The Mission school resurfaces with shows by Margaret Kilgallen and Chris Johanson
The untitled collage pieces in the back room — smaller-scale examples of Kilgallen's quilt-like assemblages of canvas — are more abstract, yet still retain the just-right sense of color, line and proportion on display in the other paintings. In one piece, from 1999, a single fluffy gray cloud is the only graphic break in a long expanse of sutured turquoise. Another from the same year resembles the collaged remains of a billboard's past incarnations. But like all of the pieces in "Summer/Selections," it feels wholly fresh.
I wish the same could be said of the recent work of Johanson, an SF expat and Kilgallen's contemporary, whose current show at Altman Siegel is about as coherent and compelling as its title: "This, This, This, That."
I have always preferred Johanson's folksy takes on Sol LeWitt's rainbow-hued precision over his text or figure-filled paintings, and there are plenty to take in here. The problem is one of editing.
For every piece — such as the carefully thought-out uneven grid of squares and rectangles "Fall Apart and Let It Go" (2011) — that feels like Johanson is trying to push himself and his explorations of color into a more formal direction, there is another that reads as an easy way out.
The acrylic and latex color shards of "Same Brain, Same Body, Different Day" (2011) nicely mirror the visible segments of the pressed grain of the wood they're painted on, whereas "Celebration of Life Through Found Palette and Paint" (also 2011), a painted panel mounted to an upright, rainbow-colored wooden shipping palette, just feels lazy.
Certainly, many artists have made repetition a compelling cornerstone of their practice, extending their engagement with a single technique, approach, or material into a fruitful long-term relationship. Johanson, however, seems like he is simply in a rut, making more and more of the kind of art that first brought him wider renown with diminishing creative returns. Warhol did all right for himself in the 1970s, though, and I'm sure Johanson is doing just fine as well. But I know he's capable of doing more.
MARGARET KILGALLEN: SUMMER/SELECTIONS
Through Aug. 5
1447 Stevenson, SF
(415) 821-3371 www.ratio3.org
CHRIS JOHANSON: THIS, THIS, THIS, THAT
Through July 30
49 Geary, Fourth Floor, SF
(415) 576-9300, www.altmansiegel.com
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