April 2010 comPAct

April 29th, 2010

These reviews of the April 2010 First Thursday in SF and First Friday Oakland Art Murmur were originally written for comPAct, “the unholy little brother” of Plastic Antinomy. Layla Lyne-Winkler, Editor. 

“textie textie” New work by Gaby Wolodarski @ Hatch Gallery, 492 23rd St., Oakland, April 1st – May 1st.

"It's Over"

And the award for most improved from the previous month goes to… Hatch Gallery. After March’s show, “textie textie” was a very pleasant surprise. There are a few hasty pieces on cardboard, such as “Glitterbunny,” (2009) and “Three Drugs,” (2009). But at least they were priced accordingly, at $200 each, and were definitely the exception. Many pieces are truly remarkable.

Some are deceptively simple. “It’s Over,” a creepy bit of gallows humor, is a 3″x3″ oil on panel of a skull and telephone. Is this a breakup call or is it, you know, game over? In the lavishly framed “Purple Dream,” the silhouette of a figure rests at the extreme bottom right corner of the piece, beneath an etched sky, resembling a still from the opening credits of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” “Untitled (orange border)” appears to be an abstract landscape, with a line of parallelograms stretching across the horizon. Does it mark the beginning or end of civilization? Beats me, but it sure looks cool.

Some pieces were full to bursting with symbolism, or at least with symbols. In her 72″x45″ acrylic and oil on canvas “Crystal Geyser of the Rainbow Bunnies,” Wolodarski shows off her skill with a traditional trompe l’oeil rabbit, surrounding it with more modern elements: Crystal hearts, an empty Crystal Geyser water bottle, and a bathtub blinged out with a Lexus logo, while narwhals frolic in the water.

All the work in the exhibit was newish, created between 2006 and 2010, but all the outstanding pieces mentioned above were created just this year, a very encouraging sign from this prolific young artist.

Rating: Yay

“KAGAMI (Mirror)” Work by Kana Tanaka @ Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 480 23rd St., Oakland , April 2nd – May 15th.

"Winter Night Sky"

Tanaka’s glass-based work is mesmerizing. “Mirror Surface”—bits of glass suspended on taut, delicate wires, appears to capture rain, and you are viewing the droplets from beneath the surface of still water in which they are reflected. In “Morning Dew,” large glass globes are positioned along a web of stainless steel cables, a macro view demonstrating the adhesion of water and alluding to the great proportionate strength of a spider web. And the beauty of a single drop of water is explored further in her only non-installation pieces, “Aqueous” and “Petal Stream,” in which she explores the cohesion of water.

Her final installation piece tucked in the back of gallery, “Winter Night Sky,” was indeed the grand finale. At first I noticed only the spotlit mirror covered with glass fragments. Pretty enough, but not all that impressive. Then I looked up and saw the angel. Technically, I saw the reflection of the illuminated glass shards on the wall in a pattern that resembled an angel, but I have never felt more moved by a seraphic image. It felt like an angel had been revealed, rather than created. It was simply magical.

Rating: Yay

“Where do I go from here?” Work by Mark Wagner, Clayton Thiel, and Salane C Schultz @ FLOAT, 1091 Calcot Place , Unit #116, Oakland, March 20th – April 24th.

"Head with Falling Star" by Clayton Thiel

“Where do I go from here?” includes Wagner’s older work “Creation of Language” (1992) with the Native American imagery for which he is known, and “The Nature of Technology” (2003) which humorously shows African animals depicted as bipeds posing for a camera. His newer pieces are complex, beautiful, and fearsome. The trio of digital prints “Horned Goddess,” “Green Man Medicine,” and “The Art of War” (2010) appear to be warriors, to protect or heal us. The theme of fierce but beneficent figures continues with his new paintings “Sentinel of Time” and “The Soul Gatherer.”

The styles and mythologies of Wagner and Clayton Thiel mix easily. According to Thiel’s statement, “Once imbuing his heads and figures with more obvious narrative elements, often composed of symbolic objects or story-telling hints to be interpreted, his sculptures now ask only to be examined for themselves.” However, his work is not only beautiful and intriguing, but also has a strong narrative quality.

Painter Salane C Shultz is also a musician, and she anthropomorphizes music into figures reminiscent of Kokopelli, the Native American fertility deity who also represents the spirit of music. With their silhouettes and intertwined loops, the subjects populating the mythology of her two-dimensional universe also call to mind Keith Haring.

Rating: Yay

“Gun Show,” work by Betty and Clayton Bailey @ A440 Gallery, 49 Geary #440, San Francisco, March 1st – April 17th

This could have been a fantastic show. Funk artist Clayton Bailey’s futuristic weapons are wicked looking, and they actually work. They shoot peas, potatoes, or corks instead of laser beams, but Clayton is a dead shot and it scared the hell out of me when he fired one at a gong. His arsenal is handcrafted from stainless steel, brass, copper, and hardwood as well as hacksaws, bicycle chains and other found objects. A pair of menacing robots stand guard over the stockpile, so no funny business.

The drawings by Betty Bailey were cute and sweet, but not nearly at the level necessary to complement Clayton’s sculptures, and so merely served as a distraction, changing the feeling of the show from high art to a hobbyist’s tinkering. This tiny gallery space would have been put to better use in a solo exhibit of Clayton’s craftsmanship.

Rating: mixed

“I Still Do + Sea of Dreams” Work by Judith Fox @ FiftyCrows, 49 Geary #225, San Francisco, March 4th – April 4th.

Judith Fox exhibits photos of her husband, Dr. Edmund Ackell, who used to “fly a plane, perform surgery, consult worldwide, head a university and medical centers, hit four holes-in-one….” That was before Alzheimer’s. And now? “These are some of the things my husband can’t do anymore: find his way to and from an unfamiliar bathroom, work the coffee maker… or remember something I told him two minutes ago.”

Punctuated by her poetic written observations into living and loving with Alzheimer’s, Fox’s photos portray moments of introspection as well as a sense of humor that survives and functions as a coping mechanism. They not only put a face on this devastating disease, but capture the soul behind it.

Large, greenish photos of swirling ocean currents are hung throughout the gallery, their turbidity creating amorphous, abstract structures resembling images taken by the Hubble telescope. These unlabeled photos, part of Fox’s unidentified “Sea of Dreams” series, provide a peaceful, soothing backdrop to the exhibit. Together with “I Still Do,” the quiet beauty of these timeless photos of nature remind us that, “In the midst of a devastating disease, there are still lovely moments, laughs, hands held and bodies touched, and the precious and fragile gift of time together.”

Rating: Yay

Michael Singman-Aste
Postdiluvian Photo

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