Multiples at Angels Gate Cultural Center

Megan Mueller, 534 S Broadway, 2021, Multiples, Angel Gate Cultural Center, Photo courtesy of the gallery

Multiples at Angels Gate Gallery: Multiple Art Visions

Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro
Through SeptemBer 12, 2021

Written by Genie Davis
If the expression “double the pleasure, double the fun” applies for more than an infamous Wrigley’s Gum commercial, then this group show of more than double repetition fits it well.

There is both pleasure and puzzlement in Multiples, now at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro through September 12th. Artists Nathan Gulick, Colleen Hargaden, Seth Lower, Megan Mueller, Samuel Scharf, Noah Spindler, Katie Thoma, and Katya Usvitsky each create a connected series of work which is designed to use repetition in an examination of “sincerity” in art. The exhibition includes an essay by Hannah Sage Kay.

Katya Usvitsky’s highly tactile, fabric-based sculptures, which utilize nylon, fiberfill, and in some instances, welded wire, are visually exciting regardless of their multiplicity. Resembling a configuration of eggs from alien species or piles of soft stones, she creates a womb-like iteration in “Mama;” a fetal-like shape in “Daughter.” Her less defined structure of a “Cave” pairs with the fully formed hive/cocoon of “Home.” Blazing red is “Shameful Act No. 1,” with its evocation of the sensual and of ripened fruit.

Entirely different are the cool black and white digital prints of Katie Thoma, with her Noir shadowed “Patio and Cocktail Patio.” Equally elliptical is her sculptural wood and tile “2 Tiled,” the shape of which plays off shapes in the two prints and casts its own shadows.

Far more conjoined are Colleen Hargaden’s three “Water Brick” sculptures, using water bricks, custom cushions, and yes, water. She’s created a bench, a love seat, and an ottoman that seem built as furniture for use by sea creatures with an abstract aesthetic – as well as survivalists practical in their combination of water storage units and furnishings. Their vivid blue grabs the eye and compels the viewer to see the nuances in the three works. Adding to the blue is the artist’s video installation and projection “Reproducing H20,” casting the viewer into a mesmerizing sea in two different formats.

The photographs of Seth Lower, and a four-part spiral bound series of books require slightly more diligence on the part of the viewer to connect. There are “Bins, Oakland;” “Brushes, Paris;” “Bark, South Pasadena;” “Leather, Los Angeles;” and “Mailbox, Los Angeles;” each of which present interestingly patterned multiples of a common object, so that they form an abstract and oddly kinetic series. He also gives us photographs of rolled bales of sod, multiple shopping carts, and repeated patterns of rocks. While also depicting multiple looks at the same object, the “Dandelion” books show different aspects of the same thing rather than different objects that reveal the same or similar patterns. The repetitiveness of the images in each work makes ordinary objects into objects of art.

Like Lower, Megan Mueller gives us repeated patterns through digital images, here printed scans.  “535 S Broadway” the largest in scale, is a rich, deeply dimensional view of mosaic patterned tile rendered into mosaic. It makes the viewer wish to touch the 12 x 24-foot image, to fully comprehend that there is no depth to the depiction. It’s a terrific illusion. On a smaller scale, her “Reacting to Smaller Movements” accomplishes the same dimensional pull. Fabric and batting shape her sculptural “Next to Edges.” The forms she uses here also feel illusory – as if they had a deeper or wider depth.

Samuel Scharf’s work is entirely textural. Miscellaneous puzzle pieces create fascinating images in two separate works, “Dreamy Nightmare,” and “Float Away.” The works are both parlor trick and mystery, and in their evocation of the mosaic, play in their own way off Mueller’s work. His wood piece, “Now you see me” gives us a shrouded window on the side of a pale-yellow house; the vinyl “Window Pain” appears to be the inside of that house; the viewer shares the artist’s sense of entrapment in the latter two works; his intrepid curiosity in the former two.

Noah Spindler’s sculptures of wood and rope and of wood, glass and grout, are each attractively uneven, forms that narrow at bottom, widen at top, angular yet exhibiting fluidity. “Wipe Out” is like the reversed pinnacle of a wave, whereas “Crossover Ceremony (playing it straight)” reminds the viewer of a flying machine.

Nathan Gulick’s installation “Sincere Instances” is a mix of photographic images and faux plants; it plays on our expectations of the real versus corporate art, and real versus plastic nature. With potted plants dominating photographic images, what should we really be seeing and appreciating, Gulick seems to ask.

And this brings me to the meaning behind the exhibition. To this viewer, it represents what is real, what we really see, and how we see it. There is the sense that seeing is not quite believing, and what we believe we see might be different from what “is.”

Each of the artists refers to their own forms and meanings in creating “a strategy of building meaning out of an expanded idea of the multiple, as found in iterative series, hand construction techniques, serial works, repetition of images or mass-produced objects,” according to the text accompanying the visual art.

Hargaden examines ecology and technology; Gulick looks to the art in ordinary objects; Lower takes on patterns of connection; Mueller distorts and reinvents the images she creates, and with that distortion, alters our own perception. Scharf explores minutiae and the unseen; Spindler looks at landscape and architectural transitions, images formed both of nature and man. Thoma fabricates in a constructional style, while Usvitsky’s fabrications are rooted in craft and meditative pattern.

As to Kay’s essay, “Fool Me Twice,” which ties the meaning of the exhibition into its own unifying body, the writer asks us to consider both the meaning of the idea of “truth to materials,” and the positioning of objects within their place, time, and context. She discusses symbolic meaning and true visual meaning, and the purpose of iterative work such as this to “challenge expectations of uniformity and predictability.”

She also asks us to consider the inherent mystery in all objects, in shapes however functional, in art, however original or however similar. If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then these artists flatter the viewer into both aesthetic pleasure and a pleasurable conundrum, or as Kay says, “Do objects fool us, or do we merely fool ourselves?”

It’s up to you to view and decide.

Angels Gate Cultural Center is located at 3601 South Gaffey Street in San Pedro. Check website or call for gallery hours.

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