Artist Peter Stegall plays the (color) fields at Triple Base Gallery


Field day: Peter Stegall's An Equal Playing Field (2007).

By Ava Jancar

Triple Base guest curator Dina Dusko has organized an exhibition that opposes what has become known as the "regular" programming of the space. For this show, she has brought in the work of an established artist, Peter Stegall, rather than spotlighting a recent graduate of California College of the Arts. It has been decades since Stegall graduated with his MA in art from Sacramento State. That said, in past years, his work has not had much exposure within San Francisco proper.

Stegall's pieces - characterized by the hard-edged geometric forms common in paintings of the 1940s through '60s - seem initially as though they too could have been the product of another decade. While the columnar elements of a John McLaughlin or a Barnett Newman and the sweeping curves of a Lorser Feitelson are present, Stegall's paintings - although contemporary hybridizations of such mid-century masters - seem vastly different, experientially. While a vintage piece by Feitelson may appear cracked and aging, Stegall's works glisten. The gloss enamel paint on the small Masonite panels lack the imperfections of time - bringing fleetingly to mind the glossy surfaces of John McCracken's painted planks. In this respect, canonical references seem to break down, particularly when noticing the slightness of the panels themselves.

Averaging around 8 by 11 inches, the paintings do not emit an aura of grandeur similar to the works of his predecessors. Instead they seem like quiet studies in search of the beautiful. Stegall's use of a small brush to paint the surface of the panels may also account for their quaint size. He fills in each field of color using the same size brush, therefore leaving the definite mark of his hand.

Similarly, because he does not tape off the forms within the compositions - the slight waver of his hand, again, is recognizable in the transition from field to field. In spite of these omnipresent, albeit minuscule, gestural marks, the expressive quality of the brushwork does not take the fore. Rather, the relationships of colors next to one another and their optical effects gain resonance.

"An Equal Playing Field: New Work by Peter Stegall" runs through Feb. 17 at Triple Base Gallery, 3041 24th St., SF. Hours are Thursday-Sunday noon-5 p.m. (415) 643-3943. Artist lecture happens Feb. 10, 4-7 p.m.