by David M. Roth
Sid Garrison, a virtuoso of colored pencil-on-paper drawing, died Feb. 20 in Kansas City, Kan., of heart and kidney failure. He was 66. Although Garrison was born in 1954 in Wichita, Kansas and educated at Bethany College in Lindsborg, he spent the bulk of his career in San Francisco, where he was represented from 2003 to 2010 by Limn Gallery until the south-of Market space closed in 2010.
Although no two of Garrison’s abstract drawings look remotely alike, they consistently allude to natural forms, from landscape and seascape to things molecular and biological. Map-like in appearance, they were all, up until the last years of his life, executed in the same format: square sheets measuring 28 x 28 inches. “They come full of awkward turns and jarring leaps among disparate color areas and levels of detail,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle critic, Kenneth Baker in 2008. “His work looks like no one else’s.”
“Garrison’s labor-intensive, multilayered technique gives the drawings tangible depth but challenges the viewer to define his point of focus, wrote Kim Beil in Art Ltd. “In a seeming acknowledgment of the limitations and imperfections of the human perceptual apparatus, Garrison’s drawings encourage relaxation of the gaze.” She described one drawing, August 9, 2005, as “an explosion of color, almost psychedelic in its profusion of contrasts between bright blasts and deep ragged tears of opaque black.”
In 2014, Garrison and his wife, Terry, returned to Kansas so that Sid could have a kidney transplant. Afterward, the couple stayed in the area, where he participated in several shows, including the 2016 Kansas City Flat File & Digital File Exhibition, where he won the Juror’s Choice award. His last shows were at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Kiosk Gallery.
In a 2008 statement accompanying the latter Garrison wrote: “The measure I set for myself is to make each drawing unique, both in palette and complexity. My technique includes small, repetitive lines that build up to form complex planes of color. The resulting bodies of work function like a collection of short stories, linked by compositional decisions that may result in quiet with open spaces, or bursting with stippling or a tangle of contours.”
In addition to Limn, Garrison exhibited at Danese (New York), Knoedler & Co. Project Space (New York), Gallery Joe (Philadelphia) and Sherry Frumkin Gallery (Santa Monica). His work is held in numerous public collections including the Arkansas Arts Center, Philbrook Museum of Art, Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation and Wichita Art Museum.
In addition to Terry, his wife of 44 years, Garrison is survived by his brother Phil and nephew Ryan, an aunt, Caroline Throm, a grand-nephew and nieces. A celebration of his life is slated for this summer in San Francisco.
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David M. Roth is the editor and publisher of Squarecylinder.