Zecca and Frazier, Gallery 16 – and Views of the City at Artist Xchange

A few weeks ago I went out to a couple of openings on a night when I thought I wouldn’t. But after a little bit of rest I was ready to venture out into the still bright and unusually warm evening.

First up was Gallery 16 for the opening of an exhibition featuring the work of Alex Zecca and Suzanne Frazier.

Alex Zecca’s large scale works are composed of thousands of straight lines meticulously drawn in ink. The pieces emerge from the interactions among all the lines. As the artist states, “Color, mixing, reaction and saturation, as well as sequence and systems are the visual dialogue central to my work.” It is hard to imagine the amount of work (physical and metal) that goes into creating something like this.

Some of the works were single color, in which complex images emerge from the density of intersecting lines as well as the angles at which they cross. My favorite pieces in the exhibition were the monochromatic series JANUARY 26, 2010.

[Alex Zecca. JANUARY 26, 2010. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click to enlarge image)]

Each of the twelve sections contains 1260 lines out of which the overall geometric texture of diagonal lines and curves emerges, as well as a texture that resembles interference patterns in optics. Color adds an additional dimension to some pieces, such as FEBRUARY 5, 2010. In the piece, the interference patterns are the central element created by the lines, with complex and subtle color transitions at odd locations within the overall image.

[Alex Zecca. FEBRUARY 5, 2010. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click to enlarge image)]

The paintings in Suzanne Frazier’s Tidelog series with their thick curving shapes and bright colors seem very different at first, but they also follow a very meticulous (and time-consuming) process. Frazier was inspired by the entanglements found along the northern California coastline. She made photographs of masses and strands of kelp, projected the images onto the wall of her studio, and then traced the shapes onto acetate, which she then cut out and used as an “alphabet” from which to create the paintings. The results are paintings whose colors and overall composition are abstract, but whose components are shapes from nature.

[Suzanne Frazier. Tidelog #9. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click image to enlarge)]

While creating the paintings, she also found that the spaces between curves were themselves interesting, and filled these very various textures of dots, crossing lines, etc. Thus, just as with Zecca’s ink drawings, one is compelled to look closely at these paintings to see the detail. Indeed, it was the detail that particular drew me to certain works in the series, such as Tidelog 7 and Tidelog 9.

[Suzanne Frazier. Tidelog #7. Courtesy of Gallery 16, San Francisco CA. (Click image to enlarge)]

The exhibition at Gallery 16 will remain up through July 16.

Next, it was off to Artist Xchange for the “Views of the City” show. Regular readers know that views of the city (or of cities in general) are central to my own artistic output as well as what I look for in others. I do tend to look for more unique views of the city, less traveled neighborhoods, unusual perspectives, or spaces and details that are otherwise overlooked. It is too easy in a city like San Francisco to fall into the trap of producing postcard images or trite pieces that would look at home in a souvenir shop, and several artists in this exhibition did just that. But several artists did express unique views of the city that caught my attention.

Sonja Navin was back with her views of familiar highways such as I-280 and side streets around the city. We have reviewed her work before, including her exhibition back in March. Complementing Navin’s work was Zue Acker, who presented her own highway painting as well as images of downtown city blocks were familiar to me as a resident. Indeed, her painting empty downtown – long shadows is exactly the same location as one of my Wordless Wednesday photos!

[Zue Acker. Installation view at Artist Xchange. (Click image to enlarge)]

Paul Kirley captures the city in mid motion, such as his painting Clay Bus showing a Muni bus moving along Clay Street. He refers to these works as “Mixed Photo / Paint Dreamscapes”, blending expressive paint and photographic compositions together on a single canvas. Rather than paintings of blurred or modified photographs, the painting itself becomes the process that causes the photographic images to blur and disintegrate in places.

Elizabeth Geisler’s cityscape images included locations or views in the Bay Area that I did not know well, such as the Richardson Bay Bridge near Sausalito.

[Elizabeth Geisler. Twilight (Richardson Bay Bridge)]

Finally, Joaquin Sorro’s Dolores was a fun piece with buildings and trees at add angles, and seemingly in mid-motion as one might find in a comic book. In fact, his image reminded me of some of the experimental comic art I have been reading about recently, but which will remain a topic for another day.

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.