REVIEW Paul Hayes' gorgeous folded-paper-and-wire sculpture Cultivated Momentum hangs from Johansson Projects' ceiling like the canopy of an origami kelp forest. Light dapples through its dense clusters of folded, white paper forms, as black coils of wire slither in curved formation, evoking a school of eels. Organic associations aside, Hayes' abstract ecosystem has developed with help from a guiding force, as the first part of the work's title suggests. Granted, all the art on display in this mixed-bag group show was created by someone. But the tensions many of the pieces evince seem to be an issue of how far each artist lets their forms proliferate or images mutate before throwing in the towel.
In the case of Tadashi Moriyama's hypnotic acrylic, gouache, and ink paintings, the sprawling cityscapes composed entirely of the same rudimentary, cube-shaped buildings are at first bounded only by implied coastlines: witness Tsuji no Shokudoh (Restaurant at the Intersection, 2007) and Moonset (2006). But with the other canvases the buildings reach such a critical mass that their density forms abstract patterns, as in the cellular formations of Mass Spectrum or, as in the case of Accelerating Vortex (2007), it seems to cause implosion. The show's more figurative pieces pack less of a visual punch, perhaps because their imagery is more concrete suggestive of a narrative already in progress rather than evocative. Both Kiersten Essenpreis' Blood and Crypts, which transplants Henry Darger's Vivian Girls, along with some boys, in a snowy forest with bison, giant fish, and elephants, and Alexis Amann's Girls Make the World, in which two women vomit up fish and streams of colored effluvia, leave me wanting to hear the rest of the story. In contrast, Hayes' and Moriyama's pieces almost emit an undertow, and after several minutes of gazing at their proliferating forms you have become embedded.
PROPAGATIONS Through May 2. Thurs.Sat., noon6 p.m., and by appointment. Reception May 2, 59 p.m. Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 444-9140, johanssonprojects.com