San Francisco

Dal Henderson and Nance O’Banion

Allrich Gallery

The Allrich Gallery’s two “Introductions” artists have, in fact, both shown extensively in the area. Nance O’Banion is well known for her long involvement in the Bay Area fiber movement. Long before such things were made acceptable in New York by the likes of Rauschenberg and Kelly, many artists here advocated handmade paper and textiles as a resurrection of crafts, a return to the carefully made, unique object. The relative obscurity of the fiber movement has been maintained by its alignment with the label “crafts,” as in the dichotomy “arts and crafts.” Dal Henderson has shown in the big area museums and exhibited in Europe. O’Banion and Henderson are thus not true unknown quantities, but artists with long-standing concerns.

O’Banion uses layers of liquid pulp in successive diagonal grids (instead of a box structure, there is a configuration of diamonds). The grids are constantly on the verge of “disintegration,” as one of the titles says. The sheets are small and full of fine detail, although there is no image or mark to speak of. In general, handmade paper works suffer from two problems: first, overall similarity of texture and overconsistency of muted color (pulpy paper seems to require it); second, the interest is predicated on the sensuousness of material as material. O’Banion is clever: what usually reads as arty deckle edge serves as a pun on irregular line and disintegrating grid; what might look like an attempt to turn paper into painting is subverted by ingenuousness of installation—no frames or glass, just paper tacked to the wall, with spaces in the sheets which reveal the wall behind. Colors crisscross each other like basket weaving, averting a bland, flattened surface.

Dal Henderson’s paintings consist of laboriously layered acrylic surfaces which are randomly scratched in linear, all-over networks that expose the stained cotton duck underneath. The effect is not unlike a highly colorful and nonchalant kind of LeWitt which would ask for so many randomly made nonstraight, nontouching lines. Henderson’s scratchings are obviously esthetic, however: layers of peeling paint remind one of old boat hulls; the “marks” are carefully made, but ragged and sensitive; the “marks” are clever subtractions from the surface, not additions. The most rigorous piece was a small “drawing” on black cardboard. Some kind of tool was used to gouge deeply into the white fiber under the black surface, a dramatic reversal of figure/ground. Henderson’s idea was shown to be more graphic than painterly, and pointed up how simplicity of means often reveals the most intent.

Jeff Perrone