San Francisco

Joseph Raffael, William Allan and Charles Gill

The Berkeley Gallery

The approach of autumn found the local galleries one by one either reopening or again initiating formal exhibition schedules after bridging the summer months with casually rotating group shows made up usually of items left in storage from the previous year’s feature presentations of stable artists. The Berkeley Gallery’s 1967–68 season slumped to a close with two successive shows which were perhaps an all-time low for this gallery: photo-collages by Joseph Raffael and “boxes” by William Allan. Both shows were tediously overextensive and reiterative.

The Raffael photo-collages explored without imagination or individuality those devices of Surrealistic charade so obvious to the photo-collage idiom (but which can be nonetheless fresh, innovative, poignant and powerful in the work, say, of Jess Collins to whom Raffael is obviously indebted.) Jess’s conventions turned into Raffael clichés are here carelessly employed in a visually uninteresting hodgepodge syntax of imagery at once abounding in precious lyricism and affected mysticism.

Allan’s boxes, glassed on one side and displaying charade-like assortments of objects seem to derive in concept from the boxes of H. C. Westermann. But here again one found a borrowed formal concept and borrowed syntax, which both missed the point of their prototypes and failed to explore significant further developmental possibilities.

At any rate, after a brief, and no doubt much needed, summer vacation for its volunteer staff this cooperative gallery revived its former high level in presenting new work by Charles Gill, one of its longstanding members. Gill’s work reflects a cerebral concern with technically demanding formal experiments. Taking as his subject matter interior scenes of bleakly prim suburban houses peopled with faceless figures, and essaying still lifes from improbable study-arrangements of the sort of “department store modern” furniture characteristic of such interiors, Gill explores photo-negative effects, sequential cross references of linear motif between foreground and background elements, unconventional techniques of conjuring perspective and a velvety opulence of luminescent acrylic colors applied with the spray gun.

Palmer D. French