New Works by Sarah Edwards and Gregory Ito
Empire Seven Studios
By Ann Sherman

installingshow

Installing the show at Empire Seven Studios

The word “temple, “ when referring to a place of worship or sanctuary, comes from the Latin templum—itself derived from the Indo-European root tem, to cut or divide. The ancient Roman priests or augers circumscribed and set apart sacred ground, from which they took their readings of the heavens. If the word is used in relation to the area on each side of head behind the eyes, the source is the street Latin tempula, a riff on tempora, the plural of tempus, a word that meant both time and that part of the head where the pulse could be measured. When Times Converge, the collaborative installation by Bay Area artists Sarah Edwards and Gregory Ito, coalesces these etymological tributaries by crafting a space in which their own readings of the natural world find expression in a measured, timebending blend of ancient and contemporary imagery.

The focus of each artist complements that of the other: Edwards’ work concentrates upon elements of the earthly landscape—air, water, land, trees and mountains. Ito turns his gaze to the night skies and lunar phases. Together, they have converted the warehouse gallery into a kind of cosmographic contemplation zone.

ptgwfishpond

The combined elements of Ito’s and Edward’s work create a sanctuary.

The paintings hung by the door serve as calling cards. Money Colored Hearts introduces Edwards’ supergraphic acrylic style, reminiscent of vibrant textile designs from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Layering stencil-like silhouetted peaks to form a smoghazed mountain horizon behind the foreground’s acid-rain drenched forest, presented in a simulated aerial view through repetition of the simple outlines of upended hearts, the patterned effect evokes a kind of retro “mod” futurism. Somehow, using this style from the time of the first ecological movements subtly underscores the fact that what was once the future is simply now.

Adjacent to this, Ito’s Harvest Moon’s a Full presents the artist’s recurrent lunar theme grounded, literally and otherwise, by birch veneer thinly washed or shellacked in geometric forms that both abstract from and allude to angles of the various dimensions of earth, light, space and time underlying traditional landscape. The effect is akin to manipulation of grain and color in wood inlay to create a 3-D illusion.

wallgraphics

Ito and Edwards incorporate the entire gallery in their world view.

Rounding the bend of the foyer wall, these world views are expanded to occupy the entire gallery space. Following the vortex of a telescopic view of starpricked night sky and spectral light bending around the corner, the viewer passes beneath muslin nobori-style banners modified from the usual vertical rectangular shape to gently rippling triangles. This stage set stand-in for windswept clouds edges the surrounding scene. Directly above, a timber framing of beautifully clean, smooth wood is suspended from the ceiling, a sort of sculptural sketch of a roof that evokes Japanese style while not slavishly adhering to traditional joinery. Fore and aft, a single, round, white paper lantern hangs from a meticulously tied noose. [Questions of whether this references an execution or suicide, and just who (the individual?) or what (the culture?) is being sacrificed quietly hang there on the periphery.]

Five wood panels are hung from the roof frame. The Sequence of Luna reiterates the moon’s waxing and waning, interspersed with spectrums of prismatic light. Faintly watercolored, vaguely bacterial shapes drift through negative space of otherwise bare wood, suggesting a magnified view of microscopic life forms. Ito infuses the spare chromaticism with a dynamic compositional energy that elevates the theme from the realm of the science fair to a kind of proportioned, da Vinciesque sense of wonder in observed natural order. Ito’s restraint, using thin applications of pigment and highlighting the wood’s smoothed beauty, puts the viewer somewhere between the natural world and humans’ ongoing exploitation of its gifts for ritual and empirical connection with its phenomena.

Turning around, our focus returns to earth. A low, faux fountain fashioned from painted wood dominates centerstage. Strings of clear plastic balls are clustered into “clouds” above.

fishwaterfall

Edward’s fish pond, seen with fish, only on the evening of the opening.

A brief digression: On opening night, the interior of the fountain was lined with clear plastic party glasses, each holding water and a goldfish. For obvious reasons, these had been emptied and not replaced. I would have liked to have seen this plastic reflection, a nice visual and conceptual connection between drinking water and its source. Gallery owner Carlos Araujo told me Edwards actually wanted to use betta, or “fighting,” fish, but ran into regulation of the quantity one could import. This would have dramatically underscored the fact of interspecies competition for an essential resource, while avoiding the carnival prize associations many of us have with goldfish in small containers. The gallery plans to post video of the opening later on http://www.empiresevenstudios.blogspot.com/ .

Along the white walls, silhouetted cypress rise from stencil-like brush and grass. The color of each tree shape sequentially fades, ending in a barely-there beige echoed by the natural muslin columns appliquéd with cartoony cloud shapes that flank Edwards’ canvasses. Hung in a verticalized triptych at the back wall, Air, a minimalized cloudbank in psychocandy sunset colors, gives way to Land, where dark clouds hug layered mountain ridges, distanced forest shadow serving as backdrop for the individual trees rising out of the foreground. These stand rooted in the top edge of the bottom panel, where the grassy earth meets the shallow shoreline of Water, undulant wave shapes gradually deepening in every sense. The outsized film strip staging emphasizes the connections between each panel, just as in the actual ecosystem, while accenting the fact that these are representations of the real.

The plastic-meets-muslin and punchy graphics and acrylic colors are reminiscent of the same era when man first walked on the moon. Playing against any crunchy granola nostalgia, the natural world as a subject is recreated with decidedly artificial materials— indeed, even the fountain’s manmade homage to nature is an obvious fake, squared—and nature is further reduced into its stylized, duplicated shapes.

Edwards’ sensibility is somehow congruent with Ito’s method of witnessing ongoing natural order, where rigorous geometry supplies only the illusion of depth beyond the surface, and the very idea of what pulls the tides or produces color must be enough in itself.

Empire Seven Studios
525 N. 7th St., San Jose
by appointment 408.668.4434

Comments are closed.