In case you haven’t noticed, there is a new bridge in town. “The New Bay Bridge” at Vessel Gallery, Oakland, features the work of two artists who approach the structure quite differently. John Ruszel creates standing and wall sculptures reflecting a Shaker-like simplicity of form. Using white string, birch, cotton fabric and the spaces in between things, Ruszel creates delicately balanced moments that evoke, indirectly, suspension bridges and broad roadways. “‘Gap’ wall installation” curves a hairsbreadth away from the wall, recalling just how close the old and new Bay Bridge come to touching. The clean fabric stretches between two triangular braces nailed to the wall and a rod draws the center of the fabric down in a neat V. This work is about planar forms, tension and perspective.
Another work, “Variation of Looms 2 and 3” is composed of two horizontal bars fixed to the wall and linked by evenly spaced strings tacked to a post between them. Ruszel gifts us with this lyrical, bird’s-eye-view of the single tower of a bridge flanked by its cables. The wall substitutes for the bay and this outside world exists in the piece’s faint, rhythmic shadows that move with the sun. The artist sees his works as, “the product of simple rules and basic physical laws.” Their simplicity – and restraint – is appealing.
Informed by material and almost political concerns, Christy Kovacs’ work is decidedly literal and involved. The artist weaves together aerial photographs of ten-lane freeways and overpasses within thickly-painted seas of acrylic paint, creating arabesques and self-reflexive patterns. She re-uses piano parts to make a model of a bridge, perhaps drawing parallels between the precise architecture of an instrument and a massive public works project. In “SFO,” impasto brushstrokes transform the waters of the bay into an oppressive thing threatening the built environment. The twisting roadways extend beyond the page and might encircle the globe for all we know. There is a sense that our transportation network, though vital, has grown beyond our control. “Totem” is a vaguely native work. Suspended from the apex of the gallery’s slanted ceiling, the sculpture is made of sheet metal overlaid with photographic prints of roads. Mirroring itself across a vertical axis, the composition hugs geometric cutouts. The work is curved and reflects back on itself, picking up shapes and colors from the environment. It looks kind of like a spaceship, and has rough edges that emphasize its industrial quality.
“The New Bay Bridge” is an interesting show in a beautiful space and is a fine example of a successful themed group exhibition. For more information visit here.
-Contributed by Ariel Rosen