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AT THE GALLERIES / Robert McDonald

January 09, 1987|ROBERT MCDONALD

SAN DIEGO — Spectrum Gallery (744 G St.) has an outstanding exhibition of black-and-white photographs with texts. The subject is somber but one that affects us all: our final days.

Eric Blau's "Journey: Portraits of the Seriously and Terminally Ill" consists of 30 images of ordinary people making ordinary statements about their conditions. Most have either survived treatment for or are dying from cancer.

Instead of drama, the exhibition possesses a profoundly human directness that conveys an iconic authority to the individual images.

Blau began working on the project in late 1984, photographing his subjects in their homes and taping their comments about their lives. Few of the subjects are elderly. Most are in their middle years. Some are quite young. All express an acquiescence in living from day to day.

All the admirable human emotions are present, even humor. "Just live from day to day, that's all," Mr. Hopster said from his wheelchair. "If I want to eat pork chops, we'll eat pork chops . . . " And so on through bacon, steaks, butter and grease.

The presentation of the works is professional in quality, one of the most handsome to appear at Spectrum Gallery. The exhibition has already traveled to the Museum of Art of the University of Oregon and will next travel to the Art Museum of the University of Hawaii. There are plans for publishing it as a book.

It is a very powerful and instructive show, moving but not depressing. Perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from it is that, although death is an experience that we all share, it is one that we generally do not prepare for yet can.

The exhibition continues through Jan. 31.

The exhibition at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park is, as usual, a very mixed bag.

Outstanding among four artists invited by the institute's board of directors to exhibit is Eugenie Geb, whose works have been previously included in a group show at the prestigious Patty Aande Gallery downtown.

Geb uses black and white materials exclusively to make mysteriously evocative paintings and drawings.

All are bleak landscapes. In the most lively, a flock of crows flies above a field. In the most sinister, a form like a severed hand appears. All the paintings resemble the surface of the moon.

Several of the drawings are nearly monochromatic--densely black environments that you feel you can sink into.

In the narrow, horizontal drawing entitled "Rise of the Full Moon," Geb restores all the magic of night to a common image.

Geb is a gifted artist, all of whose works evince great presence.

Also included in the invitational exhibition are 29 older works by San Diego veteran artist Edgar Hatten. In his intimate works (the smallest of which is 2 inches by 3 inches, the largest, less than 2 feet square), Hatten demonstrates a predilection for seductive colors and a melancholy mood.

His subjects range from abstractions (a series of "Patterns") to landscapes, still-lifes and portraits.

Among the works, "Landscape," a view across a bay, is outstanding.

Unfortunately, the installation is very crowded so that it is difficult to fully appreciate Hatten's subtle paintings.

Included as well in the "invitational" are pastel paintings and silverpoint drawings by Hiroshi Miyazaki, and sculptures in black granite and bronze by John Dewitt Clark.

Also at the Art Institute is a solo exhibition of watercolor land- and seascapes by Annette Paquet. All are competent and most are sentimental. The strongest are "Red Mountain," "Mesa Lookout," "Monterey Shores" and "Cut Ups or (Not Much Longer)," which are muscular rather than sweet.

Beverly Pearson is exhibiting a hodgepodge of prints and mixed-media works. It appears to be a point of pride with her that she does not feel that she must choose between representational and abstract images or one style or another. The long-term result will surely be that she will not develop a style that is distinctively her own, and will not mature as an artist.

The most egregious work exhibited is a parody of Manet's "Le dejeuner sur l'herbe," in which the genders of the figures are reversed: two women in business suits picnic with a nude man while another man jogs in the background. Yuk!

The exhibitions continue through Feb. 1.

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