The Popular Workshop, a jaw-dropping gallery slash design office, is closing its Sutter Street doors at the end of 2013. While showing local and international artists in the space since April 2011, partners Andy Hawgood and Nate Hooper have hosted over two years of openings, performances and events in their Tenderloin location. But in true proverbial fashion, one door closes and another door opens -- or did open on November 15, with an exhibition of local artist Greg Ito's works in a new off-site space called Moroso Projects.
It may not be as spacious as The Popular Workshop, but the generous lobby of Moroso Construction, a high-end firm based in SOMA, is rent-free. In it, Ito presents installation, sculpture and painting in and when we thought it would last forever. Mixing recognizable fine art media with domestic and industrial materials, Ito creates a playground of delectable surfaces, high contrast patterns, and curious gestures, perfectly situated (perhaps accidentally) within the context of an office environment.
The gallery space boasts pristine white walls and gray painted floors -- shinier digs than most alternative exhibition spaces have to offer. Ito's show spreads across the walls and floors, adding a mixture of color, humor and decoration to an otherwise bare office. The cheekiest piece, half embedded in the wall above the office manager's gatekeeper-like desk, is Untitled (I'm so high I'm never coming down), a fluorescent green Frisbee stuck perpetually mid-flight.
For two wall-works, untitled (///\///) and untitled (+++), the most straightforward art objects in the exhibition, strong black and white patterns are interrupted by organic fissures of rainbow hues. On both, a textured white border echoes the painted concrete wall on one side of the space. Echoing the framework of the chain-link fences, they anchor the exhibition, creating a visual vocabulary for the rest of the show.
From Greg Ito's and when we thought it would last forever... at Moroso Projects, San FranciscoIto combines materials with an eye to texture and color. Two large-scale installations incorporate chain-link fencing, plastic fruit, office orchids, tennis balls, and chair casters. Domestic patterns and office materials blend to create images of escape, separation, or longing. A pair of rolling chain-link fences painted in vibrant gradients of warm and cool colors are literal representations of the barriers between people and the Technicolor beachside sunsets of their cubicle dreams.
For someone who's never held a desk job, Ito knows his office aesthetics. Various objects (like the Frisbee and plastic fruit) are stuck in place. White vinyl slats on the low chain-link fence of She's gifted perfectly match the wooden cubicles of the Moroso office. Office privacy is an illusion, Ito points out; privacy slats can never fully conceal.
As part of the same installation, two orchids become nonsensical jewelry holders of sorts, boasting a variety of sterling silver and crystal earrings, nose rings, and ear cuffs. An almost identical orchid can be seen in the back corner of the office, peeking out from someone's desk arrangement.
From Greg Ito's and when we thought it would last forever... at Moroso Projects, San FranciscoThe office references are balanced by images of tropical vacations in pieces like Step Into Infinity, a faux-marbled platform with two swimming pool handrails extending out of its surface. Arranged beneath the platform are a footprint-patterned shower mat and a vibrant digital print of crystal clear waters. A preserved starfish sits at the corner of the grouping, like a token from a vacation taken or a vacation planned.
Textured gradient paintings, lattice patterns and black-painted bamboo branches are more interior decoration than considered elements of the exhibition, but I did enjoy two modified tiki torches titled Cold Blooded (Curl) and (Slither). Barely two feet in height, they weirdly spiral into a corner and zig-zag across the gallery floor, respectively, hiding from view rather than lighting the way to the luau.
Ito himself views the office job as an alluring and mysterious way to spend one's time. A lightness permeates the collection of artworks while the artist attempts to define a foreign environment based on gleaned understandings, take your kid to work days, and the lives of the 9 to 5-ers around him. The question of whether Ito's pieces are considered representations of familiar labor structures or simply canny aesthetic combinations is part of the pleasure of viewing the show.
Within the spotless arena of Moroso Projects, Ito's punny titles, skilled craft, and juxtapositions of material and form have found a fitting home. Time, and future exhibitions, will tell if The Popular Workshop can activate the space with similar success. They have all of 2014 to try -- and a richly diverse pool of Bay Area talent to choose from.
and when we thought it would last forever... is on view at Moroso Projects through January 15, 2014. For more information visit morosoprojects.com.