Neo Geo trio

Fresh patterns emerge from SF's post-Mission School landscape
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Will Yackulic's Some Time to
Mend the Mind

johnny@sfbg.com

"Bay Area Now" roundups have come and gone since Glen Helfand coined the term "the Mission School" in an influential 2002 Guardian cover piece (See "The Mission school," 04/07/02). Exactly six years later, the "heartfelt, handmade" traits Helfand described still hang heavy over or range freely through local art aesthetics, even if a few core creative forces from the loose movement — Alicia McCarthy, especially — didn't cash in on the cachet of a higher profile. But April is always a month for growth: this year it brings a trio of shows by San Francisco (or SF-to-NYC) artists who've moved through or around Mission School color and figuration, forging a new direction and forming a new pattern. Call it 21st-century Neo Geo, though the tag might not apply to what these artists will be doing 12 months from today.

A playful approach to geometric shape is at the core of distinct traits shared by Todd Bura's, Ruth Laskey's, and Will Yackulic's new shows. Dozens of triangles form formidable spheres in "A Prompt and Present Cure," Yackulic's collection of 10 works on paper at Gregory Lind Gallery. These spheres have been likened to geodesic domes, disco globes, and IBM Selectric typewriter balls. I'd throw in mentions of Asteroids and the orb from Phantasm (1979) for good measure, though such 1980s pop cult references are no longer as near the forefront of Yackulic's visuals as when he offered a twist on the phrase cubist via images that suggested the video game Q-Bert gone existentially lonely. Yackulic's new work is a breakthrough, due to sheer inventiveness: in all the show's pieces, he paints with a typewriter.

Throughout most of "A Prompt & Perfect Cure," Yackulic uses endlessly repeated asterisk and period symbols to generate waves and horizons of visual energy, and sometimes even employs the typewriter to create the show's signature orbs. Like op art, the resulting pieces lure one to press one's face against the object itself, and they take on three-dimensionality when viewed as group formations from a distance. The potent, disconcerting humor of Yackulic's show stems partly from his laconic use of text, a strategy that — along with his use of pre-electric typewriters — obliquely acknowledges his New York School poetic roots. But it stems primarily from his spheres, a gang of faceless main characters. Some are darker, some lighter, as if the viewer facing them is giving off varying degrees of glare. Yackulic also has a droll flair for timing, saving his bravura gesture for the tenth, last, and largest piece, where one orb joins another — a cause for celebration, or worry?

Some Time to Mend the Mind, the title of that duel-sphere finale, might apply in reverse to Todd Bura's "Misfits" at Triple Base Gallery. Like Yackulic, Bura has an interest in geometrically-based architectural representations of mental states. But his penchant for arranging wooden right angles results in three-dimensional sculptural forms in addition to two-dimensional painterly ones. He also has a poetic sensibility, though his gambit of giving 14 pieces the title Untitled, followed by a small group of capital letters in parentheses, is cumulatively closer to language poetry, albeit language poetry overcome with angst.

"Misfits" has a unique quality, as if Bura found fragments from his inner world, brought them to a room, then mounted or arranged them for people to see.

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