San Francisco

Fletcher Benton and John Ihle

Hansen Galleries

Mr. Benton’s “Kinetic Paintings” are sophisticated mobile geometric montages in the crisply economical symmetries and black, white, and primary color palette of the Hard Edge school. In a modern spirit Mr. Benton has turned to the mechanical principles underlying the famous automata of the great 17th and 18th cen­tury horologists, executing colorful compositions on a metal plaque or “face” equipped with various sliding bars, squares and panels, the synchronized movements of which are predetermined by an essentially “clockwork” type of mechanism encased behind the plaque. Technologically the only modern touch is that the rotors, gears and cogwheels are activated by switch-con­trolled electric current rather than by pendulums or key-wound springs. The most successful of these novelties are Synchromatic Blue and Red and Synchromatic Red and Silver. In both of these devices the essential design and a small, geometrically contoured movable metal plate are seen at a glance, in any state of the device, and would seem to hold no surprises; while, due to the visibility of the track or groove, even the mechanical perform­ance is immediately predictable. Not so immediately and intuitively predict­able, however, are startling kaleido­scopic changes of pattern produced by the moving part in relation to its stable background, and one can watch these gimmicks through four or five cycles with undiminished surprise and plea­sure. Less successful are the devices employing sliding-door panels that al­ternately open and close over the en­tire plaque. One can only be surprised by them once, and if one sees them first in “open” position, the design produced when the panels converge to “closed” position is optically pre­dictable.

John Ihle’s prints exhibit graphic virtuosity and a concern for refined textures reflecting the Tamarind influ­ence on West Coast printmaking. There is also a preoccupation with hierogly­phic motifs vaguely suggestive of West­ern American Indian derivation—an­other familiar Tamarind theme. Some of this work gets pretty slick and decor­ative. Mr. Ihle is at his best when es­saying a personal, wry humor, as in the amusing Me Tarzan, You Jane.

Palmer D. French