Tahiti Pehrson at Joseph Gross Gallery
Through November 17
by Jenny Begun
As you walk into Joseph Gross Gallery in Los Angeles, you come to face a large sculptural tapestry that immediately transports you from Chinatown to the Middle East or the Ancient Greece or Rome. The hanging white cotton rag looks like a facade of a marble mausoleum. It gives a sense of solidity, grandiosity, and at the same time of beauty, delicacy, and serenity. The protruding middle part looks like a mashrabiya, known in English as a “harem window,” a characteristic architectural element of Arab residencies, famous for the latticework decorating its wooden window panels. Evoking this images, the middle part of the artwork has several cut-out vertical rectangles that look like windows. The ‘walls’ surrounding them display intricate patterns of crossing lines and smaller diamond-shaped cutouts that form a grid allowing the light to pass through and create shadows on the gallery wall behind the hanging sculpture. Shadow adds to the visual perception of the work creating the depth and adding another layer of hidden patterns.
This enchanting kaleidoscope starts the solo exhibition titled “New Works” by Tahiti Pehrson, a Northern California artist, for whom this is a second solo show with Joseph Gross Gallery and the first solo exhibition at the gallery’s new Los Angeles space. Pehrson comes from an artistic family–his parents and siblings are all artists. Growing up, there were a lot of do-it-yourself projects at home and the surrounding nature of his native Nevada City was a perfect background for the young artist.
Pehrson studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, but having an averse reaction to “the critiq-i-ness of the institute,” Pehrson segued to painting with stencils and stickers on the streets. Interested in aesthetics of street art and pop imagery, one of which is money, he started working with paper banknotes – cutting them and cutting out patterns. Almost all world currencies have one common pattern, called guilloche, that was engraved on paper as a security measure to protect bank-issued money from forgeries. Other use of this term applies to any repetitive architectural patterns of intersecting or overlapping spirals and other forms. Examples of such are aplenty in the history of art and architecture of the Middle East, classical Greece and Rome, Early Medieval England, and elsewhere, even in Russia where Faberge created his famous eggs engraved with guilloche. The universal usage of this pattern is the reason why Pehrson’s work brings many geographically distinct visual references to mind.
In addition, Pehrson uses a variety of other patterns, including Fibonacci sequence, where his circles increase by 1, 2, 3, 5 inches in diameter creating a concentrically graduating design. Moiré pattern, described at the end of the first paragraph, is created by interference of one pattern with another, like paper and its shadow or another patterned layer underneath. This visual distortion, created by overlapping layers, intersecting lines, and repetition of cut-out elements, allows the artist to produce a multitude of images using the same monochromatic white cotton rag paper. Interesting fact is the chameleonic quality of his work: the patterns and shapes look geometric in a white-walled pristine gallery environment, but when the sculptures are placed outdoors, as in some of the photos on Pehrson’s website, the forms and lines look as if they were taken from nature itself.
At the Joseph Gross Gallery exhibition, one other large sculpture is protruding from the wall on the left next to a large window. It is round and has a large circular orifice in the middle of its top layer. Through it, the next layer with a much smaller cutout in the center is visible. This second sheet of paper has its own ravel of lines and empty interstices that are overlaid by moving shadows as the light changes from indoor to the natural light from the window and of course as the light moves throughout the day. Through a smaller opening in the middle, we now can see the gallery wall. There is a space of a few inches between the wall and the second layer, and that spacial interplay produces other shadows on the wall, which serves as a third layer in this complex 3-D sculpture.
Pehrson works in a variety of sizes. Other 7 artworks in the show are smaller, flat and framed. “While I think Tahiti’s works look better without a frame and installed free hanging 3 inches from the wall, the frame acts as a way to protect the paper and allows for a shadowboxed shadow effect. I always looked at the shadows as part of the piece itself,” says Casey Gleghorn, the director of the gallery. “The frame also makes it easier for people interested in purchasing his work to hang it on their walls.”
Pehrson’s work requires extreme concentration. It’s very physically involved and meticulous. He may start creating a pattern on a computer and then adds multiple dimensions by drawing on top of that. He uses a beam compass for drawing large circles. At times, he utilizes various objects, placing them on the paper and tracing their perimeter with a pencil. Using different mathematical patterns, he creates the intersecting shapes. The interstices between the lines, the artists painstakingly cuts out with a small razor blade. He goes through many of them in the process, as many sometimes as several thousands.
Pehrson encourages viewers to interact with his work, inviting them to step inside, to walk through or around, or to stand in the tangled shadows his work creates. “The monumental installations Tahiti did for Art On Paper in New York made it so viewers could walk around the sculptures and look at them from all 4 points of views,” says Mr. Gleghorn, recalling the 2017 installment of the art fair. “Tahiti continues to impress me with his ambitious works and now that his exhibition is all but sold out, we are talking about future collaborations. And where he will be taking his work is very exciting.“
Tahiti Pehrson “New Works”
at Joseph Gross Gallery
Wed – Sun 12-5pm / By appointment