San Francisco

Edward L. Higgins and Gerald Walburg

Reese Palley Gallery

Two simultaneous exhibitions at the Reese Palley Cellar featured, respectively, paintings by Edward L. Higgins and sculpture by Gerald Walburg. Although topologically interesting manipulation of a three-dimensional planilinear organizational schematic constitutes the predominantly intellectual appeal of the ten elegantly conceived and crafted pieces in black chromed steel which Walburg presented, they were nonetheless designed for wall-mounting and hence explored their geometric theme in terms of “frontal projection” rather than “in the round.” The essential abstract functional format adopted by Walburg for nine of the pieces in this show consisted of a shallow square “frame” partitioned by a tic-tac-toe grid into nine cubes. Although the symmetrical patterns produced by various partial realizations of this grid-frame are quite elemental, the resulting inter-involvement of open and closed regions creates a complex spatial esthetic that belies the apparent simplicity of the concept.

Very large paintings in oils on canvas by Mr. Higgins expound landscape and architectural fantasies in a vein combining “primitivistic” and “Surrealistic” devices with unique effect. Historic California rural wooden architecture as well as actual locales within the Sacramento River Region recognizably serve as points of departure for many of these canvases while others seem to be pure invention elaborating architecturally eclectic and improbable edifices, the foundations of which are usually submerged in surrounding expanses of water. These curious structures, with their fanciful proliferation of domes, towers, terraces, colonnades and covered canals are adorned with variously colored ornaments and appended with waterspouts, conduits and other impliedly hydraulic curiosa and fenestrated with strangely shaped apertures often suggesting a patently Freudian orificial reference. Conceptually and in symbolic theme and imagery these works have much in common with William T. Wiley’s canvases of three or four years ago. However, while Wiley’s style was slap-dash, quasi-cartoonish and tended toward a palette of grey, Higgins’ paintings abound in rich color and are gorgeously painted.

Palmer D. French