Maria Porges

  • Fletcher + Rubin

    For the past five years, Harrell Fletcher and Jon Rubin have been making installations that bring new meaning to the term “site specific.” For each project they undertake, these two young artists research a particular locale for several weeks to several months, with the intent of eventually creating a body of work that reflects the particularity of the place and the people who live there. Since whatever they come up with is usually exhibited within the community that inspired it, their subjects are also their audience.

    “Wanderings and Observations in Walnut Creek,” the somewhat picaresque title

  • Catherine McCarthy

    Over the last decade or so, the term appropriation has become a degraded catchall for the use of any kind of borrowed imagery. Catherine McCarthy’s paintings return the word to its truer meaning: to claim something as one’s own as though by exclusive right. When McCarthy incorporates fragments of old master paintings into compositions suggesting palimpsests, these bits of the past are subsumed into the present, functioning as part of the pieced-together fabric of the artist’s inner life. Drawn and painted layers of image and text include not only turbulent seascapes and Northern Renaissance

  • Rudolf Steiner

    When Rudolf Steiner—prolific author in twelve fields, charismatic teacher, and founder of the turn-of-the-century mystical movement he called anthroposophy—accompanied his influential lectures with blackboard drawings, he never meant the vividly scrawled amalgamations of image and text he produced to be considered works of art independent of their purpose in elucidating his ideas. For the first twenty-five years of the century, Steiner traveled throughout Europe giving some five thousand talks on a variety of subjects. In 1919, one of his colleagues began placing pieces of black paper over

  • Polly Apfelbaum

    Polly Apfelbaum’s arrangements of pieces of stained crushed velvet defy easy categorization or description. For her show at the school’s McBean Gallery, she used this modest material to create a piece of cinematic proportions called The Night, 1996–97—a title, appropriately enough, borrowed from an early Antonioni film. Thousands of stains measuring an inch or two in either dimension had been neatly cut out of cream-colored fabric, singly or in small chained clusters, and arranged on the floor of the gallery—a peculiar, irregularly shaped room dominated at one end by a large concrete staircase.

  • Brett Reichman

    A recurring leitmotif of much recent art is a vision of childhood as paradise lost, in which toys, stuffed animals, and even children themselves seem to have run amok. Often the impetus for this kind of work appears to be a kind of mourning for a collective loss of innocence: a longing for something irretrievably destroyed, presumably by “modern life.” Yet this kind of work is sometimes generated by much more complicated and interesting emotions and ideas. Brett Reichman’s paintings of elfin characters, for instance, may exude a palpable melancholy, but a closer examination of these profoundly

  • Margaret Kilgallen

    At once sweet and dry, nostalgic and ironic, Margaret Kilgallen’s installations of images and text are like some kind of magic elixir swigged from a bottle passed around a hobo’s campfire. Painted directly on the gallery walls or on recycled bits of this and that—wood, cardboard, rusty metal type trays—her pieces often have an appealingly weathered quality. This aura of age is reinforced by her use of elaborately decorative typefaces popular a century ago. Evoking the accidental poetry of roadside signs, words—such as “salt,” “bail,” or “liquors”—appear either alone or in salon-style clusters

  • Chester Arnold

    Whether seen from a bird’s-eye view or scrutinized at close range, the world described by Chester Arnold’s landscapes is a beautiful but ominous place. On remote-looking granite peaks or in bleak strip mines, next to a busy anthill or in the burnt remains of a forest, fascinating disasters both natural and entirely man-made regularly threaten to unfold.

    The dark narratives hinted at in these expansive canvases (most measure six feet along at least one dimension) have been pieced together from a number of sources, not the least of which is Arnold’s particularly poetic imagination. As in Arnold’s

  • Jack Ox

    For over twenty years, Jack Ox has devoted herself to giving visual form to music. Using a system as fascinating as it is Byzantine, Ox has worked her way through painted performances of music as diverse as Gregorian chant, Bach, Debussy, Stravinsky, and Bruckner. Her latest performance was based on Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate, or “sonata of primal sounds.” In Ox’s version of Schwitters’ noise poem, each utterance (or, for that matter, the silences between them) had been meticulously interpreted in her paintings as a combination of dissected, reassembled images and solid bands of brilliant cadmium

  • Karim Hamid

    At first glance, both the titles and the compositions of the paintings in this show suggest that these works are meant to be seen as portraits. Each of six large canvases depicts a full figure, either seated or standing; four smaller ones show close-ups of single faces. In none is there more than a hint offered of the space the figure occupies—never more, say, than a patterned floor meeting a featureless wall.

    On closer examination, however, these paintings begin to foil the expectations we have of portraiture. Photography may have radically changed our assumptions about art’s job (to represent

  • Charles Goldman

    Whether pleasant or suffocating, compelling memories of home and childhood can be triggered by almost anything—a notion demonstrated by the effect on Proust of the taste of madeleines soaked in a spoonful of lime-flower tea. For Charles Goldman, the recollection of the very shape of his parents’ house has become the core of a profound meditation on identity: more specifically, on agoraphobia, defined as a fear of the loss of the self through the transition from private to public space. In the four elements of this installation, Goldman set about the interesting task of re-creating the experience

  • Paul Kos

    Through a variety of strange and often very funny works made over the past two decades, sculptor Paul Kos has clearly staked his claim to a position in the Surrealist line of descent. Certain elements common to much of his sculpture—an air of mystery, a deft appropriation of found objects, and that weird kind of Jerry Lewis humor the French go in for—all evoke this familial relationship. Among the enchanting pieces included in “Sculpture Furnished,” there are even fairly direct homages to Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, the Dada daddies of them all. In Emboss I, II, and III, 1995, three life-sized

  • Katherine Sherwood

    In Katherine Sherwood’s newest body of work, the predominant theme is luck, examined in several of its most peculiar and intrinsically random forms. Set against a ground of paper glued onto canvas, signs and symbols of magic, gambling, and apocalypse reveal themselves gradually, almost coyly, with a little detective work. In many of these paintings, vaguely organic-looking figures and diagrams turn out to be “white magic seals of the spirits”: runes to which specific powers are ascribed. One confers wit and humor; another helps someone get ahead on the job, and a third grants peace of mind.

  • Ritsuko Taho

    With a rare combination of humor and grace, Ritsuko Taho’s installation Dawn: Transformation of Zero, 1995, examined our complex relationship with money. For Taho, money represents more than the act of exchange or accumulation: it is also, metaphorically, a measure of time. Evoking a process of gradual refinement or winnowing out, two elegantly tiered platforms descended from two corners of the room toward opposite ends of a high table. The steps of one were covered with mounds of shredded currency; the other, with similar piles of crumbly brown topsoil. On the table, Taho had left instructions

  • Melissa Pokorny

    The deadpan humor of Melissa Pokorny’s neorococo constructions depends, in part, on a combination of the familiar and the utterly odd. Mounds, towers, and rows of cute little creatures serve as a kind of wry punctuation for the eccentric forms Pokorny assembles out of fragments of thrift-store furniture, swaths of fabric and/or bundles of turned wooden balusters. Clots of puppies, lambkins, poodles, and trolls cast out of a spongy polyurethane foam nestle together in nooks and crannies. Tinted the same peculiar early ’70s palette—burnt orange, lime green, fleshy mauve, or mustard yellow—as the

  • David Dunlap

    Though a number of artists have specialized in making artwork that draws from the constant inner monologue of consciousness, for David Dunlap this process has become the core of a practice based on the paradoxical precept that the more we pay attention to our thoughts, emotions, and perceptions, “the more we don’t know.” This entrancing, equivocal ·world view was apparent in every detail of This is Always Finished, 1995, a complicated, encyclopedic image-text installation that sprawled through the gallery with a kind of faux-naive charm. The main elements were furnished by Dunlap’s journals—pocket-sized

  • Michael Kenna

    For some artists, the passage of twenty years encompasses several distinct bodies of work. Others, like photographer Michael Kenna, apparently find change less compelling than achieving a kind of perfection within relatively narrow parameters. As revealed by these small, black and white images, Kenna’s work centers—and always has—around a genre best described as landscape-as-still-life. Off-season views of shorelines or rolling hills, parks or cityscapes, exude a kind of cool, autumnal melancholy. In the crepuscular light spreading over land, water, or buildings, it always seems to be late, or

  • Enrique Chagoya

    Like an offering to the gods of crosscultural communication, Enrique Chagoya’s first museum show in his adopted hometown, entitled “Borders of the Spirit,” presented a thoughtful and often bitingly humorous cross section of work from the past decade. Chagoya’s paintings, drawings, and sculpture explore what happens when two (or sometimes three) worlds bump up against each other, by setting American pop-culture icons—Superman, Mickey Mouse, Olive Oyl—into a matrix of the rich, highly diverse visual traditions of Chagoya’s native Mexico. By juxtaposing Aztec gods and DC Comics superheroes, Mickey’s

  • Bill Bury

    At first glance, the 28 identically sized, framed paintings in this show seemed to spring from a familiar strategy: a series of variations on a compositional theme based on a certain group of elements in a prescribed format. In each small work, sinuous blobs reminiscent of ’50s coffee tables, Joan Miró-esque abstractions, and undersea life collide and overlap, punctuated by a loopy squiggle that terminates in the painted suggestion of a tiny glow. The blob’s lively protoplasmic shapes are rendered either as solid forms, in achingly beautiful combinations of dense, delicious-looking color, or as

  • Hollis Sigler

    In “Not Many Rest Stops,” Hollis Sigler presented uninhabited landscapes and interiors filled with modern-day memento mori. Resembling nothing so much as the scenery and props of a tragedy-in-progress, the elements of Sigler’s elaborately framed drawings and paintings narrate the continuing story of her experience with cancer. Over the past nine years she has explored social attitudes toward and treatments of this disease and of breast cancer in particular. She does so through the use of both words and pictures, hand-writing a continuing thread of text around stepped wooden frames, as well as

  • Jess

    In the second half of the 20th century, the vision and accomplishments of the vast majority of America’s designated masters have tended to be monolithic, highly focused and, above all, self-referential. For the painter and collagist Jess, this Modernist mainstream seems to have held only passing interest during a lifelong development of a personal vision, shaped by qualities so distinctly unconventional that his remarkable work—difficult either to categorize or describe—has not received the kind of recognition or respect that it has long deserved. This extensive retrospective now