A Sunny Summer Group Show, With a 'Twist'

Installation view of 'Twist' at fused, showing works by Ruth Root and José León Cerrillo. (Courtesy of Jessica Silverman Gallery)

Twist is everything you want out of a summer group show. Made up of thoughtful formal juxtapositions, irregular shapes and a hint of silliness, the four-person meditation on geometric abstraction is, in a word, sunny.

Maybe that’s my takeaway because I happened to view the exhibition just after noon on a weekday, when the design firm to which fused (run by Jessica Silverman Gallery) serves as entryway was bustling. I saw not one, but three beautiful and well-behaved dogs moving in and out of the offices. Everyone was smiling.

But there’s more to that response than the circumstances of one viewing. With Twist, curator Barret Lybbert gathers works that refuse to be reduced to any one descriptor. José León Cerrillo’s reliefs, made from vacuum-formed PVC, exist somewhere between poster and nonsensical sign. Reuven Israel’s sculptures look like elegant, functional lamps—but are not. Ruth Root’s “paintings” fit together custom-printed fabrics with painted Plexiglas. And the more one looks at Lisa Williamson’s wall works, the most hard-edged and ostensibly geometric of the bunch, they start to resemble highly abstracted body parts.

Lisa Williamson, 'Nerves' (left) and detail (right) 2017.
Lisa Williamson, 'Nerves' (left) and detail (right) 2017. (Courtesy the artist and Tif Sigfrids Gallery)

What makes the works exciting (in addition to some truly eye-popping color choices) are the unexpected materials throughout. Williamson’s works are not made out of painted wood, as I first thought, but painted powder-coated aluminum. This fact renders the construction of Nerves, an 80-inch tall panel dotted with shapes reminiscent of fluorescent red Devo hats, all the more impressive.

Cerrillo’s reliefs, printed with images of pointing fingers, strings of unintelligible text and bright rectangles of color, hint at wayfinding, but upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be extremely unhelpful. The slight misalignment of image and vacuum-formed surface—or, as in Echo 10, the complete mismatch of the two—makes the lightweight work look like factory rejects or gibberish-filled test prints.

José León Cerrillo, 'Echo 10,' 2017.
José León Cerrillo, 'Echo 10,' 2017. (Courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko)

Israel’s three contributions to Twist, two free-standing lamp-like sculptures and one mounted wall piece, benefit from close inspection and different vantage points. Back of the Black Slump, isolated from the rest of the show at the bottom of the gallery’s stairs, stands at over eight feet tall. From below, the painted MDF shape mounted on two slim poles of coppered steel looks like a cartoonish cloud. Take a step back, and it’s a black mountain range.

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In Israel’s Another Sunset, the thrilling moment comes from the meeting place of two semi-circles, one projecting out from the wall, the other (fluorescent pink) flat against it. The upper curve cuts into the the top of the pink slice, creating a sculpture that is not just two items in juxtaposition, but a codependent whole in two parts.

The play between flat and, for lack of a better term, not flat is a running theme throughout the show. It’s there in Cerrillo’s reliefs, offering contrasts between printed image and raised surface. But it’s also in Root’s use of matte spray paint and glossy strips of enamel paint. Her shaped wall pieces, their upper halves covered in fabric, resemble the die-cut forms of flattened packaging destined to become complicated three-dimensional boxes. The elements connect and overlap in ingenious ways that made me want to take the paintings off the walls and figure out exactly how they fit together.

Installation view of 'Twist' with works by Reuven Israel, Lisa Williamson and Ruth Root.
Installation view of 'Twist' with works by Reuven Israel, Lisa Williamson and Ruth Root. (Courtesy of Jessica Silverman Gallery)

In two of Root’s pieces, the fabric portions deliver repeating patterns designed by the artist herself, creating microcosms of shape and color that could be miniature versions of the works as a whole. The mechanical repetition of print, sitting above rows and rows of handmade dots of black and white spray paint, blend together like joyful bursts of confetti.

Even if there isn’t a parade of dogs awaiting your arrival at fused, and even if the sun isn’t slanting through the skylight to land just so on the absurdly small cone atop Israel’s Out of the Blue, know that the inanimate works currently within its walls will do their best to offer you celebratory splashes of color, amusing combinations of shapes and indefatigably sunny interpretations of geometric abstraction.

'Twist' is on view at fused in San Francisco (1401 16th Street) through Sept. 28, 2018. Details here.

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