In Bert Garner’s new show at the Fountain Gallery of Art he employs an imagery made up predominantly of various types and kinds of signs, the silent markers which man trusts so much to govern his existence—road signs, flags, astrological figures. These are shown on the canvases singly, in formal combinations, and in various masses and clusters. The colors are rich and vibrant, ranging from the cool of cobalt to the hot hot of iridescent red.

Garner’s commentary does not strike me as being particularly new or unique. I feel that his strength lies in his approach. When he is at his best, as in Terry Tune’s Civil Defense, Rondo Revisited, and Spiritual Memory, he is closely involved in an almost humorous way with the jarring irony set up in his thematic situation: the power these mute images, which we rarely question, have in shaping our destinies. Terry Tune’s Civil Defense is a circular painting divided in the center; on the lower half is painted the major portion of a flag, on the upper half is a confusion of images (arrows, circles, squares, triangles) which are somehow reminiscent of cartoon characters. We are immediately pressed upon to question what our allegiances are and what they mean. Of course, the hazard of working from the kind of material Garner has chosen is that it can become trite and shallow. And occasionally it does. He paints with amazing facility, and this sometimes allows him to seek the most obvious and simplest solutions. The inevitable result is that his talent, which is indeed considerable, becomes an unfortunate burden his painting must bear.

Lee Kelly’s show at the new and vastly improved Image Gallery contains examples of a variety of media—chromium sections from the bumpers and guard fins of automobiles; chunks of hoods and fenders; small cast enamel pieces; a series of drawings (some collages) called The River of August. Many of the works, and this applies most specifically to the glossy enameled pieces, seem to have significance merely as decorator objects. Kelly is more comfortable and more satisfying when working with larger forms. In them he can allow his imagination the kind of latitude it requires for a rich involvement. The large things in this show—mostly wall hangings—are equivocal. They are at once simple and intricate. A large part of this apparent, though certainly not necessarily real, paradox is accomplished through texture. The chromium surfaces reverberate with the interplay of light and shadow, setting up a formal ambiguity. The surfaces take on a rich brocade texture through the mirrored superimposition of shadows and the echoic shadows of shadows; and these are, in turn, broken up and played against the unpolished sections and the areas of rainbow clouding that has formed around each welded bead. The most effective of these works are those which have the chromium sections concentrated in central clusters, like the crystals at the heart of a geode.

A painter who has worked as long and with as much repeated success as Louis Bunce can usually be expected to produce an interesting show. In his current exhibition at the Fountain Gallery of Art he is experimenting with a kind of optics; his effort here is, however, more subtle and meaningful than much of the trickery perpetrated by the advocates of the Op school. Many of the works are shaped canvases and combinations of two or three canvases, columns with cross-sections. The columns often are painted with human forms—male, female—in close relationship. The idea is good, but perhaps too obvious. Bunce succeeds for me in the paintings where he brings form and content together and then builds on or around a visual and intellectual irony—as he does in Open Page, Double Window, Shrine, and Foldout.

The Reed College exhibition of California Ceramic Sculpture is both rewarding and disappointing. Paris, Arneson, Melchert, De Staebler, Gilhooly, and Win Ng are represented, but (with the exception of Arneson) too sparsely. The very high degree of craftsmanship evident in all of the work is impressive. However, it seems that even when we accept the premise that a truth can be discovered in precious themes it is difficult to overlook the fact that there is a vast difference between a work of imagination and one of clever ingenuity. The most exciting pieces are those by Paris and Melchert. And I, for one, would have been pleased if the show were devoted to Melchert. His May 3, 1942 is a powerful statement of the imagination which transcends fully anything we might call a potterly quality; in it, he achieves what the other workers, like Gilhooly and Arneson, are obviously striving for. It derives its force from a blending of sartorial and biological elements. The zipper, the button, the twisted flesh forms, the fabrics are stern statements of Melchert’s thesis of utilitarian misuse and excess.

Douglas Kent Hall