San Francisco

Harold Margolis and Gardiner McCauley

Berkeley Gallery

Margolis is a highly competent painter who gambles with various styles, coming up with certain notable benefits. (From such sources as Goya, Ensor, Redon and Gauguin.) Despite his study with the late David Park, whose influence shows here only in the lush paint surface, his most substantial gain seems to be from Gauguin, not so much in the use of color, although his colors can be rich as well as bright, or in 2-dimensional space, but in his aspiration toward a pictorial equivalent of states of mind.

His small landscapes, in which he creates spaciousness by refusing to linger over details, are exquisite. But it is in those works with literary connotations, such as Part of a Crowd and Live Animals, that he shows his strength, calling to mind Albert Aurier’s famous definition of the work of art: “Ideological, symbolistic, synthetic, subjective and decorative.” Within this definition Margolis’ works qualify.

McCauley’s baroque shapes and circles, seductively painted, are restrained in their movements by the very skin of the paint surface, and it, in turn, is held in tension by dark, angular areas which form diagonals athwart the canvas, dividing it in golden mean proportions. This variation on classical substructure, plus woolly white discs placed off center, is remindful of Degas’ paintings of dance studio genre, especially in such works as Old Images. And the partly concealed activity beneath the paint surface further suggests the special perspective Degas often effected when painting the ballet from the rafters. However, Degas was probably far removed from McCauley’s mind when he painted these works, some of which are abstractions of landscape with reference to Venice.

Elizabeth M. Polley

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