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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

Roditi, Edouard
[West coast art--Canada],   pp. [71]-78 PDF (10.0 MB)

Page 75

always avid for anything sensational,
whether a new restaurant that serves
tuna-fish salad with hot chocolate sauce or
a shoe-shine parlor where the customers
are serviced by bottomless girls.
Baxter's inventive wit strikes a surprisingly
metropolitan note in British Columbia's
somewhat provincial and almost rural art
world. Though his titles often suggest
that he may only be spoofing the
sacrosanct masters of New York's Pop art,
his Water for an Oldenburg Soft Toilet, his
Carrying-case for Andy Warhol's Soft
Pillow and his various other gadgets of this
kind can really vie with much that is
exhibited in New York by major
representatives of a school of instant art
that already deserves to be interpreted as
a kind of democratization of creativity,
since it tends to convince so many laymen
that art is but a do-it-yourself hobby
which makes every man a potential
Leonardo da Vinci. If Baxter limited his
activity to this kind of spoofing and
created only identical mock packagings for
widely-publicized objects created by other
artists, he would indeed deserve little
attention beyond the frontiers of
British Columbia.
But he has also proven himself capable of
more ambitious things. Though a
virtuoso draftsman whose sketches often
suggest a puzzling affinity with those of
Morandi, of all people, Baxter has so far
distinguished himself mainly as a playful
inventor of vinyl "clouds" and other
"things" that display a youthful and even
poetic quality of original fun or of
parody, more light and lyrical than
much of the more heavy-handed Funk art
of California. In spite of his successes as
a nonsense artist who, in an idiom of
modern art, spoofs the latter much as
Edward Lear, in his nonsense-poetry,
spoofed the poetry of Tennyson a hundred
years ago, Baxter should nevertheless be
warned of the suicidal dangers of
confining himself too rigorously within the
limited and airtight space of the vinyl
"bag" in which he now works almost too
exclusively. In the final analysis, the
fun of his art is too often derivative and
depends too much on the successes of
Oldenburg or Warhol. Deprived of their
witty titles that deliberately situate them in
a context of Pop art, Baxter's vinyl bags
really look like something from a
department store's notion department.
Another Vancouver artist whose work
manages to transcend the limitations of
provincialism is Marianna Schmidt, a
Hungarian-born virtuoso of etching and
aquatint. Until a couple of years ago, many
of her monumental prints still suggested,
especially in their population of grotesque
homunculi, an influence of the Art brut of
Dubuffet. But 1966 was the year of her
break-through. Since then, every one of
her new prints has revealed great
originality in composition and an entirely
novel range of subject matter, in addition
to superb qualities of sheer technique. In
a way, Marianna Schmidt's recent work has
much in common with that of a few
European Neo-surrealists whose work
has unfortunately not yet been shown in
America, especially with that of Yueksel
Arslan, a Turkish artist who works and
exhibits in Paris, and that of Piet Morell, a
young German who has so far exhibited
only in Western Germany. Technically,
Marianna Schmidt's work had long been of
unusual complexity; it has now become
intensely and interestingly personal in its
style and subject matter. In her Op art
reliefs, on the other hand, Marianna
Schmidt allows herself too little freedom and
fantasy. Here she seems content to
remain a faithful disciple of her
Hungarian masters, Moholy-Nagy, Bortnik
and Varsarely. It is indeed almost puzzling
to see a gifted artist produce, in the medium
of prints, such original figurative work,
but in another medium, that of reliefs,
such strictly impersonal and even
conventional compositions.
Among the artists of Vancouver, David
Mayrs is the kind of outsider and
unabashed provincial who sometimes
attracts and deserves more attention than
other artists who all too busily follow the
latest metropolitan trends. By temperament
a born Expressionist, he often suggests
naive implications too. He has a rare gift
for handling the utterly drab and mediocre
aspects of contemporary life as if he were
seeing them for the first time, with wonder
and awe.
Of all recent styles and movements,
Hard Edge and Op art probaby offer a
provincial artist the best chances of

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