San Francisco

Arneson, Gordin, Paris, Feldman, Henderson, Howard and Hoag

San Francisco Art Institute

The Art Institute’s Art Bank has gathered together an exhibition of new directions in sculpture to travel to various museums and school galleries. As prelude to its departure they have set it up in their own gallery. This show forms a visual essay on the extraordinary growth of sculpture, both in the literal number of people working in the medium and the constantly growing variety of techniques being employed by sculptors in the Bay Area.

The welding of iron and sheet steel into figures and forms is still with us, but as this exhibition demonstrates, in reduced popularity. Sidney Gordin’s “42-61” is perhaps the most personal representation in this idiom (other things looked like something one had seen before, but no specific artist’s name suggested itself, and the names of those attached were not the real innovators). Gordin’s is very like a plant form become calligraphy on a stem. The assembly of actual objects is also in decline, though Mel Henderson’s leather object of purse and sleeve blown up with polyfoam (which comes through the seams in beads and overflows from any aperture) suggests the humanoid and indicates that the genre still offers limitless possibilities. The newer tendency is to cast the real object: Robert Arneson’s piece is a cast bronze corset surmounted by lips painted red. Harold Paris took a cast of a familiar commercial jug in metal, but then went a step further and used the cast object to paint on. F. Vredaparis cast in brass and diligently polished an elephant pie. Jack Hoag invented a form and cast it in aluminum; it suggests a pelvic-phallic unity and is strung with multicolored wires like a diagram of nerves. Bella Feldman’s “Catcher” is also an invented form, the cast parts having been welded together and partly machine ground for variety of surface, but wrenches and other things about the shop left their impressions in the form’s surface, too. Robert Howard’s sculpture is abstract, representing nothing but what it is: two sharp pointed colored objects, very much alike, one of which balances and pivots on top of the other. Faralla’s black and blue board constructions are simplified and almost symmetrical square and triangular configurations, though still indubitably the product of the same sculptor as their infinitely complicated predecessors. The machine made, machine looking type of sculpture in the group is the new work of Fletcher Benton. One of these has doors which move ominously apart to reveal the hypnotic robotic eye, and then equally gradually close.

Northern California sculptors are in a ferment of invention. The exhibition might well have included a canvas of the sort that bulges and has disavowed the rectangular form of painting. The liberation of the definite boundaries between painting and sculpture and the acceptance of any technique or combination will probably be as important to the growth of art as was the original divorce from subject matter.

Knute Stiles