By Josef Woodard / VOICE – January 7, 2022
Just in time for a new year, a new hope and a harbinger of wished-for continuity, Sullivan Goss kicks off with a main gallery exhibition looking both inward and out. As suggested by its title, Juxtaposed: The Art of Curation is a show in which the very art of curation is central to the end effect. As art presentation dictates, guiding curatorial forces follow a creative collective heart, behind the art on the walls, but this time in a self-conscious way.
Rather than heed a theme, era, or style by any traditional curatorial dictates, the Sullivan Goss team – owner Nathan Vonk, gallery director Jeremy Tessmer, and contemporary curator Susan Bush – gathered heads and eyes to choose pieces from the gallery’s collection and find suitable, and surprisingly compatible artworks despite the diversity at hand. The resulting exhibition behaves as an introductory show for the year, and an introductory sampler/primer to what Sullivan Goss is about and what makes it special.
Most of the names in the show have had presences in the gallery, some over years and with significant solo shows here – as in the case of Hank Pitcher and Nicole Strasburg. But reshuffled context sheds a new light on specific artworks.
In one example, Strasburg’s small See Green, a deceptively calm and compact entry in last year’s solo show Sea Changes, is “grounded” in a large area of sand in its compositional scheme, with water/waves seen only as a faint horizontal strip at the top. In what amounts to a kinship of hypnotic simplicity and linear poetry, her piece hangs next to Emerson Woelffer’s 1966 Untitled—Zen, with its thick calligraphic swipe in vertical formation.
Pitcher’s own take on sea matters, in the small multi-colored painting 12-31-2000, shares a horizontal versus vertical relationship and similar color palette with Joseph Goldyne’s vaporous wisp of color in his painting with the punning title I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great (Spenders). One also observes the divergent concepts in the pairing: Pitcher’s wavescape painting leans into abstraction, while Goldyne’s pushes an abstract gesture towards a suggestion of elemental, natural forces.
At times, these intriguing pairings tend to define the gallery’s spatial configuration. In one corner, Ethiopian-in-Berkeley artist Wosene Worke Kosroff’s lively, color-infused and, yes, highly rhythmic Birth of Music—II hints at influences of music loving proto-abstractionist Vasily Kandinsky and jazz-jabbed Stuart Davis, while using linguistic shards from the indigenous script of the artist’s home country. Its kinetic energy is reflected, in unexpected ways, in the neighboring piece, Sidney Gordin’s jagged dance of a metal sculpture, 7-12-57.
Follow your eye and body to the opposite gallery corner, and things go dark, artfully. Moodily muted visual airs inform Natalie Arnoldi’s airplane-in-night-fog painting Expectation, sharing a piece of gallery wall real estate with the enigmatic riverbend image (and metaphor) Night River.
Other juxtaposed visions plumb various sensory and thematic linkages between odd couplings of art. Airs of elegance enter the equation in the connection between super-realist painter Leslie Lewis Sigler’s shimmeringly veracious silver spoon and Betty Lane’s 1929 oddly-posed and poised Woman in Chair. Idealized dimensions bubble up in Angelo Perko’s Rousseau-esque dream Night Bloom and Maria Rendon’s slightly hallucinatory Red River.
A bit of era-crossing local art history also rears its head in the matching of witty and enterprising young sculptor Nathan Huff (who had a show in the gallery last fall) and the influential sculptor/assemblage artist/teacher Ron Robertson, master balancer of the orderly-yet-funky. Rust – and its textural and poetic qualities – never sleeps for either artist, as seen in Huff’s surreal and abstractly anecdotal Still Point and Robertson’s Rainbow, with its Chromatic Gate-like color maze and coiled spring/spiral at the core.
Consider Juxtaposed something of a portrait of a gallery, and its in-house curatorial voices.
Josef Woodard is a veteran cultural critic, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 25 years, has contributed to Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, DownBeat, and many music magazines, and a long association with the Santa Barbara Independent and News-Press. To date, he has published two books for Silman-James Press, on jazz legends Charles Lloyd and Charlie Haden, respectively. He recently published a debut novel, Ladies Who Lunch. Woodard is also a musician, a guitarist, songwriter, and head of the Household Ink Records label.