Stefan Kirkeby, Amy Ellingson and Book Release at Gallery 16

Back in January I attended the opening for an exhibition by Stefen Kirkeby and Amy Ellingson at Gallery 16 here in San Francisco. The work of both artists focused on prints and printmaking in its various forms. The show also served as the release party for the gallery’s 16th anniversary book.

Stefan Kirkeby’s photographs have a very minimal and geometric quality, and celebrate these elements in everyday architecture and infrastructure. The prints on display also featured a variety of techniques. Particularly interesting were the series of gravures along one wall. The gravures are made using copper plates to “etch” the image onto paper. In terms of subject, each of the photographs focused on a single geometric element. Up Lift (Venice, CA 2007) featured concentric round solids, while Boxed (also from Venice, CA) featured in square inset. There were also areal views of fields with rectangular patterns, some mechanical contraptions, and in Sun stones (Japan 2008) a large stone cube on tiles that remind me of the distinctive floor of . Perhaps the most striking was Dead Center (Arizona, 2000) which distills the view (looking up from the center of a power-line tower) into a symmetric and seemingly algorithmic arrangement of straight lines.

[Stefan Kirkeby. Dead Center. Image courtesy of Gallery 16. (Click to enlarge.)]

There was also a much larger scale version of Dead Center entitled Dead Dead Center. In addition to the scale and use of a different printing technique, the image was inverted (i.e., white on black). Both versions work well, and highlight the . The power lines are a rich source for Kirkeby, who also presented a series of closeups of the wires at various angles, with evocative titles. The close-ups and high contrast makes these very abstract and bring to mind some of the minimalist and industrial-inspired paintings of early 20th century. I think part of the attraction of the pieces involving regular shapes and straight lines is that they draw ones attention to elements in the real world that have the simplicity and calm of computer-generated or machine-generated object.

Also on display were prints by Amy Ellingson. We have seen and reviewed examples of Ellingson’s work at earlier exhibitions. The pieces in this exhibition all featured the same flattened oval shape that appeared prominently in her previous work, arranged in regular 3-by-3 grids. They serve as areas of contrasting color and texture between foreground and background, and sometimes as windows of sorts.

[Amy Ellingson, Unitited #5 (2011). Image courtesy of Gallery 16.]

In Inverse Title 11, the oval shapes have a light color and bright texture in contrast to the main black field, almost like cut-out areas. In a series of larger untitled works, the shapes are more like overlays against a translucent color field with soft textures, as in Unititled #5 (shown above).

This exhibition also marked the release of Gallery 16’s 16th anniversary book These Are The People In Your Neighborhood. As part of the event, several of the artists featured in the book were on hand for a group signing.

I did of course have to get a copy, with as many signatures as I could get during my brief time at the event.

[Click images to enlarge.]

The book is a mixture of writing and images documenting the many artists and events over the gallery’s history in San Francisco. It was initially located at 1616, 16th Street (in the Poterero Hill neighborhood) before moving to its current location in SOMA. Leafing through the book one can the emphasis on print and although there is a wide variety of styles, I did see a lot of works that represent my own interest in modernist and minimal art (as exemplified by this exhibition) and urban themes such as infrastructure or graffiti/cartoons.

Zecca and Frazier, Gallery 16 – and Views of the City at Artist Xchange

A few weeks ago I went out to a couple of openings on a night when I thought I wouldn’t. But after a little bit of rest I was ready to venture out into the still bright and unusually warm evening.

First up was Gallery 16 for the opening of an exhibition featuring the work of Alex Zecca and Suzanne Frazier.

Alex Zecca’s large scale works are composed of thousands of straight lines meticulously drawn in ink. The pieces emerge from the interactions among all the lines. As the artist states, “Color, mixing, reaction and saturation, as well as sequence and systems are the visual dialogue central to my work.” It is hard to imagine the amount of work (physical and metal) that goes into creating something like this.

Some of the works were single color, in which complex images emerge from the density of intersecting lines as well as the angles at which they cross. My favorite pieces in the exhibition were the monochromatic series JANUARY 26, 2010.

[Alex Zecca. JANUARY 26, 2010. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click to enlarge image)]

Each of the twelve sections contains 1260 lines out of which the overall geometric texture of diagonal lines and curves emerges, as well as a texture that resembles interference patterns in optics. Color adds an additional dimension to some pieces, such as FEBRUARY 5, 2010. In the piece, the interference patterns are the central element created by the lines, with complex and subtle color transitions at odd locations within the overall image.

[Alex Zecca. FEBRUARY 5, 2010. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click to enlarge image)]

The paintings in Suzanne Frazier’s Tidelog series with their thick curving shapes and bright colors seem very different at first, but they also follow a very meticulous (and time-consuming) process. Frazier was inspired by the entanglements found along the northern California coastline. She made photographs of masses and strands of kelp, projected the images onto the wall of her studio, and then traced the shapes onto acetate, which she then cut out and used as an “alphabet” from which to create the paintings. The results are paintings whose colors and overall composition are abstract, but whose components are shapes from nature.

[Suzanne Frazier. Tidelog #9. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click image to enlarge)]

While creating the paintings, she also found that the spaces between curves were themselves interesting, and filled these very various textures of dots, crossing lines, etc. Thus, just as with Zecca’s ink drawings, one is compelled to look closely at these paintings to see the detail. Indeed, it was the detail that particular drew me to certain works in the series, such as Tidelog 7 and Tidelog 9.

[Suzanne Frazier. Tidelog #7. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click image to enlarge)]

The exhibition at Gallery 16 will remain up through July 16.

Next, it was off to Artist Xchange for the “Views of the City” show. Regular readers know that views of the city (or of cities in general) are central to my own artistic output as well as what I look for in others. I do tend to look for more unique views of the city, less traveled neighborhoods, unusual perspectives, or spaces and details that are otherwise overlooked. It is too easy in a city like San Francisco to fall into the trap of producing postcard images or trite pieces that would look at home in a souvenir shop, and several artists in this exhibition did just that. But several artists did express unique views of the city that caught my attention.

Sonja Navin was back with her views of familiar highways such as I-280 and side streets around the city. We have reviewed her work before, including her exhibition back in March. Complementing Navin’s work was Zue Acker, who presented her own highway painting as well as images of downtown city blocks were familiar to me as a resident. Indeed, her painting empty downtown – long shadows is exactly the same location as one of my Wordless Wednesday photos!

[Zue Acker. Installation view at Artist Xchange. (Click image to enlarge)]

Paul Kirley captures the city in mid motion, such as his painting Clay Bus showing a Muni bus moving along Clay Street. He refers to these works as “Mixed Photo / Paint Dreamscapes”, blending expressive paint and photographic compositions together on a single canvas. Rather than paintings of blurred or modified photographs, the painting itself becomes the process that causes the photographic images to blur and disintegrate in places.

Elizabeth Geisler’s cityscape images included locations or views in the Bay Area that I did not know well, such as the Richardson Bay Bridge near Sausalito.

[Elizabeth Geisler. Twilight (Richardson Bay Bridge)]

Finally, Joaquin Sorro’s Dolores was a fun piece with buildings and trees at add angles, and seemingly in mid-motion as one might find in a comic book. In fact, his image reminded me of some of the experimental comic art I have been reading about recently, but which will remain a topic for another day.

Art and music notes. Friday, December 18

Last Friday, I managed to visit four different art and music events in one evening. Below are some reflections from each.

Our first stop was the offices of Kearny Street Workshop for their SF Thomassons Holiday Party. Readers may recall KSW’s APAture Festival and the Present Tense Biennial.

“Thomassons” are architectural elements that exist (or persist) outside of the original intended function, such as an inaccessible door leading out of an upper floor of a building, or a staircase leading to nowhere. The term was coined by Japanese conceptual artist and writer Akasegawa Genpei, and the Thomasson website allows people to upload examples from around the world. We at CatSynth have actually presented several Thomassons in our Wordless Wednesday photographic series, including these stairs leading into the San Francisco Bay. KSW’s “SF Thomassons” project involves photography and performance art centered around Thomasson sites in San Francisco. The party was a preview to coincide with Kaya Press’ publication of the first English translation of HYPERART: THOMASSON, and included a performance-art piece set at one of the largest sites in the city, an abandoned church at Howard and 10th streets that happens to be across the street from KSW’s offices.

After that, it was off to Gallery Six at 66 Sixth Street. The current exhibition, entitled “Every Single Where”, features new works by local artist Pakayla Biehn. The paintings each carried superimposed images that are similar but not identical, as if multiple exposures from a camera. According to the press release, Biehn has a congenital visual disability, and her paintings attempt to “give the viewer an understanding of her own optical condition.” Although they share the common theme, each work was stylistically quite different.

Actually, the work in the gallery that caught my attention was not in the featured exhibition, but on display in the back room from a previous exhibition, a small geometric print entitled “Bird’s Nest” from Charmaine Olivia’s Urban Managerie.

From Gallery Six, we then went to Gallery 16 for an exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of Emigre. Emigre was a combination digital type foundry and publisher founded by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko, and is known both for its typefaces and the design journal Emigre Magazine. The exhibition included examples from the magazine and other designs featuring Emigre fonts.

The prints had a very clean quality, with bold colors, large shapes, and of course text. I particularly liked the works based on Licko’s abstract Puzzler font, with it’s arrangements of dots and other elements into larger complex patterns. One of the large prints (again combining text and geometric elements) also featured a large barcode with a valid ISBN number. Thinking myself quite clever, I performed a quick internet search to find out what it was – I suppose I should not have been surprised that it was issue #67 of Emigre Magazine, although the cover image from the magazine looks nothing like this print.

The final stop was Cafe du Nord for a party and concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of KFJC Radio. This was the last of several events marking the anniversary, including the concert at FLUX53 that I attended earlier in the week.

Because of the busy schedule for the evening, we only caught two of the many bands performing. First was the band al Qaeda (I am sure they were aware the name was already taken). Their music combined driving punk-style drum and guitar elements with experimental electronics elements and electrical noise.

Al Qaeda was followed Arrington de Dionyso. I had seen de Dionyso perform in a trio at FLUX53, but this time he was with his band. Once again, he performed a combination of bass clarinet with various vocal techniques, including throat singing, set against standard rock drum, bass and guitar sounds. On the screen behind the band, increasingly complex black-and-white drawings (or paintings) were being created live.