Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer in the city

Summer is traditionally a slow time in the galleries but I found some interesting things to see

At 49 Geary:

Gallery 415 is showcasing the works of Brazilian artist, Silvia Poloto. Last Saturday, she spoke on her process which involves finishing her works with a layer of resin. Her paintings are pretty things, brightly colored with shiny surfaces. Her work is in many corporate collections - it's just the thing to brighten up a drab office with decorative, non-representational squares and squiggles. Unfortunately, a simple question about varying her process elicited a very hostile reaction; equally unfortunate is her belief that she can only make art that's pretty and that any other approach means that the art will be "ugly."

Toomey Tourell is featuring a group exhibition honoring the 10th anniversary of the gallery. They’ve got a stunning piece by Brian Dettmer up and numerous other small works from the gallery artists – all well worth seeing. Dettmer is the antithesis of decorative and meaningless; his altered books grab the eye and then, make you look deeper and deeper to probe their meaning. Todd Bennett, the gallery director is friendly and helpful; that always makes the gallery going experience more pleasant. He told me that they are going to have a video of Dettmer making one of his altered book pieces up on their website.

Brian Dettmer's carved books are intricate creations, which seek both to seduce the eye and provoke the mind. Through the cut open cover of a book the viewer sees layers of specifically selected text and illustration carved from the pages of the book. Through the gaps in an architectural drawing or perhaps the chambers of the human heart, one can see a word peeking through, perhaps a clue to the larger meanings of the piece. These pieces seek to bridge the gap between a medium's form and its message. Dettmer manages to use the contrasting layers of image and text to explore the conveyance of information, as well as being able to get the viewer to examine what that can mean.

Art Exchange Gallery has some gorgeous pieces by Dennis Hare and a whole wall of Ruth Wall’s surrealistic collages and monoprints as well as their usual eclectic combination of pieces. According to the gallery, even though Wall studied with Bischoff and Park, she decided not pursue a gallery career. In her old age, she chose this gallery to show her works. I’m glad that yet another hidden SF woman artist is getting her day. I always find it interesting to see what works come back on the market and how they are priced.

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