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.
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!
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.
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.
Another review of art from the month that has past. In mid-February, I attended an artist talk with Truong Tran, part of a month-long exhibition of his work at Mina Dresden Gallery. The exhibition was presented by our friends at Kearny Street Workshop.
The gallery itself is a narrow and starkly white space. Upon entry, one is drawn first to the illuminated shapes and color fields that dot the walls. Moving closer to a particular artwork, one begins to see the meticulous detail and the variety of elements from which it is composed.
[Truong Tran. Installation view. Photo courtesy of the artist. (Click to enlarge.)]
As suggested by the title of exhibition the lost & found, the pieces are created primarily from found objects and materials. Tran is a self-described collector, indeed he admit, “I was a collector long before I was an artist.” This brought to mind the artist in residence program at the SF dump that I reviewed back in January. Far from a simple presentation of found objects, he constructs large-scale works from these constituent parts, placing them into boxes and the combining these boxes into larger structures. This process of found objects, containment and construction is perhaps most apparent in tower, the largest piece in the show:
[Truong Tran, tower. Photo courtesy of the artist. (Click to enlarge.)]
Tran cites Joseph Cornell and Donald Judd as influences, and one can see the combination of “things contained in boxes” and large minimal geometric elements reappearing in many of the works. There is also a certain polished quality to many of pieces, particularly the illuminated works that most caught my attention. For example, the piece broken and whole, shown below looks to be a very minimalist installation with lights, rectangles and solid colors. On closer inspection, one can see that each box contains bones, presumably part of a “collection.”
[Truong Tran, broken and whole. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]
The use of found materials within a larger minimal pattern of boxes and solid colors appears in many of the works. The contained materials at times are provocative, such as the syringes that are placed in each box of a ladder to.
Tran is as established writer and author of several collections of poetry and a children’s book. With this exhibition, he is moving into a new medium of visual art and sculpture. However, his poetry is also very visual, as in his book within the margin where a single line of lower-case text is presented on each page. His other books published at Apogee Press have a similar visual quality to them. You can see some excerpts from a couple of the books here. Similarly, text enters into many of the visual pieces in the exhibition, such as the large letter “A” in tower. In both his written and visual works, there is a strong sense of things being “constructed”, and indeed he emphasized the concept of construction during his talk at the gallery.
One work that did not get mentioned during the talk but which drew my attention the invisible city. Once again, found materials (in this case, multicolored golf tees and thread) were arranged into a repeated rectangular pattern, but this time set against an image of a city skyline. While many of the pieces have an architectural quality to them (i.e., as “constructions”), this was only one where the image contained within was itself architectural.
[Truong Tran, invisible city. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]
However, there is another level of containment, as each of the buildings contains a pornographic image – I believe they are all images of men. This is another recurring theme in many of the pieces, perhaps best exemplified via boy with butterflies which at a distance appears to be a flock of hundreds of colored butterflies frozen in mid motion. Upon closer inspection, one sees that the butterflies are cut from pornographic magazines, and it is the sections of the male bodies in these images that give the butterflies their colors and patterns.
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.
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:
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.
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.
She takes this theme of complex tangles to a larger scale with this wall piece made of shredded packing paper.
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.
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 .
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.
We at CatSynth present a few notes from our gallery visits here in San Francisco on the first Thursday of the year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This weekend we at CatSynth sing the body electric (with apologies to Walt Whitman) and present another combined Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt.
Electricity and electronics are a central part of our existence:
Luna poses with an electric guitar, cables and our Mr. Echo delay pedal. Below we see Luna posing with another of our electronic devices, a Korg Kaos Pad:
Electricity permeates not only our music but art as well. Here we see a piece entitled Reflective by artist Roy Forest. It contains a red neon light running the length of bamboo tube.
For WCB, note the Suzhou cat and maneki neko on the shelf about the sculpture.
It’s interesting how there is a black and red theme throughout the images in this post. I only noticed that after completing it. It has a suggestion of fire to it, and fire and electricity have a strong connection.
More electricity. This morning, we were awakened by a large electrical storm with loud thunder and flashes of lightening. It’s a remarkable coincidence, as thunderstorms are quite rare in San Francisco. They lasted most of the morning, and some neighborhoods lost electricity. Our area was not affected by the outages, and in the end things just got a little damp.
Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted by our friends LB and Breadchick at The Sour Dough. We know they will appreciate the audio and music gear featured in this article.
Photo Hunt #178 at tnchick features the theme of electric, with the prototype image being an electric guitar.
Kashim, Othello and Salome are hosting the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday.
And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.
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!