Los Angeles

Polynesia

San Fernando Valley State College

In the first of a four part review of the arts of the Pacific area, the exhibition couples objects from the twelve major island groups with 19th century Western pictorial records of contact with these novel regions and their natives. A word of commendation should be given the staff for their success in displaying some one hundred small to tiny-scaled artifacts with taste. Decorative interludes of tapa cloth separate and enhance statues, ceremonial clubs, staffs, and paddles, tools, containers, fans and personal adornments.

The elegant works convey a restrained, even somber, rigor through the severity of geometric outline, upon which highly abstract figures or areas of overall, intricate patterns are dispersed. The extraordinary stylization and formalization generally agree with the rigidity of these cultures’ religious and social structures, where art had become a decorative integral, pervading the making of everyday things and denoting the ranking of others. Ceremonial and status symbols are particularly rich in their complex ornamentation, utilitarian items are severely functional, religious images peculiarly ascetic or harshly ferocious. Few joys, it seems, existed in this paradise.

The mother-of-pearl inlay characteristic of the Solomons, the hermetic spirals of the Maori, a royal necklace from Hawaii, a burnished dark wood Marquesas club, and a cabinet filled with emaciated Easter Island figures remain memorable visual gems.

Fidel A. Danieli