Paul Cowan, Cameron Soren, Amy Yao, Jancar Jones Gallery

A couple of weeks ago I stopped by Jancar Jones Gallery to see the current exhibition featuring works by Paul Cowan, Cameron Soren and Amy Yao. One the things I like about visiting is the gallery itself, a small but inviting room tucked away on a rather idiosyncratic block of Mission Street in SOMA. Despite being such a small space, the exhibitions are always sparse and calming. (You can see previous reviews of exhibits at Jancar Jones via this link.)

[Installation View: Paul Cowan, Cameron Soren, Amy Yao. Image courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery.]

Perhaps the pieces that most caught my interest were Paul Cowan’s two paintings featuring musical notes, both with the label Untitled, 2010. Each features a single quarter note on five-line staff without a clef. Assuming an implicit treble clef (which is admittedly a big assumption), the notes would be A and G, respectively. The “A” is on a very sparse canvas with red lines, similar to something I might have had to draw out myself during early years of studying music. The “G”, by contrast is filled in with vibrant color fields, though once again red is the most prominent color.

[Paul Cowan: Untitled, 2010, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches; and Untitled, 2010, oil on canvas, 18×14 inches.  Images courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery.]

The other piece that caught my attention was Amy Yao’s Dealing Don’t Cry, which featured three small bits of newspaper fastened to a horizontal wooden dowel. The bits of text on two of the paper bits feature the text “Dealing” and “Don’t Cry” – I am always interested in the use of text, especially when the context is missing. My understanding in this work is the title is derived from the material, rather than text being found to fit the title.

[Amy Yao, Dealing Don’t Cry, 2010, wood dowel, newspaper.  Image courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery.]

Rounding out the exhibition was Cameron Soren’s untitled video installation depicting the gallery on the opening on January 7, 6-9PM.

This is the final weekend for the exhibition – it closes on February 12 – so stop by if you happen to be nearby.

Video by Anne Eastman, Maggie Foster, Guthrie Lonergan, Hayley Silverman Jancar Jones Gallery

We now turn our attention to another exhibition that is closing this week. For most of May, Jancar Jones Gallery has presented a group exhibit of videos by Anne Eastman, Maggie Foster, Guthrie Lonergan and Hayley Silverman. Each of videos explores subtle motion and illusory effects, either through the objects being filmed or through computer-based manipulation. The exhibit will remain open at the gallery through May 29.

Anne Eastman, A Record of Abstract Ideas. Image courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery. (Click to enlarge.)

Anne Eastman. Image courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery. (Click to enlarge.)

The work that most caught my attention was A Record of Abstract Ideas, a mesmerizing video by New-York-based artist Anne Eastman. She creates sculptures and installations that are very abstract and formal, but also play with reflection, motion and changes through the inclusion of mirrors and mobile elements. She then creates videos of the installations, which become works in their own right. The video presented here appears to include images of Eastman’s 2009 installation “Mobiles” at the ATM Gallery in New York, as seen here. Throughout the video, one sees portions of geometric shapes, circles, rectangles and grids enter and exit the video at odd angles and reflect different textures and patterns within their boundaries. At times, one sees the elements close-up and disconnected, while at other moments there is enough context to recognize a piece of a sculpture. She also plays with colors and effects of the video itself in creating a work separate from the installation being filmed. At a few times, one can see a video projector in the background, presumably projecting an earlier video of and earlier installation.

Installation view with Hayley Silverman's 1st Movement on left. Courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery. (Click to enlarge.)

Opposite Eastman’s video, the other works were projected onto the wall as part of a single continuous loop. Hayley Silverman’s 1st Movement features images of shiny fabrics that appear to be folding and collapsing naturally, as if a sheet or a piece of clothing were dropped on a surface. However, on close viewing one can see that the images are being digitally deformed, giving the illusion of the natural behavior of fabric. You can see a video example here. The other videos in the loop explore similar themes. In “Floor Warp 2“, Guthrie Lonergan creates the illusion of continuous motion of wooden flooring (very similar to the flooring at CatSynth HQ, actually). Similarly, Maggie Foster’s Untitled (2009) manipulates images of a green lawn creating illusions of distance.

William Leavitt, Boyce/Greenlief duo and Karl Evangelista trio

I continue to work through the backlog of art and music reviews by presenting some of the openings and performances I saw on the particularly busy and fun evening of February 19 here in San Francisco. Although the evening included both musical performances and exhibitions of visual art, music was present as a central theme throughout.

First up, we visited Jancar Jones Gallery for the opening of William Leavitt: A Show of Cards. The exhibition featured “over 300 ink drawings on index cards” (though I only counted 248) arranged in three groups on the walls of the gallery.

[William Leavitt, A Show of Cards: Installation View. Photo courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery. (Click to enlarge.)]

The gallery’s stark white walls presented a great surface for drawings, which were sometimes very sparse and sometimes quite detailed. Many featured musical elements, such as instruments or notes on a staff. There were also mathematical pieces (such as an x-y plot of a sine function), electronic circuit diagrams, architectural drawings, animals and abstract textures.

[Click photos to enlarge.]

It was fun to scan the rows of cards, picking out individual ones for closer inspection and comparison, particular the abstracts and the references to some of my own areas of expertise (e.g., music and electronics). It turns out Leavitt has a long-standing interest in electronic music, and was featured in this article at GetLoFi alongside circuit-bending godfather Reed Ghazala.

William Leavitt, Pyramid Lens Delta. Image courtesy of Jancar Jones Gallery. (Click to enlarge.)

In addition to being works of art in their own right, the cards serve as a source material for chance procedures that Leavitt uses in other works. In particular, a random subset of cards were used to generate a narrative that was incorporated into the text for his play “Pyramid Lens Delta” (the title came from the first three cards in the set). The script for the play was part of the exhibition. The back of the script contained the card set, and glancing through the text one could see where portions of the dialogue seemed to be drawn from the cards, particularly dialogue associated with Ivan, one of the characters in the play.

Leavitt has used chance processes for past works, including a theater piece The Radio which premiered in 2002. This piece includes not only dialogue but also an original score that included musique concrete. I would have liked to have seen this.

After Jancar Jones, we made a brief detour into that ambiguously defined area at the base of Potrero Hill to Project One for The Art of Noise, a visual exhibition coincident with the Noise Pop Festival. It featured large artistically altered portraits of well known musicians, as well as some installations, such Ted Riederer’s piece featuring drums covered in rose petals.

We finally ended up in the Mission District, and after a brief stop for tacos arrived at Bluesix for a pair of musical performances.

The saxophone duo of David Boyce and Phillip Greenlief. As noted in previous reviews, Greenlief’s virtuosic saxophone performances cover a wide variety of instrumental techniques. The duo weaved effortlessly between idiomatic jazz riffs and more free-form sections featuring multiphonics, noise production and vocals. The change between sections was both sudden and subtle; I was immersed in a jazz riff with long up-and-down lines or rhythmic patterns and only later would realize that we had moved to a more non-tonal (i.e., “noisy”) and arhythmic section. They demonstrate that these modes of music making need not be at odds (as they are sometimes portrayed on musician discussion lists) and can be part of a single piece of music. The performance did, however, inspire a short discussion with a friend about what is “experimental music” and why the performances this evening did or did not qualify as “experimental”.

Boyce and Greenlief were followed by the Karl Evangelista Spaceman Explorer Trio, featuring Karl Evangelista on guitar, Cory Wright on baritone sax, and Jordan Glenn on drums. Evangelista in his various groups blends jazz traditions with elements of late-20th-century experimental music. This of course led back to the question of whether or not this performance was “experimental”, particularly given strong jazz foundations on the pieces that we heard. The trio opened with loud driving rhythms and Evangelista and Wright trading long fast melodic runs. The piece “Hurdles” on Evangelista’s MySpace is quite representative. Another piece a somewhat slower groove with strong quarter notes (one might say a little bit “funkier”, more 1970s). Within this context, the melodies, riffs and one-off notes were often atonal, which helps to keep things moving forward. Overall, it was a fast-paced and virtuosic performance.