“No Fooling, We Mean It!” at The McLoughlin Gallery is a show that is simultaneously playful and serious. The cavernous space of the gallery plays host to several large-scale works by sculptors David Middlebrook, Jeff Schomberg and Doug Thielscher. Each of the sculptors has a different focus, Schomberg on metal, Thielscher on stone, and Middlebrook on mixed materials. But all three present very serious well-constructed and polished piece (“no fooling”) with a sense of humor and fun (“fooling”). Additionally, all three are local artists, working and residing in the extended Bay Area.
The overall presentation has a sparseness, with lots of empty space and exposure of the gallery’s bare concrete walls that make it easy to focus on a single piece at any given moment. Even the larger stone works are not crowded and blend with structure of the space. I was most immediately drawn to Schomberg’s metal work, and in particular his pair of geometric wall pieces, Hinged and Unhinged.
[Jeff Schomberg, Hinged (2009). Found metal objects in steel frame. Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery.]
[Jeff Schomberg, Uninged (2009). Found metal objects in found frame assemblage. Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery. Click to enlarge.]
The rectangular frames serve as a boundary between the space of the gallery and the empty space within the pieces. Inside, each object is given room to be seen separately, such as the large circle in Unhinged or the intricate thin metal lines in both pieces that remind of my street maps. Indeed, the combination of geometric elements and metal coincide with my own focus on urban landscape and infrastructure. (See the similar elements in yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday post.) The circular elements seem particularly prominent in contrast to the mostly straight-line shapes of the found-metal components. Still other objects manage to retain their original functional shape and industrial history from before they became art. His mixed-media piece Trumbull takes the industrial theme one step further. An old rusted fuse box has been combined with a video of a fireplace and reassembled into a new piece of machinery. It is futuristic, in that delightful dystopian sort of way, even as it looks back on earlier electrical technology.
[Jeff Schomberg, Trumbull (2011). Fuse box with video. Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery. Click image to enlarge.]
These pieces, however, do stand apart within the overall exhibit. If there is one theme that cuts across all of the artists, it is “human-like forms that really aren’t human.” Among Schomberg’s metal sculptures are a series of small human-like figures with heads shaped like pipes or other pieces of hardware – probably the most humorous of his offerings. David Middlebrook’s assemblages have an organic look about them and some such as King of Things seem like they could get up and walk around. Think of Terry Gilliam’s cartoons or some of the creatures from the 1970s animated film Fantastic Planet.
[David Middlebrook, King of Things (2010). Bronze, aluminum, Indian gibble, cast expoxy. Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery. Click image to enlarge.]
The bronze box that serves as the base for the large stone egg in Middlebrook’s Carbon was an interesting touch. Doug Thielsher’s stone sculptures are the most directly figurative, but even here the figures are quite distorted, as in the two marble heads of The Ninth Circle that melt into one another. Thielsher’s sculptures were most noticeable for their use of the gallery space. From a distance, they seem like well-placed classical sculpture in a traditional art museum – and indeed they all draw from biblical or mythological themes. Up close, one sees the more surreal and humorous nature. Again, the one that most resonated for me was the most geometric. In Cain #3, the detached hand is almost lost underneath the large white cube and the black dot. Similarly, the hand seems to disappear into the large black cube of Cain #1.
[Doug Thielscher, Cain #3 (2006). Carrara and Belgian black marble. Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery. ]
The exhibit opened, appropriately, on April 1, and will remain on display though May 21. For more information about the exhibition and visiting, visit the gallery’s website.