San Francisco

Bernice Bing

Bernice Bing Studio

I knew that Bernice Bing’s paintings had altered to a new course so I invited myself to her studio. She spent a year at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur doing a Jungian, mystical, encounter group period of study. The prototype comes from there. It is like a Chinese landscape with subtle painting in concert with rough and feathered brushiness, but foggy stripes keep a figure entrapped in an unknown space. Bernice Bing puts her life wherever it takes her into her paintings, and back in San Francisco the prismatic stripes cross a mask-like face of pipe smoking placidity, but with bullets in its eyes, a tightened screw at the ear, and a red neck. This was painted while she was working with minority neighborhood art programs. The most recent painting is a large allegorical painting about the enlightenment of women, still trapped by the vibes, but also possessed by ecstasy. A knowledge pyramid is on its end, and thus a negative or female symbol with a rising sun above it. This is almost as romantic as 19th-century painting: the symbolization of pathos, faith and idealism. Black purples give this archetypical tableau a dramatic richness. These would make a fine museum show.

The Veterans have decided that the request to move over and let the San Francisco Museum have some more space was just, and the Museum celebrated this triumph by having their bronze name fastened to the front of the building. (Heretofore the Museum’s entrance was on the side.) The new bonanza will include another whole floor in the Veterans’ Memorial palace in Civic Center, and some other rooms on other floors including a small theater or lecture hall as well as the front access. The whole north wing of the present Museum space will have partitions removed and will become a vast chamber matching the one on the south side. This new room will house post-World War II paintings which will be changed at four month intervals. These changes should also provide ample space for constantly changing shows by Bay Area artists. There are, of course, funds to be raised to effect these changes, and this is a peculiar time to initiate that, but the last time the Museum expanded was in 1931 and 1932, and times were irregular then, too. This is a very promising event.

Knute Stiles