San Francisco artist Tara Foley creates worlds in her delicate drawings. In Either in a Million Years or Until the Bitter End, her current show at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, cliffs and cathedrals float on the page, their forms twisted around mandalas and repeated imagery. Foley writes that the show is about memory, real and imagined, personal and collective. And there is something familiar about it, the way a Grimm's fairy tale can feel familiar and yet unexplored.
While this show consists mostly of drawings, Foley, not a stranger to installation, includes a three-sided monochrome paper citadel, which hangs in a corner of the gallery. Light from a projector glows from the windows. Walk around and peak in; there's a comfortable, fancy-looking interior projected on the inside walls of the paper castle. Despite dimensional differences, the installation echoes the architectural elements of the drawings in the show.
Foley draws imposing structures, but then softens them. Her castles and cathedrals are dreamlike: in "The Hands Hold Up the Feet" spires are built of hands and teeth, and in "The Mysterious Sleep" pillars bloom out of arms and legs, and hair twists into structural details. Foley's drawings are mysterious without being threatening; there's comfort and richness in her colors and shapes, even when they take unfamiliar form.
Foley had another show at Adobe earlier this year, before the Backroom Gallery was remodeled. Adobe's a fitting match for her, both the bookstore and her drawings have nooks and crannies stuffed with details, the closer you look, the more there is to see. With cliffs plunging into a couch, and a golden citadel rising from the cushions, "Neither Still Waters or the Great Abyss" could be a flag for Adobe, recalling its precarious piles of books, and low-slung, well-used furniture.
Vaguely familiar but still magical, not quite safe but not sinister either, the drawings in Either in a Million Years or Until the Bitter End transport the viewer into buildings carved out of cliffs, held up by feet, and adorned with hands, where organic forms disappear into each other while twists and patterns bloom out of them. But Foley keeps her buildings suspended, either in the air or in the middle of the page. Even while they draw you in, there's an edge in sight.
Either in a Million Years or Until the Bitter End runs through December 1, 2009 at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery in San Francisco.For information, visit adobebooksbackroomgallery.blogspot.com.