San Francisco

Bob Branaman

Batman Gallery

The paintings that Branaman has painted at Big Sur in the past year or so contain many faces, and many of these are split like a half moon over a full moon, or a side view over a front face, both sharing the same eyes, nose and mouth, perhaps expressing male and female unity, or perhaps symbolizing the splitting of personality. The draw­ing is primitive, a fact which was not so apparent in earlier, expressionist­ oriented technique. The new work is toward a symmetrical ordering of things, but extremely complicated and crowded in contrast to the stark simplicity usually associated with recent symmetrical painting. Also, the literary, surrealist hysteria of these paintings are at the other end of another polarity from the meditative, almost hypnotic concen­tration induced by most symmetricists. Branaman’s centralizing method is probably more nearly in tune with the Tibetan mandala, but with a more con­temporary cosmology and demonology. Though brighter colors have been added to Branaman’s palette his black is al­ways a shade, never used as a color, and even a riot of color in the presence of so much black is nullified: they are dark paintings, night pieces, without a ray of sunshine to bend them from the grim pursuit of black magic and death wish occultism.

––Knute Stiles