San Francisco

Introductions ’74

San Francisco Art Dealers Association Member Galleries

Member galleries of the San Francisco Art Dealers Association have designated the month of July as a time when most members will feature the work of unknown, or unexposed, Bay Area artists. With almost 17 galleries participating, July should offer a comprehensive cross section of work presently being done in the area which might not ordinarily be made available for public viewing at one time.
— S.F.A.D.A. Press Release

One sophomoric delight available to critics is the meatball of contrast between flack and fact. Press releases are, often as not, simply quasi-innocent attempts to perfume tawdry, everyday commerce. The S.F.A.D.A. is a relatively recent organization, based on the necessity of a cooperative “scene” instead of individual gallery fiefdoms. Its idea was to convert a slack month (tourists don’t collect serious art) into an event, and the free handouts generated an open house, a bash at the Art Institute, unheard of crowds in the emporiums, devoted newspaper coverage, and at least one magazine writer’s professional interest. True, 42 artists were on the walls, floors, and counters, and the air of festival pervaded, but a more astringent interpretation was given me by a Bay Area artist not included in the three-and-a-half dozen Introductions.

The publicity clearly outweighs the substance of the art in Introductions. San Francisco dealers don’t generally do a lot of studio-hopping, so what they’ve come up with in the way of “unexposed” artists is a little suspect. Hansen-Fuller, albeit with no ulterior motives, is the driving force of S.F.A.D.A. and, being the gallery it is, every young artist with anything at all on the ball will solicit them sooner or later. So a lot of the stuff in Introductions has been “deflected” from Hansen-Fuller. Then you have the problem of who’s being introduced. Tom Hardy and Gordon Cook have been around for years. Dan Weinberg is interested in proven New York talents—and, to his credit, he’s stuck his neck out and proved his point—so his introduction is a New Yorker. Quay Gallery already shows Richard Shaw, so Martha Shaw is safe and . . . you could go on and on. The point is, as far as your covering this as an event, why should we, from a journalistic point, want to send another piece of fodder back to support what New York already thinks of Bay Area art—second-rate?

I can’t say I agree with all that, either. But, given my partial knowledge of the Bay Area art world, the choices of most of the galleries included more expediency, caution, sentiment, and less risk (i.e., not one truly outrageous show) than was called for. With one exception (Sawyer), the shows were as off-handedly installed as a good deal of the work is laboriously hand-honed from yawny classroom ideas (zippy graphics, bent-knuckle realism, highly polished sculpture, and winsome photographs of ingenue girlfriends backlighted against the windows of teaching-assistant apartments, etc.). What was good? The presence of photography as unapologetic gallery material, several itchy artists (Victor Cohen-Stuart, Richard Francisco, Mona Marshall, Dennis O’Leary, Greg Renfrow, and Gail Skoff), something to argue about in San Francisco beside Howard Fried, Terry Fox, or MOCA, and the guarantee of another crop of press kits next year. The partial particulars of an odyssey through Introductions is contained in the following dope sheet; in defense of its casual secularism in the face of Holy Art, I can only say that it’s a response in kind.

Peter Plagens