Categorized | Reviews

“Build” @ Traywick Contemporary

Jenna Kuiper, Entry 2

Material engagement forms the connective thread in Build, a show of six emerging and established Bay Area artists whose work spans photography, drawing and sculpture. While the theme might, at first, seem overly broad, it quickly snaps into focus in surprising ways. 

The biggest comes when you learn that Jenna Kuiper’s “collages” are really photograms.  They form a 15-part suite in which cutout shapes, assembled on photo-sensitive paper, yield positive and negative shapes. They define, at varying opacities, plants and household items. Some appear as tabletop or pedestal-mounted setups; others float free.  Grounding these still lifes is a deadpan tonality and a flattened perspective reminiscent of Kota Ezawa.  But where Ezawa builds re-creations of photos on backlit sheets of acetate, Kuiper’s works operate in netherworld of disguised light sources, and at a scale that requires you to lean in close.  Even at that it’s difficult to recognize that you’re looking at photo-based images.  Appropriately, Kuiper calls her method “drawing in the dark.”  It aligns her positively with a growing legion of photographers who are mining antiquarian methods for fresh possibilities. 
Bean Finneran makes ceramic sculpture out of hand-rolled tendrils of clay.  Set together in circular, knee-high mounds, they cohere without adhesive.  They look like giant sea anemones, waiting for a wave to set them swaying. That they don’t isn’t nearly as important as our internalization of that possibility.  We reflexively circle these objects, watching and waiting for actions that occur only in the mind.
Maria Porges: Kraftfloat Origami Booktool, 2013, books, acyrlic, oil, wood 16 x 17 x 1.5"

The most memorable works come from Maria Porges, a well-known conceptual artist and Bay Area critic who’s output has long been a showcase of material ingenuity.  Here, she fashions found books into sharp-edged geometrical forms and appends them to common tools: spades, shovels, axes and saws.  Presented in a wall-mounted installation, these hybrid objects resemble a gallery of medieval weapons, at once humorous and threatening.  Reversing the swords-into-plowshares metaphor, they affirm the power of words, and also stand, to a lesser degree, as a memorial to books. Porges doesn’t comment on the content of the tomes she employs; she paints over most of the covers in solid colors, the result being forms that nod to Cubism, Constructivism and origami.  By rendering the tools useless for any practical purpose other than imaginary warfare, Porges invites comparisons to Bella Feldman and also to Giuseppe Penone, the land artist who mixes natural and man-made objects to arrive at oblique and often disturbing meanings.  

Prajakti Jayavant’s wall-mounted paper sculptures appeal because of how skillfully they disguise what they are made of and how they are made.  Bent, cut and folded and painted in solid colors, they exhibit the character of abused sheet metal, like what John Chamberlain might have created had he been a minimalist.  
Bean Finneran, White Dome, 2014

Beyond this the show drifts. I enjoyed the op-ish pull exerted the inked portions of Annie O’Dorisio’s drawings, but found the lines she makes of threaded wool a little too precious.  Karrie Hovey’s wall-clinging vines made of recycled plastic and book pages folded into flower-like clusters topped by tweety birds feels mawkish, like a Hallmark card sentiment. For a superb example of how needlework and drawing can be combined, check out Eleanor Wood, and for an excellent example of how an artist can manipulate recycled media in the manner attempted by Hovey, look to Mitra Fabian.  Neither are household names, but if you’re looking for standard bearers in these two niches, they’re the ones.  

None of these small detractions are to likely diminish your experience.  The gallery is located in a split-level condominium inside the old (1924) Thousand Oaks Masonic Temple in North Berkeley.  It’s a space unlike any other in the Bay Area.  Within its walls, this pitch-perfect installation shows these six artists to maximum impact, making their works appear built to order.    
“Build” @ Traywick Contemporary through August 16, 2014. 

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