The Game Show
Sarah Hotchkiss | Brandon Olsen | Jovi Schnell
September 28th - October 26th 2019
Opening reception: Saturday, September 28th 2019
6 - 9pm
The Game Show
Sarah Hotchkiss, Jovi Schnell, Brandon Walls Olsen
The often-told history of modern abstraction revolves around a series of geniuses (almost wholly male), breaking with convention and turning visual language on its head in pursuit of aesthetic grandeur and spiritual clarity. The history of the modern game show on the other hand lacks any notions of the deep seriousness with which abstraction was approached or revered, instead centering on odd conventions and the pursuit of obscure fields of knowledge, all surrounded by utterly wacky sets and props. As we continue to unravel the often-problematic mythos that surround the tales we’ve told ourselves about modern abstraction, the painters grouped within the exhibition The Game Show utilize a radical sense of playfulness in staking a space within the sphere of abstract painting that eschews with the baggage and the tight-lipped seriousness of modernism, instead allowing us to breathe in some of the buoyant helium-tinged air being pumped onto the nearest studio set.
Local artist and writer Sarah Hotchkiss partakes in a certain kind of Sunday ritual with Alemany Flea Market as the peculiar site of worship. Bins of dusty board games are picked through, in pursuit of some of the stranger moments in the discipline’s history. Game boards and other visual ephemera are carefully selected to be rendered through gouache paintings that are as painstaking as they are vibrant. Garish and optically charged, Hothkiss’ board game paintings praise the great aesthetic value in an overlooked entertainment tradition, appropriating and shining new light on a canon that we hardly knew existed.
And it’s this concept of the game board: a horizontal plane ripe with potential, yet with movement preordained through the board’s maker via visual markers, clues and hints–a description that could easily double for painting. From the irregular shaped surfaces with carefully sanded edges and probing incises, to the jarring linework and colliding color swatches of house paint sourced from the mistint pile, San Francisco painter Brandon Walls Olsen’s irreverent compositions though not intended, function much like a game board. Intimate in scale, Walls Olsen’s paintings draw the viewer in close, leaving them to navigate this awkward space, jumping between the beautifully clashing subtle palates of lavender purple, brick red, pale chartreuse and lime green, eyes fluttering around the paintings at the whim of their deft maker.
Yet must playfulness always function as a diversion from the resounding weight and pressure of contemporary times? LA-based painter Jovi Schnell would suggest otherwise, with radiantly colored compositions of hard edged folia in silhouette, surrounded by the occasional figure or animal blocked out in various shades, letters and numbers, all set to vibrate on a softened background. Schnell’s latest work explores the links between technology, humans, nature and the artist’s ever-present biological fascination. In an era of climate catastrophe, Schnell’s works beautifully clamor for an equality and harmony between all subjects–from plant to animal and data to energy, all have agency and an inherent reliance on another, balancing in complex systems of reliance and support.
Bay Hill & Peter Hurley
Higher than the stars, the star kite soars, astral energies projected back to earth, resonating through the paintings of San Francisco artists Bay Hill and Peter Hurley. In an ideal San Francisco, certainly the one that I dream of, the city would be full of characters like Peter and Bay–peaceful souls pursuing their art, music, and whatever journeys their freespirit’s crave. Instead we’re boxed in, stuck in a traffic jam of autonomous vehicle rideshares, cyborg humanoid machine-learned digital connectivity–oh but there goes Bay, silently skirting through traffic on bike with his hand painted jacket, a basket of books a baguette and a pile of fresh chard accompanying, and if you listen hard enough you can hear Peter’s band practicing in a warehouse blocks away.
It’s this exact promise of sincerity, of devotion to artistic practice over all else in one of the most expensive cities in the world, which must be honored, cherished and uplifted whenever we can. Lest we forget the paintings?! Both artists have spent years honing a unique visual realm based in abstraction–Bay’s richly colored and segmented compositions and sculptural explorations referencing everything from city life to Chinese philosophy. Peter’s paintings are quieter, subdued color choices contrast a humble strength in shape and form–raw yet refined abstract paintings that feel blissfully eternal. And to that I say, fly high star kite, we’ll all be admiring here from earth.