Archive for July, 2009

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero


Tee Shirt Wall installation by Harv greets visitors to Empire 7 Studios

Carlos de Araujo and Jennifer Ahn have dedicated their Japan-Town gallery to artists with their roots in San Jose. Their current show is a collaborative of artists with a street aesthetic, part of the larger profile of Low Brow, that grew out of their friendship with one of these local artists, Opski. Guys with single names like Tighe, Joep and Harv, along with Opski and Ken Davis, opened the show with walls packed with tee shirts for sale, “live screen printing”, dozens of paintings, drawings, relief constructions, and a long collaborative wall mural. The atmosphere is promoted as a scene where friends and would-be friends can come and hang out. It‚Äôs sort of an underground event, a young and select “in” crowd that understands and is energized by the imagery gathers, buys tee shirts and supports the artists, musicians and the gallery. In the context of ongoing exhibitions at Anno Domini and a stir created by SJMA’s current exhibition of Todd Schorr, I approached ODMD & the Get Caughts: For The First Time Ever Again at Empire 7 Studios with a determined curiosity. The public acceptance of and enthusiasm for Low Brow art grows, and my desire to understand and undertake something of a definition grows, as well. I am a bit too old to identify with all of it. Yet, a long conversation with Ahn fueled my thoughts and observations on this broad category of work.


A wall mural, (detail), running the full length of the Empire 7 Studios Gallery sports contributions from all artists in the show.


Mankind Merges into the Impermanent Ecosystem
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Somehow nature and the natural world seem to assume the biblical and primordial states of dust, earth and mud in the Palo Alto Art Center’s summer exhibitions, Wetlands, Continuity and Radius. Stephen de Staebler and Danae Mattes set the tone in their galleries at the front of the Center with references to archeology, geology, the ever-changing wetlands, and the fossilization and ultimate return of the human body to the earthy substances from which it sprang. Both artists use clay, and in the context of each other’s work the importance of the clay as a fundamental of creation myths and the notion of a bigger destiny for mankind on earth is enhanced. Many of the assumptions I had made about de Stabler’s work over the years, were subject to reassessment. The active quality of de Mattes’ site specific installation Evaporation Pool elevates the ever-changing continuum of organic material and its descent to the inert into a very vital and present process.


Stephen de Staebler’s Leg with Green Path, 1996-98

Stephen de Staebler has long managed an alchemy of the human figure as landscape, archeological dig, and Modernist abstract sculpture. Big chunks of clay mixed with fragmented tubular forms and an occasional foot or hand, — preserved as if it had been unearthed from permafrost –are fired in numerous rich glazes and earthy colors. They can be seen as sections of a thigh, an arm, bone and flesh, sometimes preserved still in the strata of earth where they were discovered. The small sample of de Staebler works seen in this show should whet the appetite for his upcoming retrospective to be seen at the San Jose Museum of Art.


Wetlands II, 2008, Clay on canvas, by Danae Mattes.

Mattes paints with pigment and clay on canvas. Her subtle, pale colorations and suggestions of a casual natural process of evaporation on the canvas create a delicate and fragile appearance. There are references to landscape but in great expanses and atmospheric perspective. They are frighteningly beautiful. The metaphor for a larger and fragile ecosystem cannot be missed.

Radius is a regional juried exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center that is curated this year by new Art Center Director, Director Karen Kienzle. The greys and delicate colors of the earth continue. Permutations from Nature’s Perimeter is a title that nicely explains the theme within which this particular group of seven artists present their work.