CES Gallery: San Francisco Unbound
written by Genie Davis
The group exhibition Fog a Mirror, at DTLA’s CES Gallery through October 15th, is a paean the aesthetic of San Francisco, the city which these artists call home. Vanessa Blaikie, Luke Butler, Adam Feibelman, Matt Gonzalez, Andres Guerrero, Peter Kirkeby, Robert Larson, Joey Piziali, and Leigh Wells offer a variety of riveting mixed media works.
The San Francisco connection goes back to pop-up shows created by CES gallerist Carl E Smith, who throughout the Bay Area in the past. Concerned with the potential for art to be overwhelmed by technology and commerce in that city today, Smith has put together work here that shows the influence of these artists in their city’s artistic world, and in that of his gallery in Los Angeles.
Smith’s memories of the city and the vibrance of life itself are the themes behind the title. As Smith explains “If you fog a mirror you can no longer see yourself in it, though you can trace a word or two into accumulated water dots that you formed deep within yourself and then released.” Naturally, the title also refers to San Francisco’s reputation for foggy weather, and the way in which the fog itself changes perspectives for viewers, obscuring, condensing, and providing a comforting cushion of inner space.
Smith describes the works here as quiet and contemplative, and they are, primarily cast in a palette of white, grey, black, and featuring some metallic elements of gold and silver. They are the stuff of fog, of skylines obscured by fog, of human solitude.
Meghan Gordon, the gallery’s associate director pointed out the intricate intimacy of Robert Larsen’s “The Gold Line,” a geometry of discarded Marlboro cigarette packs on linen. Floating as lightly as the fog or a cloud, Adam Feibelman’s “Thunderhead” is “handcut paper mounted on opaque plexi-glass to create the floating sensation,” she relates.
“Each piece in the show is framed by San Francisco artist Peter Kirkeby,” Gordon notes. “His care with framing is the complete opposite of his piece in the show, where thumbprints and tape marks appear as a part of the work.” The prints seem to trace a pattern that reflects the artist as an individual in a transitory world. This untitled piece uses carbon pigment and tape on cotton paper to create its slightly eerie appeal.
Artist Matt Gonzalez, like Larsen, uses discarded packaging in his work, which here features different qualities of white packaging. In some cases the paper reveals an iconic pattern, such as the packaging of razor blades. Gonzalez’ found-paper collage is a hatch work of lines and shapes, which from a distance look like thickly-applied paint, but up close, reveal themselves to be these “Snow driven halucinations,” as the piece is titled.
While each piece here is distinctive, they form a voluptuously textured whole, many incorporating collage, gouache, and found-materials. The one thing clear in this visually fog-drenched exhibition is this: nothing is quite what it seems, and everything is more than it appears. The show clears the spirit even as it channels the unclear vision of a foggy night in Golden Gate Park.