San Francisco

Tony DeLap

San Francisco Art Institute

An exhibition at the Institute and a $1000 prize have been awarded to Tony DeLap as this year’s recipient of the Nealie Sullivan award to working artists. Five of DeLap’s aluminum, plexiglass, and canvas objects are mounted at eye level. The viewer may view them or view through them. Whereas the wall pieces which preceded them suggested auditory devices, these, which are two sided (same on both sides), about three inches thick, and which have a small plexiglass peephole in the center, are more suggestive of eye instruments. There are dots or lines to line up. The Albers illusion of pyramiding steps is reduced to actual steps stepping back to the wee peep-hole window.

They might be a symbolic, idealized (the President’s own) moon shot sight—or bomb sight. The titles suggest that the viewer may regard these things very lightheartedly, an insight which is not too apparent without the clue. Thus, with the title, we anthropomorphize a purely mechanical thing as a pilot might his plane, or a soldier his gun. Queen Zozer, who is flat on top and bottom, has squared necks proceeding both ways and rounds out into squared cheeks, and since robots do not need to eat, has a seeing and hearing device where its mouth might be. The Queen is very tongue in cheek; an eye sight to pull the leg. Wyman the Wizard mechanizes and gives window to the forked water douser’s wand form.

To those of us who cozzen to purity of form, these will be decorative objects. To those who insist on romanticism they will be a dada razzberry. And they are curiosities, they are purist relief sculpture, they are emblems, they are dumb, they are cute—or whatever else you like—very realistic, or utterly abstract. They are fantastically monumental mechanical tools.

The workmanship looks like machine precision. In Arje, which is round with an oblique parallelogram of steps and window, the aluminum is burnished in whorls, and the steps are colored litmus violet. So, in this one the reference to science is dominant. The regularity and similarity make them look mass produced. In Lompoc the blank part looks as if it was carefully designed to contain transistors or perhaps moving parts. They are very compact, but look as though they might be the external organ of an apparatus which is contained behind a wall. And they look very clean: they operate without being touched. They look automatic: there are no knobs to adjust. Perhaps they are not for us to look through, but are instruments looking at us.

Knute Stiles