San Francisco

Patrick Tidd and Paul Pernish

Berkeley Rotary Art and Garden Center

Patrick Tidd and Paul Pernish, exhibiting jointly at the Berkeley Rotary Art and Garden Center in Berkeley, provided the Bay Area with one of the better shows of what has proved to be a dull midwinter season. In continuing to explore the directions he established last year in his “Game Paintings” and in his muralesque treatment of subject matter relating to astronomy, astronomical observatories, and optical instruments, Tidd has consolidated thematic and syntactical ideas from these two earlier series in a new group of untitled paintings in acrylic, in which allusions to the appearance of sophisticated electronic laboratory equipment form the basis for crisp, hard-edge, geometric compositions. Themes suggesting the scientific probing of the skies, either in as close range as the earthbound atmosphere, or over the remote vastnesses of outer space, still predominate: the rectilinear grid of a meteorological box-kite frame provides a formal motif for variations and contrasts in one canvas, while an astronomical spectroscope provides schematics of both color and geometry for another. The “game” in these paintings is largely a matter of engaging the viewer in surprises and discoveries amidst labyrinthine complexities of spatial counterpoint and formal relationships, although occasionally the purely formal play is coupled with ideographic puns and charades, as in the juxtaposition of hieroglyphically stylized suggestions of a tied lace window curtain, a porthole, a saw-toothed pike fence and an emphatically phallic projectile-like object (metallic in texture and ambiguously an artillery shell or a rocket head) stamped on one side with a five-pointed star. In simultaneously deriving both formal intricacies and ideographic charades from simplified contour-shapes of recognizable objects, Mr. Tidd’s methods would seem much indebted to historical Cubism.

Six years ago, Mr. Pernish, who was then painting large representations of the sides of freight cars with their colorful emblems of railroad lines, co-exhibited with Hugh Curtis, who, in simplified shapes and large, wood-block-like areas of black, white and bright, primary colors on billboard size canvases was portraying motorcyclists. Pernish’s recent series of portraits of his Bay Area colleagues owes something to directions hinted at in the work of his earlier co-exhibitor, and there is a suggestion of a gesture of recognition of this in Pernish’s black and white felt pen portrait of Davis Tisselli seated on a motorcycle; in this work, as well as in the felt pen portrait of Mary Snowden on horseback, entitled Snowden on Gemini, there are allusions to the eerie chiaroscuro of images in photographic negative. In a large acrylic painting entitled Pat Tidd, Pernish studies his present co-exhibitor in various moods with and without hat and beard. Charles Gill and Tom Akawie likewise are multiplied and/or variationally sequenced in large canvases by Mr. Pernish. In a smaller canvas Sid Gordin’s opposite profiles touch noses. Mr. Tidd and Mr. Pernish are well-paired co-exhibitors, for although their styles and subject matter offer many contrasts—Tidd working in subdued colors and dealing entirely with an unpeopled environment of inanimate objects, while Pernish is involved with the sort of simplified interpretive portraiture which verges on cartoon caricature—both are concerned with the hard-edge delineation of contour and with using contours as repeated and sequenced linear motifs in carefully worked out and intricate compositional patterns.

Palmer D. French