Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Get As Close As You Want at Playful Interactions Exhibition, SDSU Downtown Gallery, San Diego

Playful Interactions
Dave Ghilarducci, Rizzhel Mae Javier, Margaret Noble
San Diego State University Downtown Gallery  on view through June 15
Article by Cathy Breslaw
Dave Ghilarducci     Proverb Generator    2014
For those of us who have set off alarms in museums for getting ‘too close’ to the art, or have been admonished by security guards for the same, this show is for YOU. Playful Interactions is an interactive, hands on exhibition of the art of Dave Ghilarducci, Rizzhel Mae Javier, and Margaret Noble. While playful and fun for viewers/participators, there are also underlying deeper ideas at the basis of these art pieces – these artists’ works deal with the subjects of identity, self reflection, human relationships, and memory.  Largely conceptual in their focus, these art pieces are created with a mixture of digital and analog processes. Dave Ghilarducci combines engineered technology and craft linked with humor and commentary on our culture. “I Don’t Feel Like I’m Getting Anywhere, (worker)” is a single lever acrylic circular mechanized system of angled trays where tiny metal balls run through, and the direction is controlled by the ‘player’. If the title is any indication of the piece’s meaning, Ghilarducci is referring to the world of work, and the inevitable questions about the direction we may be taking -  as if we are “spinning our wheels”. The work is couched in humor and cynicism. Rizzhel Mae Javier exhibits pieces from her series Move(meant) – black and white photographic analog works that are interactive.  These art pieces are based on  Javier’s personal relationships, having to do with private thoughts and memories. Javier’s work “The Hand” is one of a group of self directed circular photographic flip books, reminiscent of 19th century animation devices. “We and Me”is a conceptual piece housed in old-school metal index card boxes where comments on relationships come in the form of individual black and white photos, carefully catalogued under such category titles as ‘we changed’, ‘before’ and ‘after’. Here again the flip-book optical technique is cleverly employed to describe memories about an important relationship. Margaret Noble uses found objects, newly created wood objects and sound to activate the viewer’s senses in accessing memories and perception. “Head in the Sand” is a large warm-toned light-hued wood box on legs constructed with a large enough hole on top for viewers to place their entire head inside. Once our head is inside the box, we see an all-black interior, where pure sounds are activated – there is an eeriness to the sounds and darkness, yet a comforting feeling suggesting it as a familiar place to go when we want to hide from the world. “I Long to Be Free of Longing” is another interactive conceptual work created out of a found well-worn brief case. It is presented wide-open and inside there are a number of individual evenly sized small boxes with tops. Boxes are wrapped in fabric and tiny metal clasps invite viewers to lift each separate top. We sense a strong curiosity to find out what is inside each one. Lifting each top activates unique and separate sounds from the next. We are both confused and motivated to comb  our memories for reference points for these sounds and their meaning. This exhibition is not a five minute walk through – spending time with these interactive works by three San Diego artists is a rewarding, self reflective and fun experience.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chinese Brush Painting Exhibition By Chinese Artist Pan Gongkai Takes Center Stage At San Diego Museum of Fine Art

Pan Gongkai    artist in his studio   2015
Pan Gongkai   artist in his studio    2015

Noble Virtues
On view through February 1, 2016

Chinese artist Pan Gongkai follows in the footsteps of his father and celebrated Chinese painter, Pan Tianshou.  Though Tianshou suffered persecution during the Cultural Revolution(1966-1976), he went on to create a large body of work in the tradition of brush and ink painting, influencing his son. Pan Gongkai’s Noble Virtues  depicts “the four gentlemen”(si junzi): plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, and chrysanthemums.  Gongkai’s fifteen meter scroll of ink on rice paper  was hand carried in sections and then framed as one long narrow work, elegantly displayed on the wall of Gallery 15, a public area adjacent to Panama 66 and the May S. Marcy Sculpture Court.  The scroll which reads right to left, represents the four seasons – the resilience of plum blossoms in winter, the delicate elegance of springtime orchids, the strength and flexibility of bamboo in summer, and the chrysanthemums defiantly blooming in autumn under the approaching winter chill. The five paintings of ink on rice paper on the opposite wall named as a series – Lotus Pond, depicts beautiful lotuses, which can lie dormant for many years prior to blossoming, emerging from murky waters, representing the resistance and purity of the soul. The immediate take on these works may be one of “just another display of Chinese brush painting”, however, at closer inspection the work exposes the artist’s deliberate, well-honed and confident line-making, a direct expressiveness of personal emotion, and a spontaneous feel - all reminiscent of  western abstract expressionist painters. We can picture Gongkai in his studio creating hundreds if not thousands of these kinds of paintings carefully narrowing down the selection to those that most closely meet his standards, thoughts and emotions about his subject matter and his relationship to it. There is a particular beauty, strength and simplicity to the work of this artist whose commitment to the years of a  disciplined art practice of using only brush, ink, and rice paper can make.  Gongkai comments that sadly, his kind of work may be lost on the current younger generations of Chinese because they are not being taught brush painting and will not have an appreciation of it.  It is for this reason that Gongkai strongly believes in a co-existence and continuing of traditions and methods across countries of the globe rather than a climate of integrated multi-culturalism.  Either way, the poetry and essence of Gongkai’s work speaks loudly, yet quietly of the unique traditions of his culture.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

El Anatsui's Mesmerizing Exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Downtown

El Anatsui
Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works  on View Through June 28th
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Article by Cathy Breslaw
Installation view of Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Akron Art Museum, 2012. Photo by Andrew McAllister, courtesy of the Akron Art Museum.
El Anatsui is an African artist who shares time between his childhood home in Ghana and Nigeria.  He is a mature artist whose artistic sensibility  can be traced to the 60’s and 70’s when painters, sculptors and installation artists experimented with accessible materials, turning their backs on tradition, and ushering
in new perspectives on “what is art”. While travelling through the various rooms at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown San Diego, viewers are struck by the massive sizes of these textile-like wall and immersive works made with a combination of thousands of liquor bottle labels, bottle caps, wire ties, and round tin can tops that are wire stitched together, then fastened together with copper wire. Though the back story of the work speaks of the cultural, economic, and social issues of colonialism, globalism, waste, and consumerism, viewers are more caught up in the sheer visceral reactions to the size and gorgeous shimmering flowing patterns of gold, silver, red, blue, and brown colors woven through each piece. There is also a series of oversized ‘Wastepaper Bags’, five to eight feet in size, made of aluminum, and newspaper speaking to the problem of waste recycling in his country.  Two additional rooms are devoted to
El Anatsui’s drawings and wooden wall reliefs with metal and paint.  Anatsui carves and scorches with chainsaws and routers to gouge, torch and mark the many worn wooden slats. He makes reference to abstract visual systems of communication in these works as well as to the ancestry of the African people.
Though complex in their compositional elements, there is a particular directness and raw simplicity in these wood reliefs that is missing in the massive wall tapestries. It is interesting to note that these massive works are created with the help of El Anatsui’s thirty assistants and that when they are hung in the various
museums and other venues, the installers are free to manipulate these cloth-like metal works and hang them
as they desire. This ‘global collaboration’ in both the creation and presentation of El Anatsui’s art is a consistent underpinning of his work.