San Francisco

James Grant and James Melchert

Hansen Galleries

The syncopated plastic rhythms, sharp spatial transitions, and “dissonantly” juxtaposed shapes and color contrasts that so strongly characterized Mr. Grant’s collage-paintings, exhibited a year ago at the De Young Museum, are nowhere to be found in his current show. He has, to be sure, retained a few stylistic mannerisms from his earlier work, but the vitality has considerably waned. Most of the recent work here shown essays related colors in like tonal values; color masses and linear configurations are distributed in such a way that each work is a study in composed static equilibrium and tonal blending. Contrary to Grant’s earlier practice, collage effects are employed texturally rather than structurally and do not violently corrugate the picture surface. These paintings come perilously close to a familiar decorative degeneration of Abstract Expressionist methods. It is difficult to explain such a shift of outlook in an artist who has shown a high caliber of daring, explorative imagination.

Mr. Melchert exhibits a couple of large wood-and-metal assemblages and a series of small painted ceramic cartoon-masks. The latter look like rather grotesque midget death-masks, and Mr. Melchert describes them as an evocation of “ghosts.” There are allusions to the “Flying Aces” of World War I, as well as to the cinema heroes and comic-strip figures of earlier decades. One of the large constructions entitled After Image duplicates the painted tail-board of a truck which Mr. Melchert says he was trailing one day in his car.

Palmer D. French