San Francisco

William Wiley, Bill Geis, Bob Arneson, Manuel Neri, Robert Kinmont, Peter Saul, Bruce Nauman, H. C. Westermann and Martial Westburg

The Berkeley Gallery

The Berkeley Gallery initiated its new quarters—a spacious two-story, light-manufacturing-shed type of structure, located in the warehouse district south of Market Street, and reminiscent of the gallery’s original home on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley—with a large, Neo-Dada-caper sort of exhibition called the “Repair Show,” announced as a sequel to this gallery’s purportedly “historic” Slant Step show of three years ago, and largely comprised of patently impermanent, random assemblages of assorted objects and debris-like materials, casual junk sculptural constructions and the like. While some outsiders were represented by invitation, the show primarily offered exposure to a roster of Bay Area artists, many from a group familiarly associated with second-generation survivals and extensions of the Bay Area Funk-Dada styles established a decade ago in the early work of Bruce Conner and Arlo Acton (neither of whom were represented in this exhibition) and some who, although long since working in other directions, entered into the spirit of the thing, perhaps somewhat nostalgically with pertinent contributions.

Notwithstanding the diversity of personal viewpoints and moods embraced by the show, individual “entries” seemed to merge in what appeared as a collaboratively improvised totality—a “charade arcade” exploring various facets of the “repair” theme in a manner clearly generated within the dialogue of a community of artists long habituated in mutual discourse. Not surprisingly therefore there was about this installation a marked inflection of the “in-joke” and of recognitions exclusive to a clique and rooted in shared experiences.

Probings of the repair theme ranged in mood from sombre reflections on the “irreparable” destruction of death and organic injury—playfully sardonic and Halloween in the multiple connotations of Robert Hudson’s construction-sculpture featuring a one-footed skeleton suspended behind a chrome-framed plexiglass panel suggestive of a fluoroscopic scanning screen, captioned Beyond Repair (perhaps the most carefully crafted and “permanent” construction in the show); grimly documentary in J. Raffael’s photomontages of civilian casualties and corpse-strewn urban battlegrounds of the Vietnam war; funkily queasy in Peter Hutton’s plastic-resin cartoon mock-up of a bloody, severed finger resting among the jagged vestiges of a broken pane on the sill of a narrow transverse viewing slit in an old door (funny incongruity: at the foot of the door, a heap of shattered glass nearly sufficient to account for a broken picture window!)—to fun-full farce and audacious, contrived slapstick on various reparable and irreparable fragilities of the human condition. Oval paper plates ornamented with the prim rosettes and the emblematic eagle of “American Colonial” decorative conventions, were stacked by Robert Nelson as serially numbered cartouches for a handwritten bawdy fantasy entitled The Unbelievable Humping of Nancy Connors. An extension of the theme, hinted at—but curiously only hinted at, in spite of looming on the horizon as an obvious reservoir for satirical possibilities—was the modern world’s vast and accelerated technological investment in environmental repair—“urban reconstruction,” “industrial salvage,” “social rehabilitation,” and the reversal of technology-engendered environmental pollution.

Outstanding names among the large roster of exhibitors, in addition to those already mentioned in connection with specific exhibits, included William Wiley, Bill Geis, Bob Arneson, Manuel Neri, Robert Kinmont, Peter Saul, Bruce Nauman, H. C. Westermann and Martial Westburg. The show was conceived and organized by William Allan, who supervised and coordinated its installation.

Palmer D. French