OAKLAND TRIBUNE | Shocking ‘Beat’ Art Displayed


“Beatism” is as apt a term as any for a new local manifestation which descends from Dadism, that irreverent, cynical, frustrated group founded in Zurich after World War I with the avowed purpose to shock and destroy. We thought Dada sterile. Now, suddenly fertile in ideal conditions, it produces a hydra-headed off-spring.

“The Individual and His World,” an exhibit of painting and sculpture by artists of the San Francisco area with photographs by Jerry Burchard of the artists who made them, is the S.F. Art Association Art Bank’s deliberately shocking exhibit at the S.F.A.A. galleries, California School of Fine Arts, 800 Chestnut, S.F. (through Dec. 5).

Fred Martin, director of the Art Bank, selected artists “outstanding for their idiosyncrasies to help bridge the gap between the usual conception of art and the most distant points of personal involvements in art.” The gap is wide. The bridge shaky. On the other side writhes Dada’s offspring embracing others not directly related. It is curious and a credit to Martin’s sharp eye that some of the works, seen in other shows, here show a close affinity.


With a smile as enigmatic as Mona Lisa’s, Martin said the show has attracted wide attention. The Burchard photographs have been generally admired. These dramatic photographs are revealing studies of the artists and the places where they live and work, and it is fascinating to relate them to the exhibits. Photographs accompanies the “Younger American Painters” exhibit at the Brussels Fair, but, according to Martin, the artists all appeared to live in the same house. Burchard’s pictures are integral arrangements of the artist and his particular surroundings.

Photographs of the handsome, clean-shaven young Bruce Conner in his tidy studio hardly prepared us for the “beatest” of the new Dada. One Conner object is a faded plush frame. Between two glass sides is stuffed without order such refuse as an old shoe, twisted paint tube, broken doll, stained rags, crumpled newspaper and a fry pan. On the surface hangs a black stocking and a piece of a beaded dress. Surreptitious inclusion of erotic pictures intensifies the lewd impact. Another object, the black board of an old hall seat also a conglomerate of waste, is covered with a Charles Adams’ web of torn nylons with surrealist as well as Dada implications. Martin says the objects represent every facet of Western civilization. A frightening indictment.