The Fisher Collection at SFMOMA: Calder to Warhol

I have been meaning to write reviews on some recent exhibitions I have seen set SFMOMA: the selections from Fisher Collection and New Topographics photography exhibition, both of which I have actually seen multiple times. This article covers the Fisher Collection, which will be closing this coming Sunday, September 19.

I have been spending some time thinking about what it means to write “CatSynth reviews” for a major exhibition like this about which so much has already been written. In the end, it’s about personal significance. It was really a microcosm of many of the exhibitions and artists that I have followed or discovered over many years – indeed, the exhibition included artists that i had first discovered through retrospectives at SFMOMA including William Kentridge and Chuck Close, or artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Sol LeWitt whom I have gotten to know better through the museum’s programs. It is also an opportunity to explore what does (and does not) captivator me with modern art.

One of the things I find most compelling about modern art is the simplicity and sense of calmness I can feel in its presence. This is particularly true of the more minimalist and geometrically inspired works shown on the upper floor of the exhibition. This included those labeled formally as minimalism like Sol LeWitt, but also the large monochromatic panels of Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra’s geometric metal sculptures.


[Installation view with Janus by Gerhard Richter (1983) and multiple pieces by Richard Serra. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.]

There is something about this type of art that I find very comforting, especially in a large scale presentation like this. I can focus on lines and curves and colors and nothing else. I can get absorbed into the repeating variations in Sol LeWitt’s drawings and sculpture, or allow my mind to go blank in Ellsworth Kelly’s simple series of panels. (Perhaps this is what made the placement of Anselm Kiefer’s straw-infused works inspired by the Holocaust in the middle of the same gallery all the more jarring.)


[Ellsworth Kelly, Blue Green Black Red (1996). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art]

Even Alexender Calder’s more organic forms fit into this category and were placed together with the others on the upper floor of the exhibit. It would be interesting to consider Calder’s curving but solid mobiles next to the intricate and delcate straight lines in LeWitt’s Hanging Structure 28c and Antony Gormley’s Quantum Cloud VIII.


[Alexander Calder, Eighteen Numbered Black (1953) . Sol LeWitt, Hanging Structure 28c (1989).]

LeWitt also touches on my interest in mathematics and algorithms (and technology) in art, and conceptual art, most notably in his Wall Drawing, which was created directly on the wall of the gallery in colored pencil from the artist’s specifications.

Gerhard Richter was a bridge between the minimalist and geometric art and the other parts of the collection. His Farben 256 with its array of solid-color rectangles was closer to the previously described works (and although I liked it I couldn’t help but think of a paint chart). Other pieces were more photographic – my favorite of these was Verwaltungsgebaude with its modern arctecture and motion.

The other direction that my artist interests tend is towards urban environments, including graffiti or industrial scenes. Cy Twombly’s large paintings in the exhibition feature repeated curving scribbles that remind me of the graffiti that I often photograph. The white scribbles on gray background in Untitled (Rome) reminded me specifically of walls I saw shooting photos in Warm Water Cove.

Twombly was placed along other works from the middle of the century. A large-scale piece by Lee Krasner was prominently featured (I have yet to see a solo retrospective of her work). A canvas with bright blue by Sam Francis caught my attention. The permanent collection of SFMOMA prominently features works by Richard Diebenkorn, and I think I liked those more than his work in this collection.

In addition to minimalist and geometric works, I also tend to notice art with a playful or surreal nature, or things that are particularly unique. William Kentridge’s installation based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute falls in this category. He built an entire miniature stage with archival photographs and moving images set to selections from the opera. While much more elaborate and complex than the previous works, the performance was still very arresting.

Strictly speaking, there was relatively little photography in the exhibition (although many of the paintings seemed derived from photographic sources). Of the few photographs, the strongest was an image by Sophie Calle which depicted a decaying bed in a courtyard of an apartment building, and was accompanied by a rather morbid story. Another of the featured photos, John Baldessari’s Blue Moon Yellow Window, Ghost Chair was quite painting-like with its extreme contrast and colored overlays.

I certainly did not touch upon everything within the exhibition in this brief review, so those who are interested are encouraged to check out the online exhibition page, or visit if you are in the area in the next five days.

[The photos in this article can be seen on flickr.  You can also see photos by others tagged SFMOMA on flickr or via SFMOMA’s online communities page.]

Work completed: Flora Davis, For Luna

The piece I had commissioned from artist Flora Davis was completed in late June:

The metal surfaces of each box are glued and covered in a protective layer, and the sides are finished with a metallic paint.

The piece now also has a title: For Luna. It seems appropriate, as both Davis and I have cats named Luna. And of course it is a nice tribute.

You can see previous articles documenting the progress here and here.

It was exciting to see it complete and take it home. The final step will be to display the artwork. Combined with the companion cat painting Zeus, the five boxes can be arranged in any number of ways. Here are but a few examples:

I have yet to settle on a final arrangement.

Work in progress (Flora Davis) Part 2

Work continues on the art piece that I recently commissioned from local artist Flora Davis. Please refer to the first article in the series for more background about the commission and some images of the piece in its initial phases.

Since then, things have progressed. The metal surfaces are now cut to the appropriate sizes for each of the boxes and ready to be glued on:

Here they are after the surfaces were glued. The sides of the boxes have also been primed for painting.

It’s great seeing the boxes and the metal surfaces come together for the final piece. They do look like what I imagined. I have to admit, the stark white against the textured metal surfaces is a little jarring, but this is just an intermediate phase. The final paint on the sides will be metallic.

Work in progress: Flora Davis, newly commissioned artwork

This is the first of several articles showing the work in progress on a piece I recently commissioned from local artist Flora Davis. I had first met Davis at Open Studios in 2008. I purchased a small cat painting at the time but also reflected on how it might be interesting to combine it with her more recent work that explored abstract metallic surfaces, including series of metal boxes. When I met her again this spring, I proposed the idea of doing a series of metal boxes to be placed together with the cat painting Zeus, and we are now going ahead with it!

Part of the process was choosing the sizes for boxes and then the materials/textures for them. Here are the initial sized boxes along with the cat painting:

As one can see, they range in size from only a few inches to almost as large as the original painting.  In the final piece, they can placed in any number of arrangements around or near the painting, the idea being for one element to overwhelm the others, and to maintain a sense of straight lines and the square shapes without conforming to a single grid.

Next, it was time to select the exact squares from the various metallic surfaces:

The metal surfaces are quite complex and rich in color and texture.  This one with the turqoise/green patina was perhaps the most complex, and thus I wanted it for the smallest of the boxes.  Overall, the colors and textures of the various surfaces tended towards browns, greens and reds that picked up elements of the painting.

Here are some of the metal textures seen in place with the boxes and the cat:

With all the materials and dimensions now specified, the next step will be to cut the surfaces and adhere them to the boxes.    We will see the results in an upcoming article soon!

Art of Illusion, Driftwood Salon

On April 1, I attended the opening for the Art of Illusion exhibition at Driftwood Salon. The exhibition took it’s title from the date of the opening and its reference to illusion and trickery. “As artists, we strive to create aesthetically pleasing works of art, but sometimes we like to use that ability to trick the mind, and play with shapes, images and dept of field by pushing boundaries and defying gravity.”

Beyond that initial statement, the works in this show were quite diverse in terms of style and subject matter.

Along the wall, second from the left, is a piece by Rebecca Kerlin. I have seen (and reviewed) Rebecca Kerlin’s work before at Open Studios. Her work often involves highways, a frequent subject here at CatSynth, as well as other elements of the urban landscape and infrastructure. She takes familiar scenes, such as the freeway overpass near 4th Street and Bryant Street in San Francisco, and distorts the image through collage.

[Rebecca Kerlin, Underpass Under Construction In Blue #1.
Image courtesy of the artist.  Click to enlarge.]

One on hand, we see the whole image of the overpass and intersection, but at the same it is a series of separate images that are adjacent, overlapping or slightly out of alignment. Similar processes can be seen at work in Blossom Hill Road, San Jose, CA #2. It took me a moment to recognize the highway 85 freeway entrance sign.

Closeup of Untitled by Evan Nesbit. Image courtesy of Driftwood Salon. Click to enlarge.

While Kerlin’s pieces begin with familiar elements such as highways, Evan Nesbit’s contributions seemed based on pure abstract geometry, and primarily on straight lines and angles. In his large piece “the god effect”, lines are arranged in crossing diagonal patterns that lead to the illusion of curvature. This was an effect I learned myself as a young adult and repeated many times in images. In “Untitled”, the crisscrossing lines are used to mark out areas of solid color, which in turn form geometric shapes such as the central hexagon of the piece. However, these geometric elements can be seen to represent a door leading inside from a patio or walkway, an illusion heightened by the grass in the lower corner. Without the grass, one might not see the other shapes as a house at all.

Among the other work that caught my attention was Jose Daniel Rojales’ Ulua.

[Jose Daniel Rojales, Ulua.  Click to enlarge.]

It is on one level a representation in metal of an ulua, a popular Hawai’ian game fish. But the metal rectangles and geometric elements are quite distinct, particularly around the head, and in some ways stand out by themselves.

You can see more images from the show at the gallery website. The show will remain on display until May 2.

Sonja Navin and Mike Kimball

I recently visited two openings for artists I met at Open Studios last fall and whose work reflects my interests in highways, architectural images and the urban landscape. The artists take very different approaches, and the shows were in very different parts of the city – but having both openings on the same night was a great opportunity to see them together and simultaneously reflect upon the city itself.

First, I stopped in the relatively quiet West Portal neighborhood for a show at the Greenhouse Cafe featuring Sonja Navin. Navin draws on her architectural background to capture familiar images of the city in her paintings. Perhaps the most “familiar” image was the King Street off-ramp from I-280 in her large painting entitled 280.

[Sonja Navin. 280. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]

Navin experienced this interchange the way many of us do, i.e., being stuck in traffic, and thus had the opportunity to visualize it in detail. She also had a painting East on N which featured a familiar view along the N-Judah metro line in the Sunset district.

Although her subject matter is often architectural in nature, her painting style features large brush strokes and irregular areas of color rather than the straight lines and precision of architectural drawings. She also had several figurative paintings, and some such as In The Haight combine both character and street elements.

Navin’s exhibition, which also features artist Kacie Erin Smith, will be on display at The Greenhouse Cafe, 329 West Portal Avenue in San Francisco through April 30.


After brief ride over Twin Peaks, I found myself descending into the Mission district for an opening at City Art Gallery, where I was particularly interested to see new works by Mike Kimball.

Like Navin, Kimball’s interpretation of the urban landscape distills it down to basic elements, but his prints and paintings feature very clean lines and simple geometric shapes. One example is his Maritime Plaza, which I immediately recognized (it is a favorite out lunch spot of mine).

[Mike Kimball.  Maritime Plaza.  Image courtesy of the artist.  (click to enlarge.)]

Like the building it represents, the image is framed by the triangules and X-shapes of the seismic bracing. This was one of the first buildings to use this technique, which is now a familiar site on buildings in the Bay Area.

In Division Street, Kimball represents another familiar sight from daily life, the interchange of I-80 and US 101 that sits above Division Street in SOMA. The image is composed of very simple curves and lines and solid colors, from which one can distinguish the elevated structures of the highway and the shadows they cast, as well as details such as the markings (and probably graffiti) on the sides of the trailers.

[Mike Kimball.  Division Street.  Image courtesy of the artist.  (click to enlarge.)]

Trucks and trailers also feature prominently in Kimball’s work. His “Truckograph” series features a similar graphic quality to Division Street. His larger work Meditations on a port looks at the stacks of trailers at the port as an abstract collection of boxes. Kimball bridges the industrial and abstract in this work – close up, one can see the writing and metal texture, but from a distance one simply sees the colored squares.

Kimball’s current exhibition will be on display at City Art Gallery, 828 Valencia Street, through March 28.

SF Recology Artists in Residence

Last Friday, I attended an exhibition for the Artist in Residence program at Recology San Francisco (formerly known as, SF Recycling & Disposal, Inc.). Yes, this was an art opening at the SF dump. The program has been around for almost twenty years, and provides space and support for artists who work with materials from the city’s waste stream, including recycled wood, paint and metal. Pretty much anything the artists can scavenge. This exhibition marked the end of the residency for artists Erik Otto and Christina Mazza.

We first enter the gallery through an anteroom, with some smaller works including Erik Otto’s Rebuild, featuring the title word cut into scrap paper (including a musical score and furniture assembly instructions) and illuminated by a recycled light box.

Erik Otto. Rebuild, 2010. (Click to enlarge.)

The title and the materials of this piece set the tone for the show. In addition to my standing interest in text as a visual element, I liked the inclusion of music as part of its texture.

Moving into the main room, one immediately sees Otto’s Road of Prosperity (The Start of a New Beginning), with over one hundred small wooden houses suspended from the ceiling on fishing line, forming a chaotic spiral that descends towards the ground.

[Erik Otto.  Road of Prosperity (The Start of a New Beginning), 2010.  (Click each image to enlarge.)]

The houses, made of recycled wood, all have a similar iconic shape. Stepping back, one can see the the wooden frame at the base is itself another house. Indeed, the houses reappear throughout Otto’s work, either as central or peripheral elements, in his paintings and mixed media pieces and even in a video installation featuring recycled television sets:

Erik Otto. In the Abundance of Water, We Are Still Thirsty. (Click to enlarge.)

I am drawn to recurring icons in a series of work. So what is the significance of the houses? Certainly, they are a symbol of our current economic crisis, and a very visible part of natural and human-made disasters. Otto’s own words are informative:

My work is a narrative told by the recurring characters/elements I use often in my artwork. The house is a physical embodiment of our spiritual being. Inspired by the notion that being home is “knowing” – knowing your mind, knowing your heart – that if we know ourselves, we are always “home”, anywhere. It is often depicted in chaotic landscapes and is found seeking safety from a storm and/or rising water levels, which refer to our current social and economic climate.

His paintings, which also prominently feature the houses, include other elements such as found text, such as the “OPEN” sign in the large painting Moment of Reflection. Devotion 5 features a house (perched on stilts above a body of water) painted over book covers and a Scrabble board – certainly a powerful symbol of out-of-context text.

Erik Otto. Moment of Reflection. (Click to enlarge.)

Erik Otto. Devotion 5. (Click to enlarge.)

While Erik Otto’s work seemed to focus on discrete elements, icons and text, Christina Mazza’s pieces were about more continuous textures. Many of her finely detailed drawings feature entanglements of string or rubber bands or rope.

Christina Mazza. Construction. (Click to enlarge.)

She takes this theme of complex tangles to a larger scale with this wall piece made of shredded packing paper.

Christina Mazza. (Click to enlarge)

Mazza presents a very different texture with Redemption: SF Dump, which features a video inset in a wall made of brightly colored wood panels. Up close, one can see the imperfections, nails and slightly off angles of the the recycled wood. From a distance, it can seem a texture of precisely generated color rectangles with a moving image at the center.

Christina Mazza. Redemption:SF Dump. (Click to enlarge)

Mazza found inspiration in the discoveries she made at the dump, and documents her adventures on her blog. Looking through the images, I can see piles of discarded items that served as “subjects” for her drawings. One image which I found interesting but was not reflected in the pieces at the show was a discarded Chinese paper frame .

Christina Mazza. Chinese paper frame.

I find this image a fitting conclusion as I turn my attention to other recently visited exhibits and my own upcoming projects.

Thanks to Recology SF for providing many of the photos for this article. You can see more pieces from this exhibition and previous artists in residence at their flickr site.

First Thursday, January 2010

We at CatSynth present a few notes from our gallery visits here in San Francisco on the first Thursday of the year.

Peter Focault, courtesy of Micaela Gallery

First up, we visit Micaela Gallery for an exhibition of work by Peter Focault and “friends”. Focault’s large ink-on-paper works build up complex structures from simple lines and strokes. The textures can be come very intricate and dense, such as in this detail from Four Square Squared Series #2. Several pieces also have a very architectural quality, while others such as the Evolution Series #1 have a more organic feel.

In addition to the wall presentation, there was a live performance and creation of a new drawing. This was a collaboration of Focault, musician Jake Coolidge, and Jonathan Grover. Coolidge performed live processed bass guitar with loops and other samples. The audio was then interpreted by a robot that moved with a pen on a surface in response to changes in the sound. The long curving strokes with back-and-forth motions gradually produced an image that was similar in style to completed works. You can see a brief sample in the video below from Jake Coolidge’s blog, along with a more detailed description of the process:

Shannon Ebner’s Signal Hill at Altman Siegel depicted every day objects, some with text, some with symbols like stick figures, some bits of manufactured material, that all convey information or “signals” in contemporary society. I identified with the simple and geometric elements and incorporation of text in her large photographs as well as her sculpture, as well as the sparse presentation by the gallery.

Shannon Ebner, courtesy of Altman Siegel Gallery

The photographs also had a very three dimensional texture, such as one photograph of an international graphic symbol (included in the photograph above) that one often sees on a very smooth surface.

Holly Andres, courtesy Robert Koch Gallery (click to enlarge)

At Robert Koch Gallery, I saw Holly Andres’ Sparrow Lane series. The photographs this series feature a group of adolescent women. The photographs seem to be narrative, as if the girls are exploring and investigating, but they are also disjoint without any real story line. As she explains in this interview, Andres spends a lot of time carefully crafting the images, including the clothing worn by the models and the walls and furnishings of the spaces. The clothing was very well done. Most seemed vintage mid-century and featured skirts and dresses with straight lines and solid colors that gave the characters a modernist “early 1960s” feel. On the other hand, the props and settings seemed more baroque and and did not really hold my interest. The one exception was the The Missing Bird (presented here), which places the characters in a grittier basement covered in media images with a cat in the background.  I did find myself contrasting this series with the Dystopia exhibition I saw at this same gallery a year ago – it would be intriguing to see them side by side. (The exhibition will remain on display at the gallery through the end of the month.)

While exploring the photographs at the Koch Gallery, the air from the doorway carried the heavy tones of electric blues. I followed the sounds next door to the Haines Gallery, where a blues band was playing. It turns out the band was led by Mike Henderson, whose paintings were featured in the current exhibition.

I tend to be drawn to minor keys and modes, so minor blues holds a special place in my musical vocabulary. His paintings have geometric shapes with complex textures, overlaid with various line drawings and lettering. Some have a very bright texture akin to a wood surface, while others are dark black with small light shapes and figures.  It is interesting to consider the connection between the music and the visual art.  Unlike the collaboration described above where the connection was direct, the connection here is more emotional or evocative.

Stephen Wirtz gallery presented Catherine Wagner presented large highly-detailed prints of specimens from the California Acadamy of Sciences. They were arranged by biological taxonomy, but also visually. From a distance, one can focus on the overall texture, while up close one notices the details of each specimen. Hits by Rick Arnitz featured large canvases, each of which seemed to take on a different geometric theme: brightly colored circles, a texture of red a black vertical lines, stars on a light blue field, etc. I often like discovering pieces from the permanent collection on display in the back room – I recall Ulrike Palmbach’s soft sculptures of cats from a previous visit – this time it was Marc Katono’s Half Light, a large light canvas with very delicate curves and lines. The piece was reminiscent of organic fibers and would have seemed at home among Wagner’s prints.

Randy Hussong, Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim

Across the street at Gallery Paule Anglim, I saw Randy Hussong’s Sculpture and Lithography exhibit. All the images were based a large steel box held up on one side by a stick with a chain, essentially a “trap” of sorts. The box itself was shown in the center of the room as a piece entitled Prey and Weight.  Along the walls were combination photographs/lithographs based on images of the box in outdoor setting, based on photographs at different times of day. The box is clearly artificial, but it’s coloring and worn texture allow it to merge with the natural environment. Additionally, there was one pure black-and-white lithograph entitled Trap.

At A440 Gallery, Dominic Alleluia’s large mixed media works had a very contemporary feel. They combined large abstract elements, color textures and shapes with energetic dark swirls and waves reminiscent of graffiti. A third dimension in some works included objects and materials such as wooden dowels and metal. I found this video of the “artist at work”, and I thought the music expressed the energy of his pieces the exceptionally small gallery space.

Finally, I would like to mention seeing the exhibition Diane Arbus‘ photographs at Fraenkel Gallery.  The exhibition, titled Christ in a lobby and Other Unknown or Almost Known Works by Diane Arbus, were selected by sculpture Robert Gober from a collection of little-known photographs.  The photographs, which were relatively small in size, did fit into the context of Arbus’ better known images in that they depicted a wide selection of people, some very everyday and some a bit more challenging.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Works of Art

I managed to get this photo of Luna sitting in front of a ledge overlooking the downstairs. I think she matches the works of art on the wall quite well.

Astute readers may recognize the large black painting from one of our reviews last October. See if you can pick out the artist.


Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted this weekend by The Meezers.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up on Sunday at iMeowza.

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

SF Open Studios Week 3, part 1: Abstract

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.

Paule Dubois Dupuis.  Click to enlarge.

Paule Dubois Dupuis. Pour toi maman. (Click to enlarge)

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.

Clare Kuo.  Boundaries #24. (Click to enlarge.)

Clare Kuo. Boundaries #24. (Click to enlarge.)

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.

Andrzej Michael Karwacki. (Click to enlarge)

Andrzej Michael Karwacki. (Click to enlarge)

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.

Phillip Hua. (click to enlarge)

Phillip Hua. (click to enlarge)

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.

John Haines. (click to enlarge)

John Haines. (click to enlarge)

Rebecca Fox. (click to enlarge)

Rebecca Fox. (click to enlarge)

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.

Yang Han.  (click to enlarge)

Yang Han. (click to enlarge)

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.

Reiko Muranaga.  (click to enlarge)

Reiko Muranaga. (click to enlarge)

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.

Alan Mazzetti.  (click to enlarge)

Alan Mazzetti. (click to enlarge)

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.

Nanci Price Scoular.  (click to enlarge)

Nanci Price Scoular. (click to enlarge)

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.]