Layers of Paint Transform Everyday Objects at Pro Arts

Tamra Seal, 'Tincture of Rainbow,' 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Pro Arts. (Photo: Tamra Seal)

Sometimes artworks involve months (if not years) of experimentation and decision-making to arrive at a desired result. And sometimes a simple moment of chance transforms an artistic project into something new and unexpected. There are potential perils in each instance, of course. Can a deliberate artwork be fresh? Can a spontaneous action avoid superficiality?

In an excellent pairing for the current 2 x 2 Solos exhibition at Pro Arts, artists Tamra Seal and Leah Rosenberg answer both these questions, respectively, with big, colorful exclamations of “Yes!”

Tamra Seal, 'Drive-in' and 'Alien Swimming Pool' (installation at Pro Arts), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts.
Tamra Seal, 'Drive-in' and 'Alien Swimming Pool' (installation at Pro Arts), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts. (Photo: Matthew Shapiro)

On the right side of the gallery is The California Surface, Seal’s show of four sculptural works curated by Zoë Taleporos. Using a mixture of readymade objects and custom fabrications, Seal coats and casts utilitarian items in sizzling color. While Southern California artists of the Light and Space movement used industrial techniques and materials to create their minimalist sculptures, Seal playfully returns those methods to addressing everyday objects, like a surfboard or rubber tire.

Her Alien Swimming Pool, a strangely-shaped cast iron pool powder coated in hot pink and metallic pea-green paint, sits on a grid of tiled stone. Tincture of Rainbow is a wall of soap dispensers, their contents tinted -- you guessed it -- with a veritable rainbow of hues. Each object is rendered more beautiful and more useless as it passes through Seal’s (or her various fabricators’) hands, making familiar shapes otherworldly forms.

Leah Rosenberg, 'Where Once Was None' (installation at Pro Arts), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts.
Leah Rosenberg, 'Where Once Was None' (installation at Pro Arts), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts. (Photo: Matthew Shapiro)

Down the steps to the left side of the gallery, Rosenberg’s Where Once There Was None (curated by Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen) is an arrangement of four framed works and a small tableau of a table, chair, notebook and bottle. The simplicity of the installation belies its complexity: these elements are the aftermath of a 50-day performance executed earlier this year at Irving Street Projects, a residency space in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco.

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Every day of her residency, Rosenberg sourced a color from her surroundings -- the ocean mist, lime green fences, a fluorescent orange sunset -- and painted the walls and objects inside Irving Street Projects a different corresponding shade.

Leah Rosenberg, 'Where Once Was None' (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts.
Leah Rosenberg, 'Where Once Was None' (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and Pro Arts. (Photo: Matthew Shapiro)

The progression of these color choices could be seen at the edges of the small room, where strips of tape sealed off one layer at a time. In a surprise turn of events, when it came time to remove the tape and return the residency’s walls to their original white, the 50 layers of paint peeled off in Rosenberg’s hands as one huge sheet of latex.

These sheets are preserved and on display at Pro Arts in enormous Plexiglas frames, where the activity of seeking out, mixing and applying color achieves a satisfying material form in thick sheets of pure paint.

Beyond their obvious shared love for color (and skillful use of it), Seal and Rosenberg are rather different artists and, accordingly, the two transform their materials into different works altogether. An acrylic surfboard becomes a wavy lens through which to view Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. A bottle loses its shape to days and layers of painterly attention.

Throughout Pro Arts, Seal and Rosenberg breathe new life into shapes and art supplies we think we know, only to find something strange and wonderful -- whether through deliberate and meticulous transformation or the simple act of peeling away a surface.

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