Los Angeles

“Art and the Atom”

Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego

A show with a title “Art and the Atom,” a sponsor, the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, and, avowedly, a purpose, to use fine art to assist in the recruitment of brains. There are so many things involved in a show of this sort. First of all you wonder if any of the works did pull any brains out West. If it did, of course it was successful. But now it’s being sent around for all to see, and all the original admonishments should be forgotten (but they still dominate the catalog). It’s now a museum show, and not a very good one at that. But it does have some surprises. For one thing everyone is competent. Anything they think of, they can do. The other side of the coin is the low level of aspiration, the absence of a passionate going forth. Taos has always had an odd effect on artists. It freezes them in the stance they had on arrival. Emil Bisttram is the same man who showed and taught around Los Angeles years ago, learned and interesting, more original in his students than in himself. He dominates the show, easily, surely, eclectically. Everyone else is like one facet or the other of him, and in each direction he exceeds. The other artists in the show are Louise Ganthiers, Michael Klein, Robert Day, Louis Ribak, Oli Shivonen, Jim Simmons, Charles Stewart. Of course there are no Taos local color painters here, nothing trivial in that way at all. But there is a parochial quality. It’s almost a dream, a going away.

John Reuschel