San Francisco

“Arts of San Francisco, Part II”

The emblematic, color-conscious direction in painting as practiced in San Francisco is the subject of this part of a series organized by Mr. John Humphries, Curator of the Museum. The exhibition makes it clear that there is a relationship to the genre’s internationally developed characteristics, but, also, that there is a local specific practiced here which is the property of several of these artists. Whom one should credit with the origin of this tendency is unclear. This difference manifests itself in the use of painterly brushwork, painterly drawing, and modeled areas of paint. (Clement Greenberg, who has been accused of being the American Svengali of this style, has recently opened the lens wider to admit painters of somewhat more than hypnotically centered symmetry, but he actually described the school as “post painterly.”) Tom Holland’s paintings structure out from the surface with houses in one, with a canvas airplane in another; both background and structural object are painted with as much and as freely automatic impasto brushwork as any expressionist. Robert Hudson’s paintings contain drawing of things which would be organically three dimensional in his sculpture. Alan Lynch’s paint quality is getting freer rather than tighter. Deborah Remington paints mostly flat, but the largest, most important areas are often modeled to give roundness of form.

The orthodox “Vibes” of San Francisco are: John McCracken with flush insets of smooth surface xs and crosses set into single-color canvases; David Simpson who has hazarded a diagonality after long service to the horizontal, has also enlarged his bands of color; Ron Davis, who uses color vibrancy and repetition patterns to power his ingenious devices; and Keith Boyle who has added a fluorescent rainbow to his usual gauges.

Thomas Akawie introduces an element of Pop; Wally Hedrick and Roy De Forest introduce an element of vibe quality into styles which are nearly Dada; Richard Van Buren is equally related to Vibe and Pop, but his polliwogs are also surreal—if Miró is.

Jack Carrigg would have been a strong addition to this show. Neil Williams and Peter Forakis are sometime San Franciscans who are painting in this idiom in New York.

Knute Stiles