Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thanks to everyone who came to the opening!



Brian Strang: Recent Poem/Paintings

REVIEW The author of several books, most notably 2004's Incretion (Spuyten Duyvil), Brian Strang is a well-known Bay Area avant-garde poet and a composition instructor at San Francisco State University. As such, he has a sophisticated knowledge of aesthetics. Yet, as a painter, Strang must be classed as an outsider — outside the educational and curatorial art network — or, more accurately, as an artist whose inspiration is fundamentally poetic. His statement, for example, on includes more poets than painters, and in conversation he's more likely to cite the influence of cartoons than high modernism. Strang's work bears little trace of a conception of painting as a developing series of technical problems and solutions and instead suggests a more romantic pleasure in and response to visual phenomena.

His two-year retrospective at Canessa Park Gallery, "Brian Strang: Recent Poem/Paintings," is composed entirely of gouaches on paper or canvas, with a repertoire of imagery largely drawn from the natural world — birds, bones, flowers, foliage — yet not excluding intrusions of human-made cityscapes. Colors range from the palest tints of yellow and gray to the most shocking deep electric blues. Like many self-taught artists, Strang might be faulted in terms of strict figuration, yet the nervous outline of his leaves, for example, betrays a rhythmic sensibility not unlike that found in a sketch by Matisse. These images are sometimes surrounded but more often permeated by lines taken from Strang's poetry, which is transformed by the new context. A leaf with the line "they shadow the ancient groves" intersects another leaf reading "with their own milky cheeks" — does the syntax branch off here, or do we move from the first line to a second line, "destructors every one," inscribed in the same leaf? This creation of a nonhierarchical textual space that can be picked up anywhere and followed in any direction is, in itself, an impressive achievement. (Garrett Caples)

Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; by appt.; and during events; through June 28

Canessa Park Gallery

708 Montgomery, SF

(415) 705-7107