“Summer '75 Group Show”

University Art Museum, Berkeley and Stephen Wirtz Gallery

It’s probably presumptuous to assume that a few years ago all the people in the “Summer Group ’75 Show” were in an MFA exhibit, but I bet they were. In the meantime it looks as if they’ve either been to New York (for a little roughening up) or to L A (for a trip through the car wash to get all shined up). It looks as though Susan Whyne went to L A; her fake photo-Realism is certainly bizarre enough, like a Woolworth’s version of a Bechtle. Stucco, evergreen bushes, empty sidewalks—it looks very tracthousey, very Venice. What makes it memorable is what it lacks: there are no shiny surfaces, chrome cars, no reflections, which are de rigeur for this type of thing. The painting is not “realistic” either; it’s rather gauche. I liked it for its perversity; its banal “unprofessional” techniques are almost a parody of photo-Realism. Mike Roddy does landscapes too, but they’re not quite as artificial as Whyne’s: he uses what is fast becoming the great West-Coast cliché, real tree branches. He covers them with a grisaille which renders them burnt or ashy. Roddy dedicates a couple of branches leaned up against the wall to Clyfford Still. It’s a strange reading of Still, but I can see it. The paint is applied in short, small brushstrokes in an all-over manner (on canvas or branch) which looks like a craggy landscape or . . . a Still.

All the work looks very professional, very crafty. Alan Scarritt’s is the only stuff that doesn’t transcend the facileness of his techniques. Very fast expressionistic graphite swipes across the page can be very handsome, especially when accompanied by “clues” in French and German, written in a very arty hand, as in his six Ding an sich drawings. But they verge on being only pretty. His painting, in black and white, is also very expressionistic. (There is a black-and-white overload in the whole show. It’s being used, I think, to alleviate prettiness, but it doesn’t do a very good job. I think that’s basically a false way of working.) Bruce Lauritzen is fairly well known; his acrylic paintings with diamond grids and tasteful colors are very accomplished. Jigsaw is a good-sized painting, and it shows that his good idea can be enlarged without lessening the effect, or, to be precise, the quality. Carl Dern showed one sculpture, and I didn’t get it at all. I found it excessively arch, simple, and affected. Just the angle of the curve of the metal tube was enough for me.

Finally, Nancy Blanchard tells a story. I don’t think it’s—well, Art—but it’s great fun, and it’s funny. It’s called Memoirs and it’s about all kinds of good things: movies, the ’40s, dresses with rhinestones, French men, mysterious and beautiful women, “a landscape in brown and ochre,” funny Germans, a pregnancy, woman as artist, woman as object, something about a small reproduction of Rodin’s The Kiss, and much more. Although it’s camp material, it’s never nasty; it’s also mysterious but somehow lucid. Photos with captions and a tape—I guess of Blanchard talking, relating her story—very simple, but there is a wealth of material. There is even Blanchard(?) doing an insane impersonation of a French officer during World War II. First rate.

Jeff Perrone