San Francisco

Mitzi Pederson

A restrained, less-is-more materiality pervades the sculpture of Mitzi Pederson. The eight works in her recent show are made from a limited range of media: reflective paper, tinted sheets and strips of cellophane-thin translucent acetate, and small, rectangular pieces of aluminum tape. Half of the works incorporate sheets of plywood (described by the gallery, colorfully, as “door skin”). With this restricted sculptural vocabulary, Pederson constructs small, deceptively offhand objects that poetically (in a style suggestive of Richard Tuttle) flaunt their precariousness and vulnerability.

Formally, the sculptures are all about tension and pliability. In each work, the reflective paper is curved into a gracefully bowed form and held in place with a thin strap of acetate and/or tape. Pederson curls reflective paper into funnels and domes. The curving surfaces mirror and magnify the color of the acrylic—each work features one standard tint of yellow, blue, green, or amber. In the wall-mounted into weightlessness (into absence) (all works 2007), a piece of amber acrylic appears to blossom as it’s mirrored in the center of a curved reflective form. From the main body of the piece, a Band-Aid-size tab of acrylic dangles on near-invisible monofilament, fluttering slightly in the air current.

If into weightlessness appears to be perpetually on the verge of floating away, an untitled freestanding sculpture nearby has a more forceful presence. The work consists of a piece of plywood bent into a C shape with a wide strip of blue acetate, affixed with squares of aluminum tape that traverse its height. The thin upper edge of the roughly cut wood is painted silver, subtly drawing attention to its irregular texture. On the whole, however, the sculpture seems like a graceful but jury-rigged Möbius strip in imminent danger of springing apart. The suspense leads to the image of it snapping, as well as to questions about the life span of the work. Will it hold until tomorrow? The tension this engenders has less to do with any concern about the quality of the craftsmanship involved than it does with the vulnerability of the materials, which are more often used for party decor. In other works, the stress is less explicit. Cynosure is a small wall-mounted work consisting of a thin strip of blue plastic film curled into a hollow teardrop shape that rests on a similarly formed curving shelf of reflective paper. You’d have to ask, or touch the piece, to discover that the elements aren’t attached—one component just nestles in the other.

Concurrently with the exhibition at Ratio 3, Pederson’s work was also shown the seca Art Award exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Most prominent at the museum was untitled (ten years later or maybe just one), 2005, in which broken pieces of cinder block are stacked, without mortar, as in a low-slung house of cards. In this work, the artist dusted the craggy edges with dark gray glitter (a material she has often used before), a touch that does much to counteract a sense of heft. The reflective paper in the Ratio 3 works manages to convey both weight and buoyancy. It also contains a touch of chrome-and-acrylic modernism, equal parts disco and Donald Judd. The syntheticism does much to nudge Pederson’s project from wispiness to a more trenchant expression of uncertainty, with a surprising degree of staying power.

Glen Helfand