"Dean Smith: thought forms 2003-2009" and "Dean Byington"

Something different from the clichéd forest animals and color-theory rainbows

REVIEW Call it the tumbling dice effect: dice keep appearing within Bay Area art this spring. First there was the gigantic 16-sided polygon by Brian Wasson at Ping Pong Gallery — a prediction device freed from its Magic Eight ball. Now viewers can roll with enigmas of a dice-centered video installation that is the most intriguing facet of Kent and Kevin Young's "Jury Breaks DNA Deadlock" exhibition at Steven Wolf Gallery. They can also stare deep into a large-scale C-print of a many-sided die that doubles as a calendar in Matt Keegan's show at Altman-Siegel Gallery, "Postcards & Calendars." Yet the best invocation of chance and rolling dice takes place just out of sight — or does it? — in a knockout piece within Dean Smith's "thought forms 2003-2009" at Gallery Paule Anglim. Smith's 2005 colored-pencil drawing thought form #11, from 2005, was generated by repeatedly rolling a tetrahedron. Smith's process renders an object — a meta-die — that is both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, and that ultimately collapses or blooms free from dimensionality. The piece's shades of blue make this state of play a flirtation with the sublime.

The dice games mentioned above are something different from the clichéd forest animals and color-theory rainbows that invaded Bay Area art during stretches of the last decade, or the skulls that took over Artforum in the wake of Damien Hirst's For the Love of God (2007) and Don Ed Hardy's mass-production of tattoo imagery — they aren't trendy gestures so much as chance manifestations. Smith's thought form #11 is one expression within a multiyear project that yields ever-changing graphite on paper works and video. The pieces at Paule Anglim span from 2003 to 2008 and evoke everything from space ships or outer space community outposts to totems and medieval devices, while never remaining stuck in specificity. They're well-paired with a one-room, four-piece show by Dean Byington, whose oil-on-linen extensions of collage are a Beatrix Potter-meets-Brueghel-in-paradise hallucinatory delight. "Oh my god, this is all diamonds!" a young girl exclaimed upon looking closely at one of Byington's works, which seem like minimalist experiments with color from a distance. Step in closer and you'll discover endless mountains, forests, and quarries; caves with cute yet unsettlingly prison-like windows carved into their sides; stacks of stalagmites; and greenhouses that resemble giant Cartier eggs. Oh, and the occasional strange half-fox half-rodent. Be sure to say hi.

DEAN SMITH: THOUGHT FORMS 2003-09 and DEAN BYINGTON Through Sat/2. Wed-Fri, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Gallery Paule Anglim, 14 Geary, SF. (415) 433-2710. www.gallerypauleanglim.com

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