Where Were We at Anglim Gilbert Gallery

Shotgun Review

Where Were We at Anglim Gilbert Gallery

By Max Blue March 27, 2018

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Max Blue reviews Where Were We at Anglim Gilbert Gallery in San Francisco.

If Turkish artist Canan Tolon’s paintings had a soundtrack, it would be the grating clangor of industrial mechanization. The works in Where Were We at San Francisco’s Anglim Gilbert Gallery are visually loud and abrasive in their cluttered compositions. A jumble of sharp right angles and straight edges, Tolon’s larger paintings are flowering blooms of color, while the smaller, square-format works, displayed in clusters, replicate this effect in grayscale. In each of these abstractions, shadowy images of angular, post-industrial architectural landscapes seem to float just beneath the paint. These underlying images are not actually present, a trompe l’oeil of Tolon’s technique that evokes the shadows of sharp edges and structures, calling to mind Bernd and Hilla Becher's gridded mid-century photographs of European factories and industrial structures.

Canan Tolon. Where Were We, 2018; installation view. Courtesy of Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco.

Many of the smaller studies, like WWW 6-7 (2017), even recall a photographer's contact sheet. Appearing as a multitude of small, rectangular images composed in registers, the abstract forms have a stuttered effect. The grid structure of the larger works, such as Untitled 10.3 (2017), overlaid by stains, smears, and hard-edged lines, produces an effect reminiscent of David Hockney’s fractured Polaroid compositions (another painter who invoked photography, albeit more literally). Within a Tolon painting, one sees a fractured or exploded image of some industrial structure; however, upon closer inspection there is nothing more than oil paint on the canvas, abstractly manipulated with straightedges and scraping techniques. Tolon’s tactic generates two simultaneous viewing experiences: that of a painted surface and the apparition of its photographic double.

Canan Tolon. Untitled 10.3, 2017; oil on canvas; 51 x 63 in. Courtesy of Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco.

Viewing Tolon's work is exhausting. There is no distance from which the work can be viewed that it might become placid. The forms one derives from a holistic study of the paintings only become truly abstract at a close range; however, it is at this proximity that viewers risk becoming overwhelmed by the compositions’ clutter. This visual and mental oversaturation, the "amnesic" effect as noted in the press release, is the works’ strongest feature; by denying viewers a chance for stable visual footing, Tolon’s work reinforces a sense of post-industrial antagonism. Where Were We leaves one pondering the unstable experience of contemplating the work, and offers a chance to reflect upon one’s ongoing interactions with the overstimulating modern industrial landscape we populate. While replicating that overwhelm, Tolon’s work offers us something that a rush-hour afternoon in a harried metropolis would not: the opportunity for introspection. 

Where Were We was on view at Anglim Gilbert Gallery in San Francisco through February 17, 2018.

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