Collage and geometry are the connecting threads of this show of six artists, each of whom approach picture making differently. Their differences preclude much internal dialogue, but the “silence” is golden. The best of these works speak for themselves in a variety of “tongues,” the most prominent being that of Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) whose Mertz pictures –built of cut-up newspapers, packaging and studio detritus — created a stir by demonstrating how abstraction can be achieved by alternate means.
Berkeley-based Barbara Kronlins puts a Pop-influenced spin on that impulse. She interleaves snippets of cardboard and paper product packaging with drawings of her own making into multi-layered works in which densely packed pieces resolve into energetic field “paintings” when viewed from a distance. You can revel in the intricacy of their assembly and try to infer criticality from the text snippets, but that would be reading too much into them. With Kronlins, what you see is what you get, and that’s all for the good.
For the Denver-based abstractionist Emilio Lobato, Constructivism has long been a guiding force. His trio of dark, spare collages is built of sharp-edged geometric shapes affixed to panels with gold brads. The forms overlap and interlock, neatly in some places and loosely in others. What governs our reception of them isn’t the juxtaposition of shapes, it’s the appearance of recognizable objects: rulers. They not only organize the space, they literalize the concept of “measuring up,” interrogating pictures and viewers simultaneously. The question asked is how do we assess value, and its appearance in this context unnerves because it is unexpected.
Andrew Burgess combines swatches of painted paper to make cityscapes (of SF and Manhattan) in which space is delineated solely by shape and color. Working within these seemingly narrow parameters he manages to impart an amazing amount of spatial and textural information. In doing so, he appears to be poking fun at Photorealism while slotting himself into current trends in landscape painting, which emphasize flatness. This he counteracts (somewhat) by mixing horizontal and vertical brushstrokes, which alternate directionally between segments. Overall, the works have a deadpan feel, but they’re not without humor. His rendering of sea and sky in solid shades of blue injects levity, balancing the stolid, patchwork depiction of skyscrapers.
Tom Bolles, a minimalist, searches for deep space and finds it in many-layered canvases that give off ethereal fields of light, but also harbor, at indeterminate depths, flickering shadows. The large bright orange canvas (Paris) that greets visitors feels too Rothko-esque, but the small jade-green canvas on the back wall, Sweet Suite # 1, is a gem; it shows Bolles at the peak of his powers, extracting light from a darkly painted canvas that, at first glance, seems impenetrable. Painter Luis Garcia-Nerey weighs in with two works, one large, one small, combining photography, figuration and contour drawing, while David Jansheski offers a black and white monoprint populated with images from nature.