San Francisco

Frank Hamilton and Arne Wolf

Richmond Art Center

Geophysical surrealism, calligraphy as pictures, plus an educational exhibit of the methods and materials of casting.

Hamilton, a former potter and sculptor, abandoned clay in 1960 to become a full-time painter. He has studied with Hans Hofmann and Ralph DuCasse, and before he quit pottery he must have come into contact with Miró’s ceramic plaques. Excepting for an occasional flare of color, there is little of Hofmann left in his work. DuCasse, however, seems to have left an indelible impression. Hamilton has used his islands and pods of color, adding to them Miró’s precise and lively freeform figures. These he has multiplied and recomposed in combination with some things of his own, setting them in motion by free association, developing an idiom that is very close to the Spaniard’s witty surrealism. Places, their essences and symbols rather than a list of their specifics, are still Hamilton’s major interest, and he has yet to resolve the problem of pattern as decoration.

Probably man’s most abstract visual expression is writing: using line to form symbols that, when combined, communicate ideas and information in direct ratio to the experience and intelligence of the reader. Calligraphy raises script to the level of fine art by making it beautiful in itself, thus increasing its range as a transmitter of thought.

Arne Wolf’s woodcuts verify the use of letters and words as formbuilders. He manipulates the cusps, nodes and measured distances of script to create exciting compositions of open and closed space which relate to the content of selected phrases from poetry and religious literature. His technical procedures, however, tend to limit his expression. The prints are made from huge sheets of plywood (chino board) which, when cut, are handsome relief sculptures in themselves. Their size necessitates hand printing, depending upon body pressure, and the resultant prints, especially those in color, are wonderfully velvety in tone, with the sensitive surface quality of brush drawings.

One feels, however, that they would have been the better for being smaller. Wolf has limited those dealing with script to black and white, arranging the wording into suggestive designs without interrupting legibility. But, mainly due to size, there is an involuntary association with sign board art, and, since they do not fall into the category of Pop Art, this is objectionable.

Methods and Materials of Casting are explained by way of mock-ups, photographs and actual pieces of unfinished work. It is timely in that the current renaissance pf sculpture is in a large part due to revolutionized casting procedures, and that revolution has probably had its greatest impetus here on the West Coast.

Elizabeth M. Polley