Green Circle, Black Diamond

Shotgun Review

Green Circle, Black Diamond

By Shotgun Reviews July 26, 2014

Unconventionally shaped paintings protruding from the walls greet me as I walk into the exhibition Green Circle, Black Diamond at Ratio 3. The use of a dark and predominantly gray color scheme by artists including Michael Rey, Laeh Glenn, and Ron Gorchov, coupled with an exploration of the canvas’s shape and depth, becomes a consistent and unifying element among these works in the main gallery. Walking into the second, smaller room, a noticeable change occurs: The artworks become increasingly abstract, and color collides with space. On the left wall hangs a large-scale painting by Al Held from the late ’80s that investigates color and illusionistic space. On the opposite wall is Bay Area artist Barry McGee’s untitled painting from 2014. While the exhibition visibly demonstrates the influence of older painters on emerging artists, McGee’s use of sculptural forms and color in his untitled work bridges the two groups of artists in the exhibition.

McGee’s untitled piece (2014) is a large, red panel consisting of eighty-eight variously sized rectangles with a multicolored and multi-patterned shape reminiscent of a coiling snake in the center. Though I’m immediately drawn to it because of its vibrant colors, it is initially unclear to me how this work fits in with others in the exhibition. Though familiar with McGee’s work from BAM/PFA’s exhibition Barry McGee in 2012, I was initially unable to draw connections to the distinct street-style vibe for which he has become known. The gallerist informed me that McGee’s work was mailed in completely disassembled, and it took them nearly a full night to arrange it as instructed. I soon began to realize that although the style differed from that of his earlier show, the same vibrant colors and patterns present in his untitled work are practically identical to his earlier works.

Barry McGee. Untitled, 2014; paint on panel; 88 elements; 105 ½ x 124 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco. 

Looking at emerging artist Jim Lee’s untitled piece (2014), the canvas is notably manipulated. A bend on its right side reveals the canvas’s innards, while the face of the piece is filled with a muddy-gray, lopsided rectangle. On the surface, it appears that the only connection to McGee’s untitled work is the shared title (or lack thereof) and the sculptural appearance of the canvas. However, what becomes clear after spending some time with the show is the decisiveness in which the artists call into question the materiality of their chosen media, unwilling to be bound to tradition or self-imposed styles. 


Audrey Weber was an EHSS Summer 2014 Intern for Art Practical.

Green Circle, Black Diamond is on view at Ratio 3, in San Francisco, through August 9, 2014.

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