It seems possible we don’t think about lines and geometry enough these days. And, why don’t we? We are all subject to them, right? Log on to the internet, click a thumbs up on Facebook, and sure enough you and your opinion have been logged, categorized, and “filed” away as data. Apply for a credit card, file for bankruptcy, or just submit any personal data over virtually any digital matrix and BLAMO! You’re on the grid baby! Give birth to a baby in a hospital? Baby’s on the grid, baby. With remarkable accuracy our behavior and even our thoughts can be predicted along an axis of lines, ones and zeros, which can then feed information to us and elicit different companies’ efficient marketing strategies. I’m not sure how good or bad this is, but I lean towards it being bad because it can be a ripe system for abuse of power and information. My point is that it’s happening to such an extent someone should be making art about it and maybe even a lot of people should be making art about it.
Many of these ideas that reflect life today seem to have been brought together collectively and are represented individually in the work of artists displayed by Zener Schon Contemporary for the show, From East to West: A Bi-Coastal Dialogue which was also on view at the gallery’s booth for Artmarket San Francisco this past May. One imagines that Warhol and Basquiat would be relatively pleased by this presentation: Warhol because he’s actually in the show, represented by “Campbell’s Soup Can, Chicken with Rice”, and Basquiat because it’s plain to see that more than one artist here has studied his work and found it to be of relevance to this new age, as well as to their own artistic practice. The impressive booth at Artmarket SF displayed the visually striking piece by Carly Ivan Garcia, “Geometric Location”. The work’s blues and oranges that co-mingle against heavy black demarcations are really fresh and lively – such contrasting elements are not often easily or successfully achieved in paint and I found myself returning to the piece several times for another peek-a-boo. Above Garcia is a painting by Jamie Martinez, known for a triangular pixilated approach to figuration. Like looking at a television or an eye puzzle of some variety, Martinez’s work reads more accessible based on one’s proximity to it and his shows are often characterized by the photo snapping phones of gallery visitors.
For East Meets West a similar form of inspiration to that of Garcia is found in Alison Mosshart as evidenced by her drawing “Fortune Cookie”. I’m not sure I see the cookie but the fortune is there and instructs one to be cautious in relationships. Absent, however, is the now familiar suggestion from such cookies to “learn Chinese,” which seems like it might have suited the work nicely.
I’m not actually sure of the ages of the artists appearing in From East to West but the work seems spritely, young, and talented with something to say. Additionally the show’s been smartly curated with the individual works playing off one another as many visual motifs are echoed by another work in a way that seems almost premeditated. Ted Lawson’s “Salt Spiral” plays on the boxed-up look of several pieces as the cubes, which, depending on your perspective, either radiate out or descend inwards. Generally I think of spirals as being associated with something “downward” and “vicious cycle-ish,” but the white salt of the delicately composed sculpture, offset visually by a neutral grey wall gives the work such an inviting charm that my notions of descent and depravity are assuaged in favor of pleasurable observation.
It’s difficult to imagine Chad Muska beginning his work, “Two Pieces I Love a Lot, 1 and 2,” (love that title) with anything other than an eye firmly rooted in the activity of experimentation. “Two…” is a diptych of mostly white panels so worked and rough that it seems as though it could only be the result of an extended process where the various media combine to inform the artist of the work’s completion rather than the other way around. If you hear a fuzzy Radiohead-style synth in your head while looking at “Two Pieces…” fear not, you aren’t alone.
In fact much of the work in From East to West is the result of mixed media. Ted Lawson uses “milled resin”, paint and MDF to achieve his highly polished work of ocean waves and sand formations, which, much like the natural scenes the work begins from, seem to ask little else of the viewer other than to be enjoyed and appreciated. Most of the paintings appear to be from several different media as well. Combining acrylic and oil paint is present too, such as with Miky Fabrega’s large tryptic painting which juxtaposes the blatantly abstract with the blatantly figurative.
A few elements seem out of place though, or rather, repetitive, like the incorporation of a few automatic rifles or a picture of a kid wearing a gas mask. These sentiments are more subtly pursued in a photo by Ivory Serra, “Mexican Dolls”, where jumbled-up tragedy is funny and frightening because; much like certain clowns, certain dolls are freaky.
Do we get excited for the future anymore? Or is it just all freaky dolls and matrix lines with unpleasant options in the form of pills red and blue? The answer to that question is unknown to this writer, but I’m glad to see artwork and shows being put together about it. If this sounds like the future to us, then I’m not sure we’ve been paying attention. In the meantime, we’re just one big collective Keanu going, like, “Whoa”.
From East to West: A Bi-Coastal Dialogue at Zener Schon Contemporary Art
March 31 – May 17, 2015
23 Sunnyside Avenue Mill Valley, CA 94941 415-738-8505
Article by Zach Eichelberger
Photography provided by the artists and the gallery
Photos of Zener Schon’s participation at ARTMARKET San Francisco