Santa Barbara

Howard Fenton and Michael Arntz

Esther Bear Gallery

The work of Howard Fenton and Michael Arntz is combined in an indoor/outdoor show at the Esther Bear Gallery. These two UCSB artist-teachers work in entirely different media and highly individual forms and images. Fenton exhibits paintings and drawings, Arntz displays large ceramic sculptures.

Fenton refers to himself as an “Orientalized Westerner.” The term is apt; in these new paintings and drawings he has conceived oriental symbols that have the excitement of Western movement, color and space relationships with the under-stated oriental selectivity.

Fenton spent 1957 in Japan (on a sabbatical from UCSB) studying and collecting calligraphy and experimenting with special Japanese papers and inks, and becoming intrigued with the abstract concepts of oriental art and their close relationship to much of Western abstract art.

Although Fenton is no Zen artist there is some Zen influence in his balancing and bipolarizing of contrasting things. He creates thunderclouds of activity in his black-and-white drawings and uses simple forms; circles, ovals, squares and rectangles with bold, uninhibited brush strokes and movement.

Michael Arntz has been working in huge ceramic sculptures for some time, and these new pieces display considerable technique as well as originality of concept. Arntz creates enormous flower or organic forms which seem to emerge directly from the ground. Most of his surfaces are unglazed natural raw clay. The single glaze he does use he converts to numerous colors with the addition of metallic oxides and under- or overpainting. These glazes and shapes become symbols of vases, totems, earth forms, in which Arntz magnifies the textures and colors and emphasizes the curving, fluid edges of the piece. Standing tall, between 5 and 6 feet, his work is visually compelling and contemporary in the most meaningful sense.

Harriette Von Breton