Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rosana Castrillo Diaz at Anthony Meier (SF)

Alert: This exhibit is scheduled to close on 3/2/07.

Anthony Meier Fine Arts is presenting its first solo exhibition of San Francisco artist Rosana Castrillo Diaz. This artist’s work has previously appeared locally at CCA Wattis in the “Warped Space” show (2003) and in the SECA Award show at SFMOMA in 2005.

The exhibition consists of still life drawings in graphite, abstract white-on-white drawings, white grids cut from graph paper and hung sculpturally against the wall, and an abstract wall installation made of loops of transparent tape.

There are numerous rewards in this show, although it operates in a narrow band of tastefulness that some viewers may find constricting. The aesthetic is conservative rather than disruptive.

Within its aesthetic boundaries, the work shows an experimental impulse, although there isn't much sense of playfulness. Everything is created through precise, repetitive processes that are surely taxing, although possibly meditative as well.

The still lifes depict mundane objects in the artist’s studio: books, papers, rubber bands. There is a careful rendering of details that attract the artist's eye, with an emphasis on forms and the play of light rather than on the object’s texture. The control of the graphite medium is exemplary. The rubber band drawings seem formal and intimate at once, with an impish edge. (Photo at top.) A beautiful rendering of the edges of various paper items shows the stack emerging from a hazy background, as if arriving from another dimension. (Photo above, detail below.)

Castrillo Diaz’s white-on-white works are probably her most distinctive. Of course they belong to a long tradition of Modernist white abstractions: Malevich, Rauschenberg, Ryman, and others. By pushing her white forms to the edge of visibility, she also invades a perceptual territory that has interested Robert Irwin.

The artist’s works in this vein do not seem to be part of an extended argument about a medium, as is the case with Robert Ryman’s paintings. The works are clearly related to each other, but seem largely to stand on their own. But perhaps it’s too soon to see what dialectic Castrillo Diaz may be developing.

In addition to the West’s modern tradition, another tradition comes to mind. To me, the white-on-white drawings resemble light shining through the filigree of a Moorish architectural screen. For an artist born in Spain, this would not be a far-fetched point of reference.

Among the white drawings on view, my favorite is the one in which a faint white square is created by means of an untold number of ultra-thin vertical lines drawn freehand. It’s a knockout.

Other high points of the show are the two cut-paper grids that hang sculpturally from the wall. Their forms and fragility are captivating. I am including a photograph of one (below), if only to show how elusive the work is. Like the white drawings, which are even more recessive, the grids can be appreciated only in person.

One disappointment in the show is the large tape piece. With its chrysanthemum-like forms, it looks too much like decoration. Castrillo Diaz’s earlier tape pieces seemed to be more about subliminal awareness and the poetics of space.

(Photos provided by Anthony Meier Fine Arts.)

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