Critics’ Picks

Leslie Shows, Face R, 2011, ink, acrylic, mica, paper, brass, Plexiglas, Mylar, aluminum, 82 x 48”.

San Francisco

Leslie Shows

Haines Gallery
49 Geary Street Suite 540
November 3–December 24, 2011

Leslie Shows’s new body of work was inspired by two small chunks of pyrite, aka fool’s gold. In a sense, the material is richer in metaphor than actual value; neither precious nor revered, it has modest industrial utility and reflective qualities that dazzle deceptively in the ground. As a doppelgänger for a fourteen-carat commodity, it calls worth into question. A series of faceted paintings on shiny aluminum panels, some more than six feet tall, are based on scans of pyrite and are rendered in a polymorphous array of elements––Plexiglas, Mylar, crushed glass, metal dust, mica, acrylic paint. Shows coaxes alchemical effects from her complex admixtures––some of the works suggest light fragmented into rainbow spectrums. Engraving into the aluminum and Plexi surfaces, for example, yields a sense of spatial confusion. It’s difficult to discern whether the foundation of these angular abstractions extends or recedes. These paintings similarly waver between abstraction and a detailed sense of realism.

In previous works, Shows reveled in geological interests, creating mixed-media representations of arid salt mines, earthly locations formed over vast time frames. Her latest pieces spring from similar interests, yet reveal a notable shift in materiality, dimensionality, and sheen. Shows also commendably explores new modes and materials, particularly in a series of sculptures cast in sulfur (notably, pyrite is half-sulfur and half-iron). The sculptures, a flat yellow contrast to the metallic sheen of the paintings, emulate the shapes of minerals, computer hard drives, and dollar store trinkets. Displayed on the floor, the objects are rendered homely manufactured modules that can’t compete with the complex forces of nature and Shows’s ability to marshal them.