San Francisco

Walter Kuhlman

California Palace of the Legion of Honor

Kuhlman was an influential artist and teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute until four years ago, when he accepted a teach­ing post in New Mexico, where he re­mained until recently. His close asso­ciation with the Art Institute as both student and teacher shows strongly in his paintings, and in his conceptual approach to painting.

If his friend and colleague, Frank Lobdell, can be said to grow from the apocalyptic, demonic roots of Northern European Expressionism, then Kuhl­man could be said to inhabit the more lyrical, nature-oriented branches of the same tree. The brooding lyricism of these recent pictures evokes the mythi­cal past in such works as Faust and Self-Portrait with Beast. The oblique figuration of these works is a break from the paintings of four or five years ago, although the change was predic­table then because of the almost at­mospheric space surrounding the rec­tilinear, post-like shapes in Kuhlman’s pictures of that period.

One recalls a particular painting of his, in which a rectangle of white paint scumbled over a brushed-up red-brown ground, and in turn glazed, evoking the pouched and battered jawline found in the late Rembrandt self-portrait at the De Young Museum.

The necessity to paint men, beasts and nocturnal landscapes, specifically rather than metaphorically, has result­ed in some lovely pictures, but one remembers the other manner with some nostalgia also.

––James Monte