Alert: The exhibition is scheduled to close on 10/13/06.
Anthony Meier Fine Arts is presenting a solo exhibition of work by Saran Cain, an artist still in her twenties who is one of five winners of the 2006 biennial SECA Award sponsored by SFMOMA and one of its auxiliaries, the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA).
Although Cain makes a share of work in traditional formats (paint on canvas, paint on paper), she also has a long-standing interest in upending expectations about form. Prior to entering graduate school two years ago, she carried out some captivating installations. As a candidate for the 2004 round of SECA awards, she took over an empty apartment and created a kind of a sublime funhouse of visual surprise and contemplation. Parts of that project rest happily in my memory.
Recently, she has seemed more interested in discrete art objects, but there is still an interest in unorthodox forms. In her Berkeley MFA show this past spring, there was a piece conceived around a long tree branch leaning against the wall. It looked shamanistic. It was my favorite in a show that overall left me disappointed.
Another area of experiment lately has been efforts to obliterate the rectilinear edges of paintings by incorporating feathers and other materials around the perimeters. I see these as related to her installation work, as efforts to reach out into space. A couple of these works are in the current exhibit. Thus far, I have not been persuaded by these works. They can look like craft projects gone awry. But they do pose an interesting problem; they may lead to discoveries.
I am sorry to report that much of the work in this show seems inert. I’m not sure I understand why. Maybe a temporary after-effect of grad school? Also, the display of so many large works in the gallery’s hallway does not help.
Still, it’s a show to be seen. One of my favorites is unorthodox: a pile of leaves on the floor (photo at top). There are 59 painted leaves, some gold and some multi-colored, plus 29 color copies of leaves.
Another pleasure was a large work on paper (photo below) that has a visual structure reminiscent of Lee Bontecou but without Bontecou's grimy palette, and a feeling of expansion rather than containment. Cain's palette seems exuberant, although the title is “Hello Darkness My Old Friend.” The materials are conventional except for the incorporation of tiny round bells and Eucalyptus seed pods.
The gallery is located in an imposing house on a residential block of California St. in San Francisco. You need to ring for entry. There are regular gallery hours, but it’s a good idea to call before visiting so the helpful staff knows to expect you.