start any attempt to produce another “Bay Area image” show and selected the work according to his personal taste. DeLap capped his selection by giving the top award to the most exciting painting in the show. John Richards mounted the exhibit so that the paintings complemented each other.

Ronald Davis took the first prize with a magnificent hard-edge optical illusion painting, titled Roll Your Own. Painted to suggest two drums covered with stripes and repeated motifs whirling in opposite directions, it has a visual impact that is lacerating and after a while unbearable. If this work is like Bridget Riley’s in painfulness, it is also like Vasarely’s in monumentality (bearing in mind, of course, that Davis is just developing and perhaps should not be compared to Vasarely). In his choice of colors (beautiful until they are juxtaposed) and in his acceptance of contradictions Davis shows himself amenable to a little lightheartedness and a tone towards his subject matter that raises it above the impersonality to which this kind of painting often tends. Davis is just a student (this is perhaps his first altogether successful painting). Due to his young age and lack of a body of work, it is next to impossible to come to any conclusions about the artist. But this painting, taken by itself, is as good as the best optical illusion hard-edge paintings being done in this country today.

Wally Hedricks exhibited a painting of a cross over which he superimposed a bounteously endowed nude. This “peace lady,” painted in the most garish yellows and blues imaginable, is funny and savage. However, the title Vietnam 1963 painted on the canvas seems irrelevant. Philip Linhares is a young, eclectic painter whose best works are pure intuitive dada. The strange black and white shorescape exhibited is a fairly good instance of his imagination. Strewn across the sand is the word Firestone. In the middle of the painting is a brightly colored target that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of it (as if any of the parts made sense).

The discontinuity works simply because it is there. Velm McKinney’s magic realist canvas, An Old Gas Iron, is well painted and handsomely laid out (the iron is segmented into horizontal bands, some of which are placed in a constructed box against a painted wall over a painted checkered floor). It is strangely sweet and nostalgic and overcomes the triteness of the approach. Donald King painted a large canvas black, stenciled in hundreds of white circles, cut out a peculiar shape and projected it in front of the main body of the painting. Although his efforts are remotely connected with decadent Lobdellism. the impossible and powerful. way it is put together lifts it out of any category. Too much of a piece to be dada and more surreal in its structure than its iconography, the ungainly elements in No Title Game create, through their tangential relationship to each other, a presence that is very like high drama.

The strongest feature of a small painting by Patrick Tidd is its subtle and elegant arrangement of colors, a surprising turnabout from his earlier work. Here he has taken a loose square shape and set thin horizontal and V-wedged bands behind and beneath it. The painting contains a little meaningless brushwork and, although it seems that Tidd is trying for something outside of abstract expressionism, the canvas does not appear to be decided as to where he wants to go. Nevertheless, it is lyrical and attractive.

These are only some of the more interesting things in the show which, aside from its appallingly bad drawings, was immensely refreshing and inventive.

Joanna C. Magloff