Traywick Contemporary’s summer show, Traces and Accumulations, includes the work of seven artists, some of whom the gallery has long represented, others of whom are new. All of them demonstrate the emphasis on materials and process that characterizes much of the gallery’s programming.
To be sure, “emphasis on materials and process” is often a euphemism for “lackluster result,” and that holds true here: Some of the artists in this show, including some very established ones, do swing and miss. Ken Fandell, who heads the newly established art department at Harvey Mudd College, photographs colorful laser beams shot through a fog-filled void — a controlled environment of his own construction. No doubt it was fun shooting, but the prints we receive have about the appeal of stock images from a high-school physics textbook. Christy Matson and Inga Dorosz likewise engage in highly meticulous processes, with somewhat better results. Matson uses a mélange of silk threads to weave abstract patterns, producing a painterly effect with a distinctive tactility. Dorosz builds a several-foot-tall image of the Rocky Mountains using only straight ink lines that, in fact, represent a Morse code translation of Clouds, a poem by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. Both, however, are outdone by far more minimal gestures displayed nearby. Léonie Guyer presents a series of odd little birthmark-like painted forms on otherwise blank canvas — strangely indelible. David Fought pierces a gallery wall with two steel rings and beams them with multiple light sources to yield shadow drawings, acutely activating the home-gallery’s architectural space.
Sculptural works by Nathan Lynch, who chairs the ceramics department at California College of the Arts, are highly enjoyable. They consist of piles: one of wood pieces, their ends painted so they resemble giant matchsticks; others of brilliantly colored clay or glazed porcelain bulbs as visually enticing as they are unsettlingly organic-looking (larvae come to mind).
But my favorite work in the show, and one of the more inexplicable in its intrigue, is “Carry and Lay” by Christine M. Peterson. It aims two analog projectors, one loaded with slides of architecture, the other with slides of art, at a single screen. The two devices are not in perfect sync, so their often-blurred images overlap in a leap-frog-like progression. In this superimposition, Peterson’s work provides at once too much and too little information, piling and canceling possible meaning to a rhythm of familiar clicks. After many failed attempts to interpret the significance of so many gothic cathedrals and Renaissance paintings slamming onto one another, with faint irony it eventually becomes apparent that this is the perfect way to speak in an art gallery without actually saying anything. What remains is colored film, clucking contraptions and light: materials in procession.
Traces and Accumulations runs through August 17 at Traywick Contemporary (895 Colusa Ave., Berkeley). 510-527-1214 or Traywick.com