San Francisco

William J. Hughes and Walter N. Ball

Sacramento State College

Paintings in diverse approaches by two new members of the art faculty. Hughes was a science major before turning to art midway through the University of Oregon. He has selected canvases from four years of work here, and in them indicates that science and the tendency to categorize are still with him. This in no way devaluates his work; the scientist’s analytical approach can be of great value to the creative artist. Others, Mondrian and Albers, for instance, have preceded him in this field, but he does not emulate their work although he refers to their findings.

His largest painting here is a complex geometric abstraction where rectangular shapes in primary hues elicit a direct, impulsive reaction. Centering his purest colors, Hughes uses them sparingly to activate thought, supporting them with an orchestration of reduced colors and graduated sizes that has emotional as well as intellectual appeal—suggesting a symphony composed from a folk tune. He apparently has high respect for psychological and Gestalt principles.

Hughes has recently started doing series painting. He shows one such series here, exploiting the possibilities of colors related to squares, which he hopes may lead to a masterwork. Hung as a unit, it recalls a statement made by M. Rickers-Ousiankina, in writing of the Rorschach method: “Color experience when it occurs is . . . a much more immediate and direct sense datum than the experience of form. Form perception is usually accompanied by a detached, objective attitude in the subject. Whereas the experience of color, being more immediate, is likely to contain personal, affectively toned notes.” It is doubtful, however, that Hughes had this statement in mind while working on this series. He proves the point, rather than illustrates it.

Ball also shows work covering several years. He has selected carefully. Cubism has obviously given him his greatest impetus in developing style, although his more recent work, more emotional in expression, suggests a particularly individual form of popism distilled from West Coast figurativism.

His latest canvas, which concerns red and white stripes, “denim” blue, and “summer” green is a bit of Americana called Transit. It is not only his best work, but is also something of an announcement: he is at the crossroads.

Elizabeth M. Polley