The art world at Harvard is still in a fairly embryonic state and is likely to remain so until Oregonian benevolence takes full effect and provides a stimulation which has long been lacking. The exhibition of students' work at Adams House represents, to a great extent, people whose work has constituted the nucleus of whatever activity the past few years have produced. It also shows considerable growth on their part, which is in itself an encouraging sign.
This is an extracurricular movement which has no Shakespeare or Mozart to carry it along on the road to professionalism. The student painter, like his counterpart, the writer, has a universe to face strictly on his own. All the inspiration and mentors in the world do not constitute a script or score and the challenge involved more than balances the opportunity. As is often the case with local literary attempts, the gap between aspiration and achievement is due, much of the time, to a basic inability to cope with the art's more fundamental and less romantic aspects, rather than to lack of capacity or imagination. The Adams House show, however, is encouraging in this respect. It reveals, more often than not, a concern with basic elements without which nothing is likely to progress.
It was Stephen Leacock who once remarked that whenever a beauty contest winner was announced he could think of at least five girls on his block who looked better. This, unhappily, is even more often the case with art juries and the prizes they give. Why prizes need be selected at all, save for reasons of incentive, is a much argued question which rarely gets answered. Yet, this jury did well. First prize went to Jose Buscaglia for his sculpture ". . . of an Inspiration." Sculptors too often suffer the fate of going unnoticed in an exhibition of paintings, as if their contribution was to be taken as decor, and it is good to see first prize go to a sculpture of remarkable proficiency. The work is actually a series of three pieces, akin in conception to Rodin's The Hand of God. Buscaglia might do well in the future to exhibit each separately. Each is capable of standing alone and each, despite their continuity, tends to lessen the importance of the other.
Yoshiaki Shimizu, who took the honors in painting, is another standby, perhaps the most capable of Harvard's painters until his recent departure. These are among Shimizu's most effective things. Unfortunately, Shimizu's work tends to be eclectic, and he shares with his mentor Ben Shahn an oversophistication which often works against him. Nevertheless, a sensitive spirit and great facility are there, and well deserve the jury's accolades.
Willard Midgette's woodcuts were chosen in the graphics category. The woodcut is a difficult medium as far as achieving any degree of subtlety is concerned, and Midgette handles it well. The woodcutter always faces the danger of producing a stereotype, and although Midgette's work suffers in this respect it also reflects a surety and precision which is highly personal.
There are a good many people in any diverse exhibition, like John Doylan, Michael Pollatzek, David Szanton and Sarah Wheeler, whose work is especially notable but escapes the nod of the most competent jury. At the risk of slighting American traditions their work demands equal recognition. In time we may be able to attract painters of equal energy to the College in greater numbers, and even keep the ones we already have.