San Francisco

Robert Arneson, David Williams, and Werner Jespen

Albreaux Gallery and Hansen Gallery

The Albreaux Gallery recently opened at the Cannery with a group show largely devoted to funk art and, in the main, pieces previously exhibited by artists associated with the regular stables of other galleries. Setting the tone of the show was one of the ceramic toilets executed half a decade ago by Robert Arneson who, as a painter and graphicist rather than as a ceramicist, just opened an extensive exhibition of recent work at the Hansen Gallery.

The Hansen show finds humor and sophisticatedly flamboyant satire continuing to form the basic mood of Arneson’s work. A large series of canvases are skillfully articulated spoofs on art; paintings about painting in the form of large frameless pictures of ornate Baroque frames. In some instances Arneson actually sculpts motifs characteristic of the ornate moulding of antique picture frames in heavy impasto on the canvas. The area of each canvas enclosed by the depicted picture frame is left unpainted, while the area outside the depicted frame is filled with pointillist dots, Cézannesque palette-knife strokes, Van Gogh-like whorls, or some other clearly recognizable painterly style of laying on pigment. A few drawings explore stenciled letter shapes and studies in the measured calligraphy of commercial message writing. One sculptural construction entitled Selection is a cluster of the letters formed in plastic resin which spell the word “selection.” Co-exhibited in a room to itself was a multimedia environmental contrivance collaboratively devised by David Williams, who was responsible for its conception and design, and Werner Jespen, who composed the recorded electronic music which issues from a built-in speaker. The object in overall appearance consists of a large framework of vertical and horizontal hollow tubular conduits, containing in one of its horizontal elements, resting on the floor, a cockpit-like aperture equipped with a seat, a headrest, a knee prop, a foot brace and an “instrument panel” consisting of a small oscilloscope viewing screen and some dials. One may lower himself into this cockpit, fiddle with the dials and watch oscillographic light patterns on the screen or lean back against the headrest and listen to the repeating cycle of episodes of electronic music. The lush and lyrical quasi-impressionistic, quasi-quartal, major 9th chord resonance of a G - C - F - A chord structure arpeggiated downwards in simulated flute-stop organ tones was lyrically restful and alternated with brief hypnotic variations in a manner suggestive of the three-tone horn accompanied by various batteries of drums to be heard in African tribal music. The machine also projected colored slides of itself on the wall and incorporated a variety of flashing gadgets. In visual aspect and style the construction was strongly reminiscent of the science fantasy inventions of Charles Mattox.

Palmer D. French