by Hanna Hannah

Visit the San Francisco Exhibition:
525-2d Street January 14- February 20

lakewater 12 by Robin Kandel

Entering the Andrea Schwartz Gallery in San Francisco where Robin Kandel’s exhibition of paintings and videos is currently installed, one feels that mixture of being soothed while also having one’s attention tingled into acute alertness when stepping into the limpid surface of some primal body of water—lakes, in this case—with depths unknown.

The main exhibition space is hung with four large paintings: lakewater 3, by the front entrance; lakewater 13 (a diptych) on a side wall; and lakewater 10 and lakewater 12 on the furthest wall facing the front entrance. Installed on parallel posts roughly in the middle of the space are two small videos: row and watersamples. Surrounded as these two videos are by the paintings, at first they feel upstaged by the lush paintings and so they can be easily marginalized and seen as playing a secondary role to them.

Robin Kandel’s lakewater 10

However, while standing in the middle of the gallery and allowing my gaze to go from one painting to the other, round and round, back and forth, over and over again, I found myself glancing every once in a while at the video screens, which, while repeatedly teasing my peripheral vision, finally snuck their way into the front-and-center of my attention. Which was no small feat for the diminutive screens dwarfed even further by the enormous paintings.

In fact, the two video works end up taking center stage in their function as conceptual lynchpins for the show as a whole. For as one contemplates, for example, lakewater 10, with its striations of “water/sky blues” alternating with some algae-brown figural incidents (both of which are present in a subtle range of variations in all of the paintings in this show; and, in this painting alone, the additional incidents of golden-orange striations that flicker down and across most of this work), one can’t help but take in the video, watersamples, with its constant flow of imagery in front of this painting. And in so doing the lovely rippling effects of actual waters in actual lakes striate across the screen echoing the paintings’ general patterning; and in a eureka moment for this viewer, golden carp—the golden orange striations in the painting!Рswim surreptitiously beneath the almost obliterating reflections on the surface of the water. I found myself, at this point, unable to disengage one work from the other, in spite of their radically different modalities.

The video watersamples, as Kandel writes in her statement, was made after the paintings were all done, which conveys a sense of the extent to which our cultural constructs—in this case a painter’s process of painting her paintingsРinflect themselves inextricably into our general “experiences” in our world.

In the paintings, constructed as they are in Kandel’s high-risk methodology through which she sifts and teases her works into being, the juxtaposed hard-edged bands of various aqua-blues sometimes constrict or seem to suppress incipient imagery beneath, coercing us to resist a facile reading while also encouraging our romantic propensity towards illusion.

Kandel’s lakewater 3

The videos, in their own modality, tacitly condone these tendencies as if implying that within the cage of perceptual constructs we have come to inhabit, all we can manipulate, really, are its holding “bars, “ its iteratively proliferating technologies. Water, as conveyed in the modalities of this show, flows continually and, as was anciently proclaimed by Herakleitus, endlessly transforms.

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