San Francisco

Will Yackulic

Gregory Lind Gallery

The ten works on paper in Will Yackulic’s second solo show at Gregory Lind Gallery have a motif in common: one or two spheres that float in the composition’s upper center. In some of the pieces, these are positioned above undulating patterns that suggest landscapes or swelling seas. The spheres are geodesic, and are articulated with triangles of gouache, watercolor, and, in some cases, ink, occasionally taking on more gradated smoothness through the use of finer brushwork. The backgrounds are made from rows of letterforms tapped out on vintage manual typewriters (including an oversize bank-ledger model with a particularly wide carriage). Relying on the limited palette of ordinary typewriter ribbon colors—black, blue, red—Yackulic creates rippling lines and suggestions of atmosphere using fields of punctuation marks to suggest texture. Like Frances Stark, he strikes a bibliophilic pose—the pieces are modest in scale and must be “read,” their power emerging gradually, and in part through compositional repetition.

These works are made slowly. Yackulic’s unusual process for creating vast sections of the images is clearly visible, and what could easily be a gimmicky trope finally seems less like ASCII character drawing than concrete poetry. In works such as Substance & Ordination and Granted Ground (all works 2008), Yackulic creates angled and undulating lines. The finished works have a meditative quietude, but the act of their making seems to have entailed an almost athletic manipulation of paper through the platen. Composed on off-white paper, the works also appear decades older—both as objects and stylistically—than they actually are.

Previously, Yackulic painted mountain ranges formed from tiny blue and white cubes—conveying a sense of antiquity and monumentality—alongside oblique texts, sometimes accented with phrases, typewritten directly onto the composition or on strips of paper affixed to its surface. In the recent work, the cube has been entirely replaced by repeating letterforms. Words, however, are rare in this body of work, and when they do appear, they’re arranged in diamond formations. This Last Fact Was Strange, one of a series of works in which a sphere is positioned against a blank ground but boxed inside filigree borders composed of zeros and letter o’s, features a text that reads, A PROMPT & PERFECT CURE, the phrase that served as the ironic title of this meditative exhibition. Another, The Equation, has a five-character caption that encapsulates the work’s symmetry: lb/lb.

The images with more open backgrounds resemble tantric drawings, which often rely on the mandala forms that are a traditional element of illustrated Hindu texts. It’s fitting, then, that these works have overtones of transcendentalism and mathematics, and an eye to celestial literary sources such as Jorge Luis Borges’s stories and Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, a late-nineteenth-century novella concerning a flat world interrupted by a sphere (Yackulic also explores notions of dimensionality with layered use of red and blue type that looks as though it might be enhanced by the viewer’s donning 3-D glasses). The artist refers to his globes as “outposts,” a term that suggests a science-fiction bent and points to a strain of neopsychedelic narrative work identified with such artists as Keegan McHargue. The success of Yackulic’s project, however, lies in its visual simplicity and purposeful ambiguity, both of which allow for multiple entry points.

Glen Helfand