A photo captured in SoHo, New York City, framing a metal sculpture and black-cat painting on a wall.
A photo captured in SoHo, New York City, framing a metal sculpture and black-cat painting on a wall.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the Four Squared exhibition at Arc Studios and Gallery – I attended the opening and also visited again later when it was quiet. I present some of my thoughts and observations before the exhibition closes tomorrow, September 18.
The basic idea of the exhibition is that each artist contributes 16 pieces, no larger than 10 inches apiece, that can arranged in a four-by-four grid. The pieces stand on their own as individuals or as a whole, but in each case they 4×4 collection follows some coherent theme. Keeping the numerical theme going, there were a total of 16 artists, so there were a total of 256 (4 x 4 x 4 x 4) pieces in the exhibition.
There were artists whose work I was already familiar with, such as Silvia Poloto, Kristina Quinones and Rebecca Fox, and others who I discovered for the first time. Among the discoveries was Sidnea D’Amico:
[Sidnea D’Amico, installation view.]
Her pieces feature high contrast color and iconic elements representing household items, female figures and firsts. Keep Out, Private, which its geometric and urban feel, particularly caught my attention, as did Still Life 4 for its simple shapes and color.
[Sidnea D’Amico. Keep Out, Private and Still Life 4 (2010)]
The pieces among D’Amico’s set that I particularly liked shared a sense of color and contrast with the purely abstract pieces by Silvia Poloto, whose work I have followed for many years.
[Silvia Poloto. Abstraction in Motion series (2010). Installation view.]
Hers were among the smallest in the exhibition, each one a miniature version of the elements that appear in her larger works such as concentric circles, soft-edged color fields, and tangled lines. The were very inviting, and I had to resist the desire to simply take one and put it my pocket. I doubt I would be invited to any more art openings if I did that.
Rebecca Fox is another artist who usually works on a larger scale. Her large metal sculptures have both a strength and simplicity, with the geometric shapes and smooth textures. Like Poloto, she has brought the quality of her full-scale works to these miniature panels:
[Rebecca Fox. Installation view]
Each panel focuses on shapes that are round but not perfectly circular – both organic in terms of curved shapes but also mechanical in terms of the metalwork.
Molly Meng’s work in the exhibition is about as contrasting to the previous artists as one can get. Her mixed media panels feature found objects with a weathered quality, placing intimate personal objects, photographs and clips from newspapers and magazines, inside of weathered wooden boxes:
[Molly Ming. La Premier Phase #3, Phase Deux #3, and Phase Deux #4. Images from Arc Studios website. (Click to enlarge.)]
Meng used the arrangement of the grid to form a narrative, with each row representing a different phase of life. Each of the three images above were from a different phase.
Mitchel Confer’s series, entitled “IOU or not”, also is focused the stages of life, and in a very serious way. This summer, while preparing for the exhibition, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and the focus of his life changed to focus on taking care of himself and spending time with his family. He abandoned his original plans for the exhibition, and instead created 16 blank wooden panels:
[Mitechel Confer. IOU or NOT. Installation view.]
Each panel is an “I.O.U.” of sorts. The buyer may keep the panel as is, or exchange it at a future time for a completed panel based on a series of sketches. If he does not recover, the panels become his last works of art. There is a very morbid quality to the project – but one I am not in a position to judge given where I am in my own life. But one cannot help but reflect on life after seeing it. I did like the sketches he did present, with their urban architectural elements.
I went to review his website and saw that architecture and cityscapes are a prominent theme in his work. He also did a series based on freeways. Seeing that his visual interests seem to have so much in common with mine makes this story all that more poignant.
Other series that I did notice in the exhibition were those by Brian McDonald and Fernando Reyes. Both artists mentioned dreams as an influence and although quite different, their work immediately brought cartoons and comics to mind.
[Brian McDonald. Slippy (2010). (Click image to enlarge.)]
[Fernando Reyes. Details XIII (2010). (Click image to enlarge.)]
There will be a closing reception and artists’ panel tomorrow, September 18, at Arc Studios, 1246 Folsom Street, San Francisco, between 10AM and 3PM.
Week 3 of San Francisco Open Studios features South of Market (SOMA), my neighborhood, and Mission Bay, the corridor along 3rd street further south. This is a rather large piece of territory within the city, and a mixture of old industrial areas and downtown that seems to me very creative. I have decided to divide my experience into three distinct sections: abstract, architectural/urban, and figurative/characters. These are by no means authoritative groupings, they just represent the main areas of my interest among the work that I saw, and a way to separate the large number of artists I saw into something a bit more manageable. And of course many of the artists blue the boundaries between these distinctions. This article presents a few of the artists whose work was primarily abstract.
At South Beach Studios, I once again visited the studio of Paule Dubios Dupuis. I had seen her work last year when I was specifically looking for large abstract paintings, and indeed her rich and vibrant canvases were once again among the largest I saw this weekend. Her paintings feature shapes and areas of color of different sizes with soft of ambiguous borders – the content has a very expressive, even emotional, quality. Her smaller “Graffiti” series is very crisp and tight with shades of black and grey; her exceptionally large Pour toi maman is simultaneously study in color, shape, and use of text, and a moving tribute to her mother.
At 1035 Market Street, I encountered the work of Clare Kuo. Her large abstract paintings have very strongly defined shapes and boundaries, with large fields of color. Within each, one can see different shades in the brush strokes and fine detail, but it is the large outlined shapes that most stand out. Conceptually and texturally, her paintings remind me a bit of Silvia Poloto’s Observations series (from Open Studios week 1), but with a different vocabulary of shapes.
Also at 1035 Market, Andrzej Michael Karwacki presented both abstract work as well as figurative work, and indeed I did not initially realize they were from the same artist.Karwacki keeps the two bodies of work fairly separate, and noted that the viewers and clients for his abstract and figurative work fell into two very distinct groups. So perhaps I was an exception in having an interest in both. His abstract work was very textural, with brighter natural colors often running down the canvas in a manner that suggests water running down the side of a wall. Some of his paintings also feature plant shapes and patterns. His figurative paintings, by contrast, had a very crisp feel with well defined lines, and reminded me of fashion and glamor photos. These images also incorporated text in the form of poems printed in the background.
One of my favorite “spaces” from the weekend was Pier 70, a collection of dilapidated port and industrial buildings in Mission Bay. I featured one of my own photos from this area in last week’s Wordless Wednesday, and will have more to say about it in a future article.
I did see several artists at the Noonan Building at Pier 70, including Phillip Hua. I have seen Hua’s abstract work from his De/Construction series before at Hang here in San Francisco. I was attracted to the large shapes lined with smaller dots and splatters; and stark coloring with broad areas of black set against white and bright colors. His more recent work, re:Action involves ink and tape placed on top of pages of the Wall Street Journal. The images of trees that emerge suggest the “reclaiming” of the Journal pages. The newspaper was created from trees, and now it is being used to recreate trees.
In a lower level of the same building, I found the work of John Haines. His metal sculptures feature soft curving lines, circles and smooth textures. The abstract metal shapes have a very organic feel and the thin lines in some of the pieces convey a sense of motion. It also was fun to try and use the circles as “windows” through which to peer at some of the other sculptures.
It seems that I always end up being drawn to abstract metal sculpture, and thus I ended up again this year atIslais Creek Studios. Some of the artists I saw last year were not showing this time. But I did see Rebecca Fox’s large metal sculptures. Her arrangements of almost perfect circles and other curvilinear forms in arrangements suggest astronomical symbols. The shapes and surfaces have a very smooth, continuous quality to them. They also have a feeling of strength when viewed in person, even some of the pieces composed of thinner circles.
Nearby, Yong Han’s sculptures provided a stark contrast. If Fox’s sculptures are represent simplicity, strength and circles, Han’s are intricate, delicate and very linear. Several of his sculptures featured complex arrangements of wire, bars and rods, sometimes vertical and sometimes at odd angles, and sometimes quite tall. Although not necessarily the tallest of his sculptures, I liked this pair as they reminded me a downtown city block.
Back in SOMA. Reiko Muranaga’s drawings blended figurative and abstract shapes, such as in the large charcoal-and-ink drawing Session. One can focus on either the thick black curving lines, or the figures that emerge from them. This piece in particular seemed to fit quite well with the red table in front of it.
She has also composed some exceptionally large scrolls of her drawings, although these were not on view. Muranaga also presented her Letters to Monet series features soft fields of colors (light reds, oranges, blues) overlaid with very detailed brush strokes suggesting birds or plants.
At Garage Studios on Bryant Street. Alan Mazzetti’s paintings feature a very geometric vocabulary with clearly delineated shapes and textures. Although the linear and rectangular shapes stand out from a distance, up close one can see the the defining elements are the circles. There the large and clearly visible circles, but also the arrays of smaller circles that together form larger objects, and the circles that are hidden in the textures of the paintings.
At SOMA Studios Mark Harris presented an interest mix of purely abstract work from his Letting Go series featuring energetic curved lines, and prints that ranged from abstract to overtly political. Some of his prints were recycled from previous trials, on which he placed text elements including his iconic “signature” shape.
I had initially seen Jeremy Garza’s work as another example of the use of text in abstract art, with his shapes that resembled a sci-fi language. This was apparently a coincidence, though he noted I was not the first person to point that out during the day.
A few artists blurred the distinction between abstract and architectural (actually, several did whether intentionally or not, like Yong Han’s sculptures above). From a distance, some of the paintings in Nanci Price Scoular’s “journeys” series look like abstract color fields with soft muted tones, but on closer inspection they are revealed to be details from structures, such as the “urban still life” pieces featuring rusted iron rings and gates.
Samantha Ricca also crosses the boundary between abstract and architectural, with one series of paintings featuring surved, organic, almost corporeal shapes, and another featuring featuring straight lines and sharply delineated outlines of structures, such as a ferris wheel. Ricca’s studio was back at Pier 70, and a fitting place to conclude until the next article, which will focus on urban and architectural art.
[Images marked with “catsynth.com” are photographs taken with permission of the artists for use in these artists. Other images are reproduced from artists’ websites with their permission.]
We had another warm weekend, so Luna and I enjoyed some late-October time out on the patio.
I particularly like this second photo, with its sparse quality. Luna and screen are discrete elements on the continuous field of stone squares.
The Carnival of the Cats will be up today at When Cats Attack!.
The friday ark is at the modulator.
And don’t forget that Weekend Cat Blogging Hallowe’en Edition will be right here at CatSynth next Saturday!
Our weather continues to be unusually warm and sunny (considering the reputation of San Francisco summers from Mark Twain’s apocryphal comment). And Luna continues to enjoy time out in our little urban garden.
Here we see her strolling:
And stopping to pose in front a metal screen sculpture:
Right now, we have two sculptures outdoors: the black metal screen, and the rusted metal work Pierced Screen by J. Michael Smiley.
This weekend is looking to be exceptionally warm again (well into the 90s in this neighborhood), so Luna has wisely retreated indoors.
Weekend Cat Blogging #221 is being hosted by Mr. Tigger at the M-Cats Club.
The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at When Cats Attack.
And of course the Friday Ark is the modulator. But it looks like they are moving to a new “Modulator Manor”. Recalling the chaos but subsequent rewards when we moved to the new CatSynth HQ, we wish them well!
[For Weekend Cat Blogging, please follow this link].
Since last Sunday (after my performance at the Y2K8 Looping Festival), visual art as taken over. October is Open Studios in San Francisco, where artists open up their studios to for public visits. I took advantage of the opportunity to get acquainted with local artists, mostly in the neighborhoods in walking distance, and the local art scene.
Taking in so much art and so many artists in such a short period of time is quite overwhelming, and I will only be able to describe a small fraction of what I saw. What makes a particular artist memorable and noteworthy is not only the quality of his or her work, but the conversations and personal connections. In some cases, I remember artists whose work may not fit my own aesthetic, but whose meeting was memorable. It was also the setting, and how their work fit in with my vision and sense of the neigbhorhoods.
Potrero Hill, The Mission District, and Bernal Heights
My first day out was last Sunday during which I visited several large studios in the Potrero Hill and Mission districts. The first stop was Art Explosion Studios. Here I met and had a change to talk with Amy Seefeldt; and Victoria Highland, whose large city-scape on a hill in front of a bay (where have I seen that before?) was one of the better large-scale paintings I saw. Heidi McDowell had an interesting large-scale painting featuring a young girl at Lassen National Monument, which I visited last year. The recent work of Melisa Philips is perhaps closer to my own interests. One of her paintings featuring stenciled text is shown to the right. I have discussed here on CatSynth in the past my interest in text within visual art, and whether the words and letters are simply visual elements or retain their meaning. Melisa Philips and I had an interesting conversation about this topic. Additionally, her earlier work includes some of the more interesting female figures I encountered on this particular day.
It is hard to tell specifically where Potrero Hill ends and the Mission begins, and many of the venues on this particular trip sit in that ambiguous area of old industrial buildings dotted with lofts and art spaces. Within these spaces, I encountered not only traditional fine art, but other media as well, some which would have been traditionally classified as “craft.” There were several jewelry makers, for example – there is a fuzzy dividing line at which things like jewelry become art, perhaps when they become more an item to collect and display, rather than to wear. There were the chandeliers by “adventurer” Derek E. Burton, which were quite intricate and intriguing, and although they are completely opposite of my personal style and the style of CatSynth HQ, I enjoyed hearing Derek’s story and his passion for his work. Aliza Cohen presented mix-media art, but it was her wool pillows that caught my attention. I did also encounter more traditional media, such as the photography of Christine Federici that incorporated some architectural and space details, as well as a mixture of natural and artificial textures.
Interestingly, it seemed that “modern” art, which is my main interest, was a distinct minority among the works encountered on this first trip. Certainly, there were many artists working with abstraction, but overall it did not have the stark geometric or textural qualities that I have come to expect.
When searching for “abstract” on the main website, the work of Pauline Crowther Scott showed up on the list. Her works features images of cats. Cats and abstraction seem like a good combination, so I made the trip out to her home studio in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. The trip to the narrow and sometimes vertical streets and older houses in this neighborhood in the southeast of the city, on a somewhat chilly late afternoon, was an interesting experience in itself. Scott’s work was much less abstract than I had expected (she was in fact surprised by the designation), but she did have several works featuring cats that were added to earlier (and indeed somewhat abstract) images. One example was Three Cats on a Bedspread.
South of Market and Mission Bay
This weekend featured open studios the South of Market (SOMA) area, which is my own neighborhood. Overall, the works I encountered were decidedly more modern, and often seemed to take inspiration from the industrial and urban surroundings. Indeed, the mixed media works of Rebecca Kerlin draw upon the highway overpasses, such as I-80 and the approach to the Bay Bridge, that I have featured in many posts here at CatSynth, such as in this Wordless Wednesday post. Her work incorporates photos of familiar landmarks and details into mixed media pieces.
One of my longer pieces about walking in SOMA included this photograph featuring an onramp to the Bay Bridge over Bryant Street, near the landmark Clock Tower:
It turns out that building in the foreground contains several artist studios. Among the artists at this locations was Paule Dubois Dupuis. Her work includes large abstract modernist paintings, the type of art I am currently quite interested in. Some of her pieces also included stenciled text, another common theme among works that draw my attention. In addition to the art itself, her studio is in quite a location, with windows that look out onto the bay, the industrial/office buildings and the highway supports, depending on the direction of one’s gaze. I was inspired to take this photo:
At Clara Street Studios, I encountered the work of Jerry Veverka, whose work involves plays on architecture and geometry, with some surrealist elements. I had seen an example at the SomArts exhibit, and was particularly drawn to his “Impossible Cities Series,” an example of which is displayed to the right. (Click on the image for a full size version at his website.)
Two other photographers I also encountered at included familiar sights from both New York and San Francisco in their work, and I had fun identifying and discussing them. I have unfortunately misplaced both photographers’ contact info (and I cannot find them on the original list. Hopefully, I will be able to get in touch them soon.
Back at Soma Artists Studios (same location as Rebecca Kerlin), I saw an interesting progression the work of Flora Davis. Her early work featured oil paintings of cats, while her more recent work involves sheet metal. They were quite separate, indeed they were displayed in two separate studios. However, I think it would be interesting to place one or two of the smaller cat paintings next to her multi-panel metal works, and considering them as a unit. Indeed, it would summarize my experience as modernism, abstraction, geometry, and cats.
After an exhausting but rewarding walk around the neigbhorhood, I did have to time for a brief excursion south to some studios in the Mission Bay area, which includes much of the old industrial waterfront.
The view behind the studios at 1 Rankin Street onto the Islais Creek Channel were quite inspiring, even without the presence of art. Fitting with the environment, this studio featured metal sculptures. The large sculptures of Béla Harcos greeted visitors. No matter how much I am supposed to be looking for prints and paintings, I am still drawn to abstract metal sculpture. Rebecca Fox also had large works on display, and I able to glimpse her workspace and her collection of metal waiting to be used. The “artist blacksmith” Wolf Thurmeier has some smaller, even “miniature” abstract metal sculptures (what I would consider “apartment-sized”), forged from recycled metal.
Quite by coincidence, I also had the opportunity this weekend to attend a private tour of the Anderson Art Collection. The collection is located in Menlo Park (south of San Francisco, near Stanford University), and features late 20th century and early 21st century American art. It includes over 800 works, spanning about five decades and several notable styles and schools, including color fields, minimalism, the New York school of the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg). There were also recent computer-assisted works by Chuck Close, as well as emerging artists that the Andersons are supporting. One interesting discovery for me was Frank Lobdell. I will have to look for him on the outside. I found it interesting how some of his work resembled the Jasper Johns’ prints featured in the collection (especially the reductions in the very detailed brochures).
This visit to one of the premier private collections was an interesting contrast to many local independent artists over the past week. I would to think that my art experiences will continue to include both.