The night of January 10th was undoubtedly a great one for contemporary art in the bay area. Many of the top galleries in San Francisco and Oakland opened their doors to present new exhibits featuring today’s hottest artists. In the North Beach area, Modern Eden Gallery debuted “Platinum Blend”, a suitably named show curated by our own editor-in-chief, Stephanie Chefas. The theme behind the show was to select an array of artists all featured on Platinum Cheese who come from different stylistic walks of life, but whose work blended organically when placed next to each other on the wall. The result was an exhibit that did indeed blend a number of different styles and artists to optimal effect. There was a tremendous balance of light and dark, of portraiture and sculpture, of conceptual and literal, all gracefully positioned in a manner so as to achieve a homogenous experience.
While it would be nearly impossible to denote a true highlight of a show that was figuratively a highlight reel in and of itself, this writer was duly impressed by works such as Peter Gronquist’s Untitled, an immaculately executed piece featuring a handcrafted silver tank surrounded by light inside an infinity mirror. Viewers were drawn to the piece like flies to a flame as they peered into the mirror, circled the room, and gravitated back to it as if magnetized. His piece proved beyond a shadow of the doubt that the “infinity mirror” genre definitely still has plenty to offer and the work was a masterpiece of labored simplicity and symmetry.
Peter Gronquist (detail)
Another piece that drew eyeballs and dropped jaws was Jana Brike’s Crowning of a Young Queen. As with much her recent work, Brike’s evocative, richly detailed painting reinforced the notion that she continues to evolve as an artist and ranks among the best of today’s working artists. Her tendency to pair surrealism and naturalism against detailed backdrops, her compelling control over shadow and light, and her ability to evoke emotions through details such as the look in one’s eye or tiny facial scars proves that Brike is truly at the top of her game and destined for an enduring legacy in the contemporary art scene.
foreground: Jana Brike, background: Kelly Allen
Jana Brike (detail)
Lucien Shapiro’s Lux of Heri is way too provocative not to mention. It represents a culmination of everything that makes the artist unique. With the same degree of ease the piece could be described as a lamp or a work of “found art” or a potential voodoo artifact. A spooky mask adorned with rows of compressed bottle caps (Shapiro’s trademark) with a vintage glass lamp mounted on top, Lux of Heri is the kind of work that looks like it might seem capable of conjuring up some sort of ancient spiritual entity, and it was nearly impossible to ignore.
foreground: Lucien Shapiro, background: Aaron Nagel
Like Shapiro, plenty of other artists were selected because they exuded an immediate identity, Brian Donnelly’s Fountain of Youth for instance. Donnelly is easily forging his own aesthetic and striking a massive chord among collectors and curators. Somehow his melting faces manage to never feel redundant and he has the unique privilege of being instantly identifiable by his work alone—no small feat given the abundance of artists working today.
Brian Donnelly (detail)
Souther Salazar’s piece The Signal was also an excellent example of a trademark aesthetic that can be instantly associated with the artist who created it. Salazar’s compelling piece was at once hallucinatory and real, retro and modern, and ultimately it signified a universe only he could create. Zoe Williams’ Hydra, which featured her utterly beautiful felt cats, was yet another piece that was immediately indicative of the artists’ trademark and yet simultaneously unique within her repertoire. Michael Alm’s Red Fox and Ben Venom’s In on the Kill Taker are yet two more examples of instantly identifiable works that exude familiarity and progression at once.
left to right: Mel Kadel, Souther Salazar
left to right: Liz McGrath, Ben Venom, Peter Gronquist
Every artist brought his or her “A” game to "Platinum Blend" and needless to say the exhibit was running on all cylinders. The art was magnificent and diverse, the aim to seamlessly blend so many different styles at once achieved without question. The crowd was engaged and vibrant from open the close. Chefas has accomplished a true landmark in terms of her curatorial sensibilities and, without bias, I’m very excited to see where she goes next.
left to right: Cristina Paulos, David Bray
top: Jeff Ramirez, bottom: Lily Mae Martin
Jennifer Nehrbass (detail)
Henrik Uldalen (detail)
top: Jeni Yang, bottom: Marco Mazzoni
Christine Wu (detail)
top left: Caitlin Hackett, bottom left: Bradley Platz, right: Aaron Nagel
top left: Zoe Williams, bottom left: Christina Mrozik, right: Meryl Pataky
Christina Mrozik (detail)
Gallerists Kim Larsen and Bradley Platz