Shotgun Review

Pure Paper

By Shotgun Reviews February 21, 2011

Pure Paper, a group show curated by Aimée Reed, explores the many ways artists are utilizing paper as medium, revealing its materiality and utility beyond acting as a vehicle for communication—a use currently challenged by technology, which makes this investigation particularly timely.

Paper is versatile: artists Peter Callesen and Bovey Lee cut it; Kathleen Henderson and Julia Goodman sculpt it; Gregory Euclide makes it into three-dimensional, wall-mounted landscapes; Paul Hayes and Claire Jackel craft installations out of it; Amparo Sard pokes holes in it; and Vik Muniz uses it as the base for his trompe l’oeil photographs of re-creations of iconic black-and-white photographs.

In this exhibition, paper is also quiet. Most of the works shown are white, black, or along the gray scale; the atmosphere is Zen-like. Paper also takes on various qualities that are well balanced here: heavier work is offset by light, airy pieces; larger by smaller; flat by three-dimensional.

Henderson’s Flock (2006) is an immediate eye-catcher—after stopping to gaze up at Jackel’s Gravity Always Wins (2009), a three-dimensional paper cut-out cityscape that hangs upside down over the gallery entrance. For Flock, Henderson combines paper, pulp, tar, and wax to sculpt numerous and various types of black bird heads that are mounted to the wall. A trophy hunter’s display? A memorial to birds drowned in an oil spill?

Along the same wall are Spanish artist Sard’s strange, narrative white-on-white pointillist images made of innumerable pinholes in paper. And so it flows, and aesthetics nicely juxtapose. Paul Hayes’ lyric and looping ceiling-hung sculpture Passing Through (2011) angles toward Muniz’s bold Untitled, After Hein Gorny (2008), perhaps the most forceful piece in the show.

Vik Muniz. Untitled, After Hein Gorny, 2008; silver gelatin; 66 1/2 x 51 1/2 in. Courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco.

Untitled is also a key to the show’s underlying theme: the questioning of viewer perceptions. Muniz is a master of this type of play; his works—his piece Clapboard House, West Palm Beach, FL, after Arnold Newman (2008) is also on show here—lead viewers to believe they see torn-up pieces of paper composed to look like a famous photo, when in reality, they see a photograph of that paper composition. Likewise, these artists challenge perceptions of paper, what it’s capable of, and how it can be used.


Pure Paper is on view at Rena Bransten Gallery, in San Francisco, through March 12, 2011.


Chérie Louise Turner is a freelance art writer; she has written for art, ltd.magazine, Visual Art Source, and the Huffington Post, among other art publications, and she blogs at She also has a long career in magazine and book publishing; most recently she was the editor in chief of the Nob Hill Gazette.

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