San Francisco

Fifth Winter Invitational

California Palace of the Legion of Honor

This winter invitational, selected by Howard Ross-Smith, with prizewinners selected by Miss Ninfa Valvo, exhibits many newcomers, and many of the more well-known artists are absent. This marks the end of a five year experiment in invitational annuals, and next year’s annual exhibition plans are now still a matter of speculation.

The vertical stripe painting of Jack Carrigg uses vibrant colors within bars of relatively small variation, and with diffuse edges. This format does not cause the color vibrancies to produce jumpy after-images, as do sharp-edge abstractions, but makes the color glow and pulse within its original place. The desire to find this illusion of an internal glow has led other painters to fluorescent paint and collage material. This abstraction was deservedly awarded the Bransten Prize.

The stripe painting is a close relative of the horizon picture: Taiji Kiyokawa’s seascape has a bare canvas sea with a grey stripe of horizon under an opaque white sky. Grover H. McLeod’s horizon is a stripe of surf against earthy green sky and tide-pooled shore. Bud Roberts’ landscape has a ribbon edge horizon, like a distant train across a vast sandy plain. Walter Snelgrove’s and Bill Snyder’s contribution to landscape painting is a concern for monumentality; the Snelgrove, is freely painted with a fast, splashy technique, and the Snyder is of thicker paint brushed softly, and accented with rich blacks. William Morehouse’s painting is a crater landscape bathed in portentous pink-yellow light.

There are several kaleidoscopic abstractions on the walls. Robert Kabak’s multifaceted study is a landscape, whereas Elizabeth Campbell’s more severely rectilinear canvas has the architectural resolutions one might find in a modern city.

Recently, many artists have embraced the popular arts and produced bright cartoons, which are at once dumb and clever, and which mock and parody, from affectionately to bitterly, the popular tastes. This recent Dada extension derives its subject matter from ads, movies, contests, etc. Wayne Thiebaud’s zinc white confections seem completely machine-made and quite poisonous. Charles E. Gill’s Chico Leda is a billboard-like picture of the prize-winning queen of some event with her face covered by the head of a kissing dignitary.

Robert McChesney’s painting is a work of simplicity and quiet harmony in dark tones. Sam Tchakalian’s is a vast black canvas with two apostrophes of color. Peter Shoemaker, a master virtuoso of painting and abstract techniques, has turned his attention to science fiction. Geoffrey Bowman continues his free, happy and jazzy style. One always finds paintings of merit in such a large annual, but the show as a whole falls flat. One painting per artist means very little to someone who is not familiar with the artist’s work. It becomes a collection of trade marks, or brands. If such exhibitions are deemed worth continuing, they might usefully become an index of shows in the museums and galleries of the region, thus referring back or forward to a more meaningful body of work, and obviating the necessity of either judge or jury.

Knute Stiles