San Francisco

Hanna Hannah, Stan Askew, And Jean Thrift

Braunstein/Quay Gallery

In the category of growth potential, the clear winner was Hanna Hannah; even her palindromic name was intriguing. The dominant quality in her delicate paintings on paper was an emotional and formal openness. She divides the standard 22-x-30-inch sheet into a lightly pencilled grid over which she adds numerous kinds of markings that congregate near the grid lines, but do not conform to its rigidity. The effect, as in O’Banion’s paper pieces, is to obviate the necessity of the grid. The liquidy pastel strokes and random color pencil marks look downright inelegant (no mean feat): the artist’s wandering hand is not civilized by the regularizing squares. In a sense, Hannah is sharing the chance markings of Henderson; her work is as open as his to the possibility of establishing conscious decision making directed by pattern—and pattern not tied to the grid. Since Hannah works in series, such thinking is already built into the work on a macrostructural level. The microstructure of markings should be congruent with it. At this time, what seems original is her subtle distinction between types of color from drawing to drawing. Furthermore, the grays, earthy pinks, pastel blues and yellows are typical “cosmetic” colors of eyeshadow and blush; while the short, transparent acrylic brushstrokes look like nail polish.

With Stan Askew and Jean Thrift, it is not so much a question of doing something which is not particularly open to growth, but of doing something that is not terribly exciting. Askew creates small drawings (6 x 8 inches) with rubber-stamp imagery filled in with careful, smudgy colored pencil. Pencil ends, schools of floating eyes, flowers and vegetation, light bulbs and artists’ palettes hover in a clichéd, amorphous surrealist space. Beyond exhibiting a kind of professional technical finesse, there is little that has not been done by the line extending from de Chirico to Cornell. Jean Thrift has the same problem in reverse: her imagery is all right, but the execution is (deliberately?) offensive. Large blow-ups of succulents and flowers are sincerely symbolic of “opening” and possess an immanent eroticism, but they are so crudely painted in a bile green that nothing can save them.

Jeff Perrone