San Francisco

Melvin Hanson

Green Gallery

This small gallery has devoted three successive exhibitions to a memorial retrospective of works by the late Melvin Hanson. It is clear that the automobile collision which claimed Mr. Hanson’s life in 1962, at the age of 24, deprived the Bay Area of a promising artist in his formative years. The quotations from his writings in the gallery brochure as well as the exhibited work, reveal not only a youthful exuberance but a mystical viewpoint, reminiscent of William Blake’s, encompassing in its contemplations the demonic, the Dionysian, and the naively beatific. Currently exhibited is a series of charcoal and pastel drawings for a contemplated painting: The Temptation of St. Walt Disney. These drawings are charged with tense drama and movement and conjure an imagery partly derived from Disney’s cartoons and partly from Hanson’s imagination, and give the impression of a “translation” of Bosch and Gruenwald into a strange idiom containing elements of Pop Art vernacular. While it is clear from these and other drawings such as Study for a Portrait of Eric von Stroheim, that Hanson was slowly and successfully grappling with problems of technique pertinent to his personal viewpoint, the work suffers a lack of some of the facility and resources to which formal training, if not a sine qua non, is at least a short-cut. The first phase of this three-part exhibition featured assemblages, of which Icon to Nyla Marie was the most evocative: a whimsical cluster of dolls and cutouts in the Byzantine Rococo manner of a panel from a 19th-century Russian Orthodox Ikonostas.

Palmer D. French