San Francisco

Shane Aslan Selzer

Lisa Dent Gallery

In her notably assured first solo exhibition, young San Francisco–based artist Shane Aslan Selzer employed an aesthetic both calculated in its range and instinctual in its use of unusual materials. At Lisa Dent Gallery, Selzer mined a challenging artistic vein sparked, arguably, by the likes of Rachel Harrison via a well-choreographed suite of works in a variety of media—sculpture, photography, video, and print. The show was installed in two rooms, one of which basked in primarily natural light while the other was dark enough to accommodate an atmospheric video installation. Both settings demonstrated the artist’s skill at commanding space and context with an economy of means. The placement of each object also appeared to have been carefully considered, even if much of the work depended on impulse.

Included were several sculptures based on niches, perches, and pedestals, most of them mixing sturdy materials (drywall, plywood) with more ephemeral ones (glass, fishing line, Mylar). Often, the sculptures’ bases or supports—their rough seams deliberately exposed and sawhorse forms consciously repeated—are integral to their effect. In the gallery’s lighter room, a zigzag arrangement of free-standing screens made from lightweight silver-and-gold emergency blankets housed and connected a number of individual works. The ability to successfully utilize such unorthodox materials is one of Selzer’s strengths, and in spite of their evident flimsiness, the objects and their display mechanism immediately commanded the room.

In portrait looking in (all works 2005), Selzer uses a V-shaped arrangement of screens to showcase a hand-carved wooden structure that resembles a canoe standing on end. The combination of elements formed a shrine of sorts, the reflective silver summoning a low-rent, quasi-religious magic. Adjacent screens further subdivided the room, creating a narrow passageway in which Selzer placed two other works. One, three birds, is a small plaster blob in which three beer-bottle caps imprinted with images of fowl are embedded, and which sits on a shelf of unfinished drywall. The other, portrait untitled, is a large color photograph of Henriette Wyeth’s studio in San Patricio, New Mexico, other shots of which form the basis of a handsome artist’s book given away at the gallery. Each of these was subtly altered by its proximity to the glimmering screens, the ordinary function of which is to absorb or deflect heat but here served to absorb or deflect the viewer’s gaze. Nearby was pair of workhorses, two elegant steel forms akin to the titular workshop mainstays. That one of these stands on its four legs while the other has apparently toppled over doesn’t undercut either the sturdiness of their construction or their sleek surfaces’ reference to Minimalist sculpture.

In the gallery’s second room were three other works, the most striking of which was horizon, drawing in blue, a mantlelike structure roughly constructed from drywall with a sheet of blue glass inclining toward the viewer at a formidably sharp angle. Close inspection reveals that the glass is anchored by a smaller piece of darker glass wedged beneath it and by two nearly invisible strands of nylon thread. It seems about to crash to the floor yet remains perfectly poised, demonstrating an intoxicating tension that pervades Selzer’s entire enterprise.

Glen Helfand