San Francisco

Carl Andre, Donald Judd, John McCracken, Tony Smith and Boyd Allen

The San Francisco Museum of Art has given us a show whose very full title is “Unitary Forms: Minimal Sculpture by Carl Andre, Don Judd, John McCracken, Tony Smith.” I suppose the general public, which has barely adjusted to Jackson Pollock, and has never heard of Eva Hesse, will find this an instructive show. The catalog essay, by Curator Suzanne Foley (who assembled the show) does its teaching job quite well.

But, speaking for that minority of the art public which keeps up to some extent with What’s Happening, I wonder why these developments of the mid-1960s are presented to us now. Certainly they are not The Latest Thing; the three pieces by Smith date back to 1962, and Judd’s four pieces to 1965 and 1966. The other pieces are more recent than that, but basically this work has been around for some time. This show looks as if it had been conceived in 1967 or earlier and had been delayed until now by a series of administrative accidents. Very odd.

Also at the SFMA there has been a show of paintings by Boyd Allen. Running through these works is the image of a mountain range depicted without vegetation and. with a great deal of white in the colors, suggesting bare rock seen by night. The mountains chilled me.

Above and below the mountains there are often horizontal bands of color, and these are rich and warm. The show as a whole conveys a sense of controlled or even intentionally depleted abundance. Allen is an accomplished colorist, and in color and texture his paintings are all there. These works do not display their fine qualities like flags; they call for dogged examination.

Jerome Tarshis