If you’re a dedicated Sight Unseen reader, the name Trek Matthews may ring a bell since we featured his work just a few months ago — paintings of pastel-colored shapes, intersecting and receding into the distance, that were inspired by transit stations and the directional signage of Asia. This time we’re delving a little deeper into his inspiration and process as part of our series featuring the work of four artists who were commissioned to create large-scale installations at Dolby’s new headquarters in San Francisco.
Portland-based Drew Tyndell is the creative director of his own studio, Computer Team, which specializes in 2D hand-drawn and stop-motion animations. But he’s also an accomplished artist in the more traditional sense of the word, and his most recent project is a commissioned mural for Dolby’s new headquarters in San Francisco.
The art of Atlanta's Christopher Derek Bruno — which hews mostly toward rainbow lenticular wall sculptures that change color and form depending on the vantage point of the viewer, like the piece above he recently installed in Dolby's San Francisco headquarters — has almost as much movement and dimension and physicality as his furniture.
Dazzle camouflage was a frenetic patterning applied to ships during World War I to scramble the depth perception of enemies — not exactly a motif you'd expect to see applied to the walls of a major corporate office. Yet inside the new San Francisco headquarters for Dolby, Atlanta painter and dazzle enthusiast Kevin Byrd was given carte blanche to do just that.
On this site, we don't tend to feature exhibitions once they've already closed, but this one retains one of the most incredible visual archives we've seen to date, a record of objects that were as beautifully displayed as they were constructed. Ben Peterson's "Nebraska," which was on view at San Francisco's Ratio 3 gallery from January 17 to February 28, featured a series of architectural ceramic sculptures by the Oakland-based artist, painted in different, natural hues to erase traces of their clay past and to resemble something more like weathered and patinated concrete. Almost Brutalist in form, the sculptures were installed on site-specific pastel plinths, an extreme juxtaposition that somehow seemed just right.
One of the best things about ceramics' recent ascent in the art world is that a brighter light has been shone on designers who were practicing in the medium long before "urban claymaking" was ever a thing. The latest artist to experience a massive upswing in attention is Ron Nagle, the San Francisco–based postwar ceramicist who, in his 70s, still adds to his already massive body of work at an amazing clip. Shown at the last art Biennale in Venice, Nagle is currently the subject of both an exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art and a lovely feature in the new issue of PIN-UP Magazine, who writes of Nagle's process: "Each [piece] boasts the presence of a monument covered in variations of fine stucco textures sprayed with layers of pastel, blush fields often overtaken by thick glazed pools and electric pinstripes. The pieces begin as collections of hand sculpted elements, and are slip cast, carved and fitted to each other, gaining their deep beds of color from multiple firings that are finished with chinapaint. The forms have shifted in theme through his career: from lean green tendrils hailing from ikebana to diorama scenes housing pulsing red cubes." We're particularly fond of a recurring trope in Nagle's work that resembles glassy spears of asparagus, so we've rounded up a few of our favorite examples here.
We talk a lot on this site about inspiration, and with most of our subjects that conversation assumes a certain measure of materiality — that we’ll be discussing the things they’ve amassed over the years or the places they return to over and over again on their travels. But for the British artist Sam Orlando Miller, it’s the lack of these things that gives him the energy and space to create. In 2000, after spending more than a decade in London building up his interiors firm, Miller and his wife, Helen, left it all behind for a quiet life in the Le Marche region of Italy, a mile from the nearest village, close to the coastline of the Adriatic Sea. But though they live in an admittedly enviable location, Miller says, “it didn’t need to be Italy. It just needed to be somewhere that was wilder than London, away from the culture I’d been immersed in. I found it difficult to think when surrounded by all that stuff. Here, you have to think about your own creativity and what your voice is. When you’re surrounded by nature, all of a sudden you’re on your own, psychologically.” And so rather than things, Miller collects thoughts and sketches and conversations, running over them again and again in his head until one bumps into the other and becomes a full-fledged idea. That’s what happened with his most recent body of work, The Sky Blue Series — a collection of mirrors and objects commissioned by the San Francisco gallery Hedge for a solo show, on view until this coming Monday, that marks Miller’s American debut.
To understand what it was like for Ian McDonald growing up in California’s Laguna Beach, it helps to refer back to one of the greatest television dramas of all time. Not, mind you, MTV’s reality show of the same name, but the heart-wrenching high-school football epic Friday Night Lights — McDonald’s hometown being pretty much the diametrical opposite of Dillon, Texas. “Laguna was founded as an artists’ colony,” he says. “Our school mascot, The Artist, ran around with a brush and palette and a beret. Even the football stars took art classes.” In fact, one of McDonald’s earliest run-ins with the medium that would eventually become his life’s work happened when his own sports-star brothers brought their ceramics projects home from school, where their art teacher was a local studio potter.
It’s not every day that one of our subjects answers the phone by giddily announcing she’s just opened the mail to find the Legend soundtrack she ordered and proclaiming that 1985 Tom Cruise fantasy flick to be her favorite movie. But then San Francisco artist Sarah Applebaum has always tended to march to the beat of her own drum: Paying no mind when her work meanders back and forth between craft and art, she mostly uses dime-store materials like yarn, papier mâché, and felt. Unlike most crafters, she often turns those materials into three-dimensional symbols plucked from her subconscious.
To an extent, Art of McSweeney’s — an oral history of the San Francisco–based quarterly, from Chronicle Books — is about the quirky illustrations, charts, graphs, and covers that have defined the look of Dave Eggers’s publishing venture for the last twelve years. But even more, it's about the art of book-making, which in this case means reproductions of original sketches; odd detours to visit Arni and Bjössi, the Icelandic printers who produced more than a dozen issues before McSweeney’s moved its printing facilities to Singapore and North America; interviews with authors and artists; charts of printing specs; drawings of pensive clouds; and guides to reviewing unsolicited material.
On January 1, the San Francisco–based artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon began documenting her various collections on a new blog, A Collection a Day. A new day, a new grouping: vintage Boy Scout cards, delicate sewing notions, paint tubes, plastic charms, erasers, paintbrushes, pencil leads, even — strangely — multicolored buoys. “No, I don’t have a collection of buoys,” Congdon laughs. Or a collection of Victorian shoes, for that matter. As her website explains, while she photographs the collections that decorate her house and studio, "some are imagined; those I will draw or occasionally paint.” Scroll through her site, and you’ll find twigs and toiletries drawn with ink on paper, and, yes, buoys painted with gouache on Masonite.