It's kind of like a Martian art gallery. Unidentifiable creatures and unusual forms represent the Mental and Material Realms of two local artists -- Mars-1 and David Choong Lee --in their current show at Bucheon Gallery in Hayes Valley. Speaking of Hayes Valley, has anyone seen the new giant rusty ape-alien-man sculpture on The Green? It's called Koilos and it's the work of Burning Manartist Michael Christian. It looked especially appropriate with a DJ in its clutches during the latest Capsule event. Apologies; I digress, and now back to the show...
David Choong Lee paints contemporary figures on boxes, all kinds of boxes. Cigar boxes, wooden crates, and shoeboxes installed in grids and clusters on the wall. Tons of them are also stuck together to create an enormous sculptural form in the middle of the gallery that stands at least eight feet tall. Lee practices a kind of street portraiture inspired by the homeless people he befriended when he first moved to SF from Korea. His paintings capture souls and isolate them, creating an intimate connection between subject and viewer. The figures pop against abstract backgrounds, and the paintings continue onto the sides of the boxes, resulting in more popping action.
Mars-1 appears to be interested in outer space. He paints otherworldly landscapes that strangely appear accurate. I think he travels throughout the solar system working as a plein air painter of the outdoor environments of aliens. On view for the first time are sculptures of his vinyl toy figures re-imagined in fiberglass and bronze. They could be seen as the love children of Martians and robots. One has a shiny, onyx surface and a little town coming out of its face. Not surprisingly, more of the artist's work is currently included in the San Jose Museum of Art's Robots show.
The artist pairing of Lee and Mars-1 is a pleasant one. They have distinct styles and subject matter, but their work becomes stronger together. They're different artists, but you could see them working in the same studio, maybe sharing color palettes and stories about mental or material alienation. Did I just figure out the meaning of the show's title?
Mental and Material Realms runs through June 21, 2008 at Bucheon Gallery.