…every age must bring forth its own at Bass & Reiner

Review

…every age must bring forth its own at Bass & Reiner

By Casa de Palomitas May 22, 2018

On a recent flight home, an attendant reminded us passengers to press the “hairy light bulb” button above should we need extra reading light. By “hairy,” she was, of course, referring to the illustrated light rays included in the symbol. This peculiar, albeit appropriate, way to describe the icon had the unintended consequence of reminding us of the subtle process by which symbols and signs create meaning. In the exhibition …every age must bring forth its own at Bass & Reiner, San Francisco–based artists Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough and Mik Gaspay explore the experience of visual object recognition in our everyday lives, and the ways in which symbols communicate meaning.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough. Lexicon 27, 2017; colored acrylic inlaid in white acrylic panel; 49 x 37 in. (framed). Courtesy of Bass & Reiner. Photo: Bass & Reiner.

Brightly lit on one gallery wall are Lexicon 26 and Lexicon 27 (2017), a series of framed acrylic works by Yarbrough. Within each work are depictions of emoji-like objects. Some are recognizable, like wire hangers, airplanes, a halved avocado, and a series of jacks (minus the ball). Others, however, look less familiar. There’s a firework chandelier that we’re sure we saw at an estate sale, something in the form of a croissant, and a series of tools that might exist at Home Depot. Yarbrough thoughtfully maps out colorful acrylic symbols that are inset into a piece of white acrylic. The effect is that of Lucky Charms floating on the surface of a bowl of milk. There is an urge to identify the symbols, or match objects across the works. Yarbrough understands that we are inundated with symbols and she pushes us towards the uncomfortable: as we try to identify the signs we see in our everyday lives, we simultaneously become aware of all the unrecognized visuals that flood our subconscious minds. The signs in Lexicon 26 and Lexicon 27 feel both common and yet mutated, as if some of the objects belong only in our dreams.

Mik Gaspay. Light, Figures (Immigrant Anthology), 2018; ceramic, plastic, glass, and chrome; 40 x 40  x 120 in. Courtesy of Bass & Reiner. Photo: Mik Gaspay.

Juxtaposed against Yarbrough’s two-dimensional pieces are Mik Gaspay’s matte, gray sculptures, theatrically lit like props for a commercial. At the center of the room is Light, Figures (Immigrant Anthology) (2018), a sculpture comprising an assortment of found kitsch, delicately placed on a round glass tabletop (the kind your parents might have) that hovers just above the floor, the table’s legs having been reduced to a few inches. Devoid of color, Gaspay’s sculptures are painted in grisaille, thereby revealing the prototype-like form of a commercial object. As with Yarbrough’s pieces, there are familiar forms—like a pineapple and a jumping fish—and other, more eccentric forms, like a chef with a spout at its genitals. Across the room is Bananas, Bear, Box (Banana Republic) (2018), a tall sculpture of a bear that props a set of fake bananas on its head, covered by a bell jar. Gaspay’s sculptures have a dynamic quality of hyper-presentation—the objects are presented to the viewer as if the works want you to understand their intrinsic value.

Mik Gaspay. Inflatable Cactus, Blinds (Saguaro), 2018; video, LED Monitor, venetian blinds, and cornice. 27 x 45 x 7 in. Courtesy of Bass & Reiner; Photo: Mik Gaspay.

On another wall is Inflatable Cactus, Blinds (Saguaro) (2018), a portrait-sized LED monitor capped with a cornice. Plastic blinds hang crooked from the ornamental molding, as though the monitor was a window. Through the blinds, a large, gray, inflatable saguaro cactus rotates gracefully across the screen. The proxy symbolizes the actual plant, which is found in the American Southwest and is a common symbol in Hollywood Western films. The object is desirable; it seems close enough to touch, but exits in an outer virtual space, only temporarily inflated, and fleeting for the viewer.

…every age must bring forth its own is on view at Bass and Reiner in San Francisco through June 30, 2018.

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