San Francisco

Robert Hartman

Robert Hartman was one of the first painters who showed us a painting full of sky, no horizon. The focus was originally on primitive airplanes and the sky was merely their element, but then we saw a whole show of skies, some seen with the cloud strata diagonal, as from a plane banking. The show at the Berkeley Gallery is all sky, no planes or horizons, but a graph of equally atmospheric but geometrically stratified planes of sky or, in another, grids of lines as though to parse the sky for some mundane calculation. There are carefully brushed portions, portions of stain absorbency and elements of color separation of the sort we used to associate with watercolors. These are acrylic. The colors are not those common blue skies, but ochres and autumnal shades shot through with surprises, like a whited pink. These skyscapes are ultra-romantic, and I suppose the mechanical interruptions refer to the fact that the modern world is rapaciously present here, too, with sonic booms, and designated flight patterns that jar the sensibilities of an old plane buff whose most liberating fantasy was to be alone in a vastness of sky.

Knute Stiles