Shotgun Review


By Danica Willard Sachs September 24, 2015

Chris Fraser is an artist cum magician, employing the physics of light to create magical objects that interrogate perception. In Animated, on view at Gallery Wendi Norris, Fraser debuts two complementary bodies of work that extend his consideration of optics and perception: sculptures activated by both light and the viewer’s movement, and photograms that still the action in the sculptures.

Chris Fraser. Mobile | 0˚, 90˚, 90˚ | Argon and Neon, 2015; powder-coated steel, gas discharge tubes, transformer, argon, and neon; 42 x 21 x 12 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

Fraser’s sculptures mark the high point of the exhibition. Mobile | 0˚, 90˚, 90˚ | Argon and Neon (2015) is one of three similar sculptures, each approximately the size of a mirror, mounted in a row on one of the walls in the gallery. Inside a black metal frame Fraser has carefully layered perforated sheets of black metal, creating subtle, shifting kaleidoscope-like patterns in the overlap as the viewer passes by the sculpture. Each black box is flanked by pastel-hued tubes of light, variously containing compressed noble gases that emit different colors with the addition of an electrical current: Neon becomes red, argon blue, helium peach, krypton white, and xenon purple. In the case of Mobile, Fraser chooses neon and argon. These glaring red and blue tubes transform into a subtle gradient, meeting in the center as violet, seen through the shifting image created by the perforated metal. Recalling Bruce Nauman’s Neon Templates of the Left Half of My Body Taken at Ten Inch Intervals (1966) or Dan Flavin’s iconic fluorescent light sculptures, Fraser’s sculptures similarly rely on the viewer’s interaction to complete the work. As the pulsating, tinted glow of the noble gases reflects on our faces, and the image in the black boxes shifts before our eyes, we as viewers are made aware of the limits of our vision.

The eight photograms in the exhibition prove to be far less engaging. Made by exposing photosensitive paper to light shone through layers of the same perforated metal sheets in the sculptural works, the black-and-white prints of blurred geometric patterns fix in time the shifting animation present in each sculpture. Despite the fact that they outnumber the sculptures, the photograms are easily passed over as obvious one-offs of the dynamic objects they correspond in size to.


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Animated is on view at Gallery Wendi Norris, in

San Francisco

, through October 31, 2015.

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