Walking Upstream, a Sophisticated, Elegant, Inspiring show at The Loft in San Pedro

Installation view of Walking Upstream in The Loft Gallery at South Bay Contemporary. Photo credit: Kristine Schomaker.

Walking Upstream, a Sophisticated, Elegant, Inspiring show at The Loft in San Pedro

Presented by South Bay Contemporary at The Loft Gallery
Through December 16th


By Genie Davis

Now at the South Bay Contemporary at the Loft Gallery in San Pedro through December 16th, artists and curators Monica Wyatt and David Lovejoy have shaped a simply wondrous show. Walking Upstream features the beautiful, unique work of six artists: Clare Graham, Joan Robey, Susan Sironi, Vincent Tomczyk, Christine Weir, and Tracey Weiss.

The title of the exhibition refers to a pushing of boundaries, and an innovative use of materials, style, and creation. Each artist presents work that is entirely their own; without regard to formula, and blissfully unpredictable. Many are visual dichotomies.

Dimensional works dangle from the ceiling, a chair sits on a pedestal, an amazing planet-like ball vibrates within its own shape on the floor. Ceramic tiles form a larger mosaic work, some pieces lie on the floor as if they slipped from the wall. The image is liquid, the shades of green like malachite fused with water. Many pieces have an otherworldly aspect, as if they were dropped through space and time, had traveled far to shape or reshape themselves into art.

Susan Sironi uses old books as her medium. She scans, plans, and re-envisions what she can shape from the pages of the book, using a knife to incise an entirely new form, dimensional sculptural work that is interlaced into thin ribbons or strips within these books as a frame. Delicate and mysterious, her work lets viewers “read” new dimensions carved meticulously from paper. They’re fragile and magnificent, almost illusory.

Tracey Weiss has varied her mediums as widely as she has crafted her own exciting style over the years. Here she is working in ceramics, creating fine art objects that are essentially dimensional paintings reshaped as sculptures. Or as Weiss herself puts it, “The Ceramic Paintings series makes comment on how works of art are viewed, categorized, and held…a sort of ‘cast system’ in the history of art as well as the current art world.” Her “Portrait” is a full wall of ceramic “canvasses” as seen from the back; neat squares that as one whole are like a tapestry of puzzle pieces, or mosaics. At first glance, they defy comprehension; on a second look they are clever, cool, and confront our own beliefs.

Clare Graham makes impossibly rich sculptures crafted from materials that are otherwise intensely prosaic, such as buttons. Under his touch, these buttons become a glorious cylindrical form. He has shaped a black and white wall-hanging, a weaving of buttons, two circles that float; he’s crafted wiry arms of buttons, dangling from the ceiling. Clustered together they resemble masses of coral, or the bones of creatures from another planet. Shaped from pop-top tabs, a brilliant silver tumbleweed of an orb is poised on the floor, a meteor from a planet of metal.

When is a chair not really a chair? When Vincent Tomczyk has replicated it out of paper and cardboard. Both whimsical and dramatic, his seemingly burnished leather and wood sculpture, “Lucian Freud,” is shaped from paper and mixed media. It is an illusion of a chair, a substantial piece of art, not furniture. You don’t sit in it; it sits in your mind. Its realism boggles the senses. His hand-painted “Paper Eames Chair” is another work as graceful and fascinating as it is surreal. Meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

The noir-dark beauty of Christine Weir’s graphic on clay panels give us images of water and flow, passages both literal and emotional. That the artist’s lush and delicate work grew from a fear of flying that nonetheless made her riveted by views of the earth from above, presents the viewer with a deep and haunting story. Her vision is perfect, a translation of her own “internal landscape” as she says, fused with images of river systems sought from Google Earth. They have an ephemeral quality that transcends both physical and inner vision; they are the stuff of dreams.

Joan Robey creates assemblages that seems suspended in time. She fuses the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic of renewing discarded objects with new “life.”

Taken as a whole Walking Upstream is simply a fascinating show, one that demands viewers pay attention, watch, and do their best to comprehend the mystery, majesty, minutiae, and magic that is art.

South Bay Contemporary


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