Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Out of Order" - Geometric Art at SFSU

Anne Weber. The Wedding Party.

Geometric abstraction is no longer an art world flavor of the month. From Op Art and Hard-edge Abstraction in the Sixties, to a resurgence of Neo Geo in the Eighties, geometric abstraction in all its variations has evolved into a menu staple. But the exhibit "Out of Order" at SFSU's art gallery is more interesting than the usual "paint rectangles and/or grinds a la Albers redux".  Conceived by Leeza Doreian and Gail Dawson, "Out of Order surveys the exploration of meticulous and abstract geometric systems in contemporary Bay Area art. Using a variety of media and shapes and concepts, the show displays a wide range of responses, resulting in a felicitous marriage between art and craft.

Amy Ellingson. Fierze Redux

To liberate work from representation is easy (these days) but to make it visually engaging is far more difficult. We are a long way from Malevich and his theories that by reducing art to geometric forms, one could also create a revolutionary consciousness. But what it does do is emphasize painting as painting and that is where this exhibit is most successful. But I have to qualify that a bit because, for me, two of the most interesting pieces in the show are not painting but sculpture.

Gay Outlaw's Three-Legged Inversion

Gay Outlaw's Three-Legged Inversion" is composed of a variety of materials - cardboard, paper, glue - to create a two-legged saw horse, a tripod form with the legless side braced against the wall. It's covered with elliptical, leopard colored shapes, some printed on, some cut out of cardboard. In, out, there, non-there, space, object, light, shadow, the quirky form does create a powerful impact. Also, by using more disposable materials, she obliquely critiques traditional art making's emphasis on expensive materials.

Ann Weber’s sculpture 'Wedding Party" dominates the center of the gallery. Made from interlocking strips of cardboard, the shapes suggest 1950's rockets (right out of Flash Gordon) or the woven shelters made by traditional African or Aborigine peoples. According to her artist's statement, she started working in cardboard in 1991 because she wanted to make larger forms without the more cumbersome process involved with making traditional sculptures. Like Gay Outlaw's piece, the shapes may be simple but the manipulation of materials and the space around the shapes is anything but. "Who cares what the art is made of,' she said. "It's the shape that matters."

 Danielle Mysliwiec, Middle Ground II

Danielle Mysliwiec's paintings are built up with ribbons of paint, woven in, out and under to create a three-dimensional, textured surface. Another intriguing painting is by Gail Dawson, the co-creator of the show and an Assistant Professor of art at SFSU. In the diptych "Where were you? Where you are" (2010), sharp, triangular geometric forms create a pictorial tension within the picture plane.

  Laura Paulini, Black Beauty

If I had one criticism, it would not be about the art but about who was chosen for the show. Many of the artists in the show have prestigious gallery representation - Haines, Paule Anglim, to name two.  A number of the artists - Ann Weber, Shirley Shor - have national reputations. It doesn't seem fair to use this space for their work and not the work of students struggling to get into the system. It's a shame that the curator, Gail Dawson, (Assistant Professor of Art at SFSU), didn't use her position to promote a few students who haven't gotten into galleries.

From Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" through Joseph Albers, geometric abstraction has proved to be one of the more lasting theories of visual language used throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The current show at SFSU is another chapter in the ongoing dialogue between realism and abstraction,

 Artists in the show include: Taha Belal, Gail Dawson, Leeza Doreian, Chris Duncan. Amy Ellingson, Mitra Fabian, Mike Henderson, Jim Melchert, Danielle Mysliwiec, Gay Outlaw, Laura Paulini, Mitzi Pederson, Shirley Shor, Jill Sylvia, Andy Vogt, Ann Weber and Alex Zecca
 San Francisco State University
Exhibition dates: Sept. 18–Oct. 14
Gallery hours: Wednesdays–Saturdays, 11am–4pm

Via Sharon Butler's Two Coats of Paint
Geometric Progression (in NYC):


Zoomie said...

At least the girls outnumbered handily the boys. :-)

namastenancy said...

There is that and their art was better as well!

Anonymous said...

The gallery at SF State does show student work in the annual MFA exhibition and undergraduate work in the annual Stillwell Exhibition. The rest of the year it uses the space to bring artists with national and international reputations into the school as a teaching resource for the students of art, art history, and other disciplines who might not otherwise be exposed to such work.