Thomas Albright describes McGaw’s style as “expressionistic, with angular forms and dissonant color combinations.” I’d say that this is very true of his exhibit at SFAI. The brochure that accompanies the show claims that his painting expresses his “keen interest in the history of European painting, “ and a “carefully modulated deployment and adroit crystallization of….figure, color and pictorial architecture. “ I’d say that this is art critic speak for work that’s figurative, very influenced by the color palate of the 60’s and could have benefited by some serious editing. Although I appreciated the technique, I felt that a lot of the work was up just because, as a teacher at the SFAI, he had an open forum. How many people will struggle up those steep hills to view the show except those who already know and like him and/ or his work? But putting up work because you have a license to do so doesn’t impress the viewer who is not already connected to him. If the work had been edited down to pieces that evoked genuine emotion, the show would have been a lot stronger.
But there is always the beautifully designed courtyard, the fountain and the students who get to enjoy this harmonious corner of what's left of the old SFAI.
At the bottom of the hill is the Charles Campbell Gallery (formerly Campbell-Thiebaud) which is now closed. I spent an interesting internship summer there and knew at the time that the guy who was running it wasn't up to Charlie's standards. It was a far cry from the glory days when anybody who was anybody in the SF art scene was shown here. Better the gallery close than see its reputation and standards decline. But it still saddens me to see such an important part of SF's art history closed. Sic transit gloria mundi
However, the tiny Thiebaud Gallery right around the corner is still keeping the faith. The current show “25 Treasures” shows an eclectic selection of art – from Bay Area painter Joan Brown (represented by a quirky and charming, self-portrait) to Matisse, Rousseau, Gorky and assorted other artists. It’s easy to walk by the unobtrusive storefront galley but it’s worth taking the time to go in and look.
Then, to make this really an "old" North Beach experience, stop by the US Cafe. It's been revised by new owners but it's still Italian and still serving the best pesto pasta in the city.
Bruce McGaw at the SFAI: Sept 23-October 4th
Paul Thiebaud Gallery (SF)
718 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
September 9, 2008 - November 8, 2008
(images from the website)
Thomas Albright, “Art in the San Francisco Bay Area: 1945-1980. University of California Press. 1985