Interface Marks its Final ‘Threshold’ with an Elegant Two-Person Show

Rebeca Bollinger, detail of 'Untitled,' 1993, 2020. (Courtesy the artist and Interface; photo by Graham Holoch)

It’s the final days of Interface Gallery, an arts space that for the past nine years has carved out a pocket of defiantly noncommercial experimentation in a Temescal alley otherwise dominated by boutique shops and succulents.

Interface is not closing because of the pandemic, but simply because all things must eventually end—especially things that run on the energy of a single person. Director Suzanne L’Heureux says it’s time. The gallery has been sustainable all these years through a combination of her free labor, grants, fundraisers and the occasional artwork sale.

Most notably, Interface has upheld a standard of compensation for artists; the gallery has distributed over $30,000 in exhibition honorariums and stipends to writers and performers. L’Heureux’s programming has been both local and international in scope, showcasing just a few works at a time in installations that make the most out of the space’s changeable light, brick wall and architectural elements left over from its initial equine use.

Installation view of 'Threshold' with works by Léonie Guyer and Rebeca Bollinger. (Courtesy the artists and Interface; photo by Graham Holoch)

The gallery has been a lamp shop, a comedy club, a place for quiet introspection. Even when Interface wasn’t “open,” I could peek through its large alley-facing window and get a pretty good view of a show. Or L’Heureux would text me the door code for a private off-hours visit. But so many times, she met me in person to tour me around the minuscule space, laying out her curatorial process, relaying conversations with artists I would never meet. Her enthusiasm for each show was catching, her attention to detail impressive.

In keeping with the gallery’s history of pared-down, minimalist installations, its final show, Threshold, contains just four works. Two from Rebeca Bollinger, two from Léonie Guyer, who work within a limited vocabulary of materials and gestures, minimalists in their own rights. The San Francisco artists had long discussed collaborating on a show, but it took L’Heureux to finally bring them together, and the many years of working in each other’s orbits lead to an effortlessly balanced two-person exhibition.

Léonie Guyer (L to R), 'Untitled, no. 107,' 2019; 'Untitled, no. 111,' 2020. (Courtesy the artist and Interface; photo by Graham Holoch)

The show’s name, perfect for the end of an exhibition space, also speaks to the many edges of both legibility and form in Bollinger and Guyer’s works. The first piece that welcomes you across the threshold into Threshold is a 1993 double-exposed Polaroid repurposed as a sculpture, standing on a very vertical plinth in an echo of the gallery’s own architecture. A stripe runs down the center of the Polaroid, an indistinct and abstract image that could any number of things, purplish and hazy, a brooding aura.

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Directly opposite Bollinger’s monument to verticality, two slabs of marble, incised by Guyer and painted with oil, borrow the plinth’s pose to lean against a gallery wall, supported by a horizontal shelf that fits neatly between a corner and a pillar. One slab is very white, the other streaked with a fissure of gray that mimics patched cracks in the gallery’s concrete floor. At the centers, Guyer’s idiosyncratic, invented shapes are black portals, lightly outlined with the scratches of incisions, or a halo of red paint. To the left, the lightless holes in Interface’s brick wall become cousins of Guyer’s shapes.

Which brings us to the final piece, a third movement in the suite of Threshold: up, across, down. Resting unevenly on the floor is Bollinger’s Line of History, a cast bronze sculpture made while the artist was in residence at the Mills College Art Museum, researching the Julia Morgan-designed clock (and bell) tower at the school, El Campanil.

Rebeca Bollinger, 'Line of History,' 2018. (Courtesy the artist and Interface; photo by Graham Holoch)

Previously displayed on a metal stand, its two protrusions then functioned as a way to stay aloft, but also allowed the sculpture to become an instrument in an evening of musical performances on the Mills campus. In that context, Line of History was a kind of bell. On the floor of Interface, it holds the residue of such activity, but it also looks like something dredged up from the ocean floor—two candlesticks encrusted with barnacles.

It’s impossible to view this show without a certain amount of wistfulness, as if we’re already looking back on it from a future in which Interface is closed. The lasting materials of Bollinger and Guyer’s works do little to dispel that sensation. The bronze and marble could be impossibly old, and will persist for generations to come. The show is already a relic.

For the culmination of everything—Threshold, Interface itself—L’Heureux has commissioned choreographer Stephanie Hewett to create a movement piece, a video of which will be released on the final day of the exhibition in lieu of an in-person performance. So we will wish Interface a ghostly, distant farewell, channeling ourselves into Hewett’s physical response to this culminating, elegant exhibition.

‘Threshold’ is on view Saturdays, 11am–4pm by appointment at Interface Gallery (Temescal Alley, 486 49th Street, Oakland) through Sept. 30. Details here.