San Francisco

Boyd Allen and Lee Adair

Berkeley Gallery, Berkeley Art Center

At the Berkeley Gallery, Boyd Allen showed neo-Romantic landscape fantasies with variations on a mountain theme. These paintings, of vast unpeopled panoramas, contrast sharply with the earlier series of localized nightmare labyrinths with fugitive, shadowy figures. In that earlier group the pictorial space, although not shallow, was proximate, and tensions were created by a fragmented non-regular grid schematic of composition generating nervous, cross interferential, directional rhythms.

The recent landscapes feature a striate band composition of perspectively receding horizontals realized pictorially as unbroken ranges of mountains alternating with flatly rendered intervening plateaus, while one or two crisp and sweeping vertical linearities emphasize the overall horizontal movement. In Day of Reckoning the verticals are poles surmounted with pennants, like the markers used by geographers and project engineers in surveying extensive areas of terrain. Sometimes these metric devices of space organization are pictorially irrelevant and unexplained, heightening the surreal, dreamlike quality of the landscape.

An amusing series of canvases by Lee Adair at the Berkeley Gallery promulgated variations in which what appear to be little putty figurines of buxom female nudes, reminiscent of the plaster cupids and cherubs of Rococo prosceniums, float in the blackness of interplanetary space, apparently orbiting the earth, rendered realistically after the now familiar photographs taken from rockets and artificial satellites. The picture captions refer to these chubby little celestials as “cumulforms.”

Palmer D. French