Consciousness is a torrent of memories, dreams, and reflections, and the fusion of reality, imagination, and logic best represents how we interpret the world. The works of Ce Ce Iandoli and Jill McLennan at Mercury 20 portray how matter is bent by the force field of the mind; they’re reconstructions or reimaginings of other times and places that have been assembled from fragments of reality.
Iandoli’s Lilacs from Somerville collages eulogize her hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts, a densely packed working-class town north of Boston. Iandoli looks back on her working-class childhood, “cleaning up her father’s bar, collecting the detritus of last night’s revelry, finding the story in lost quarters, chipped compacts and scraps of paper with scrawled messages… in the spring [,]… impossibly beautiful lilacs … spilled all over her yard.” Her collages, which skillfully blend photographs, cutout magazine imagery, paint, and other “worn-out and trivial” artifacts of daily life, evoke a pre-digital world that seems both more gracious and real than what painter Morris Graves called at the time, presciently, our Gadget Age. Yet while they house a wealth of domestic imagery (prom dress on hanger, banisters, Ionic column, 1950s light fixtures, arched doorways, wine goblets, vases, crockery cabinet, flowers, foliage, costume jewelry, stone fireplace, globe, chandelier), they never become a mere catalogue of stuff, due to Iandoli’s ability to orchestrate shape, color, and texture to create mood. To combine two literary fragments, the past is another country and it’s not even past.
McLennan’s oils, encaustics, and drawings, by contrast, look south spatially rather than temporally, to Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, a colonial town bustling with artists and craftspeople (embroidery, beadwork, papier-mâché, handmade paper, pottery, metal work) where the artist spent a summer. Always concerned with “history, memory, present experience and continuous observation,” as her exuberant paintings of the Easy Bay attest, McLennan found her new environs enthralling. The oil painting San Miguel de Allende depicts a picturesquely crooked walkway, festively bedecked with pennants, zigzagging between gaily painted houses down toward distant mountains beneath a cloud canopy. In her ex-voto-sized encaustics on wood based on architectural and mythological motifs, McLennan carves or incises details into the waxy, translucent surfaces, achieving lyricism imbued with an almost edible tactility. Her oils combining photographic and painted elements make for surprising and delightful optical strolls — just the thing for staycationing norteamericano eyeballs. Through June 28 at Mercury 20 Gallery (25 Grand Ave., Oakland). MercuryTwenty.com or 510-484-7785.