“Formalities,” Dan Grayber and Steuart Pittman, at Johansson Projects

by admin on October 25, 2013

Whether it is Dan Grayber’s mechanical apparatuses self-expanding within their glass cases or the minimalist architectural elements explored within Steuart Pittman’s boldly-colored paintings, “Formalities” at Oakland’s Johansson Projects is an intriguing examination of how structure, objects, and form inform and manifest within both modern sculpture and painting.

Although constantly exerting energy to keep themselves from falling, Grayber’s intricate objects retain their still and pristine nature, solving their own issues of space, support, and aesthetics. These sculptural works’ interest lay in that they represent nothing but the mechanism itself, and the work it is currently performing, the suspension amid dimension of space it is currently occupying at every instant. Says Grayber, “My sculptures are invented only to sustain themselves, functioning as self-resolving problems.  The result is an object that has been invented only to compensate for the complications created by its own existence. The piece alone represents the need and the resolution.” Additionally, each of Grayber’s metal sculptures contain sample minerals, and many are contained within bell jars or vitrines with stained wood. This may perhaps acknowledge the medium’s past of sand, stone, and podium while above it suspends its present, modern interpretation of medium and support.

Inspired by his industrial environs and the worn patinas of old buildings surrounding his studio, Oakland artist Steuart Pittman’s minimalist paintings memorialize small architectural shapes would usually go unnoticed. Says Pittman in a recent interview, “I’m generally attracted to the industrial nature of the [Ghosttown/Northgate/Uptown neighborhood]. It’s safe to say that the architecture and colors throughout West Oakland are an influence in my work.” Like Grayber’s sculptures, these paintings thrive in their novel approaches to examining self-referential structure and form using bold use of color. But unique from Grayber, Pittman’s paintings reveal an organic quality in the movement of brushstrokes and reference to his surroundings, evident in his titling, from “Bum Bum” to “Bodega Bag.”  Both artists in “Formalities” at Johansson Projects delves into modern painting’s new autonomous practice, with the freedoms and limitations of simply canvas, paint, and the ambiguity of representation and abstraction.

“Formalities” will be a Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Avenue, through November 14