Leigh Merrill at Women and Their Work Gallery, Austin, TX
One of our favorite photographic ventriloquists is Dallas-based artist Leigh Merrill. Leigh received her MFA from Mills in Oakland, so called the Bay Area her home, and creative source, for several years. Since moving to Texas, she has borrowed inspiration from urbanscapes of that region her constructions.

The show is called, “Still,” and is at Women and Their Work Gallery in Austin, Texas, now through November 21, 2013.

From the web site: “Still is quiet yet unsettled. Leigh Merrill digitally constructs prints and videos of imaginary but familiar feeling places. Utilizing warehouse imagery that goes on and on, the changes in the images are subtle - a cloud shifts slowly across a parking lot. They suggest a visual hyperbole – an embellished scene circulating around a small fascinating detail. The seamless quality of these photo-based works slowly unravels, giving viewers a sense of curiosity as these hard to place street scenes shift in unfamiliar ways.”

This exhibitions features two large 18’ wide video projections and her recent panoramic photographic piece, The Strip, from the Fictional/Familiar show at Swarm Gallery (May-June 2013).



Web browsing: Making Space, a workshop with Emma Spertus

We can’t think of a better title than “Making Space” for a program facilitated by Oakland-based artist Emma Spertus. Space has been Emma’s intimate study for as long as we’ve known her work. She uses photography, installation, reproduction, repetition, and other mixed media and concepts to express her thoughts on the broad subject. If you are interested in exploring facets of this theme yourself, don’t miss this workshop, held at the Berkeley-based Kala Institute Saturday, September 14, 10am-4pm (that’s tomorrow!). Click here for more info and registration.

*Bio note: Emma’s multi-media installation, “Assembly” was shown in Swarm Gallery’s project space during our final exhibition. Click here to read about exhibit and see images.


Aaron Finnis at Et al. Projects


We recently took a trip to visit our friends Aaron Harbour and Jackie Im at Et al., their new project-cum-gallery space run with Facundo Arganaraz, located inconspicuously beneath Union Cleaners in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Currently on view is a selection of new works by Aaron Finnis, marking this the fourth exhibition in the young space and the first Bay Area solo show for the artist. 


Aaron Finnis, Installation shot, Image courtesy of Et al.

Resting on the floor, tilted against or hung on the wall, the presented works examine the relationship between both atavistic and contemporary analog and digital material. Prefabricated objects, such as desktops and drawers, serve as the base for the printed surfaces. The sharp parallel lines, which run both horizontal and vertical, recall magnetic tape once commonly used to store information, while the checkerboard compositions immediately remind one of a blank photoshop file. Rather than offering a monochrome experience, Finnis playfully injects these works with gradients of color spanning the RGB spectrum. This is reinforced by the title of each work — “2 KB (RGB: Magenta/Yellow)” for example — which further tells one how much magnetic tape would be needed to store the work’s referred amount of information. With these works, one is reminded not only of the changing nature of technology but of its increasing presence and role in one’s daily life.


Aaron Finnis, 1.5 MB (RGB: Green/Yellow), Acrylic, desk tops, 23” x 39” (2013)

This exhibit runs through September 14, 2013. Et al. is open Thursday - Saturday, as well as be appointment. Be sure to see the work, and stay tuned for what Et al. has in store! For more information visit etaletc.com.

Installation and artwork images courtesy of Et al.

Jessalyn Aaland + Paul Morgan follow up

As promised, here is some excellent documentation of Jessalyn and Paul’s work at Facebook this summer. The duo completed two individual installations each, and two collaborative installations. View the original blog post here. Photos by Paul Morgan. All images courtesy of the artists. 


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Mathew Zefeldt at Santa Monica Museum of Art

One of our latest and favorite artists, Mathew Zefeldt, opens his first museum exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in a couple of weeks. “Mathew Zefledt: Forms Forming Forms" was organized by New York-based curator Jeffrey Uslip and includes painting, installation, and sculpture. Mathew is a studious, prolific painter dedicated to his studio practice, and hugely ambitious professionally. His electrifying works combine Classicism, painterly obsession, and "ultra-zing" that conjures up the tech age. His works are some of the most exciting we’ve seen of late, so we are super happy for him. If you’re in the area, GO GO GO! You will not be disappointed. September 13, 2013 - January 11, 2014. Opening reception Thursday, September 12, 6-7PM (members), Public opening 7-9PM.

Mathew Zefeldt, “Head-Face #4” (2012), Acrylic on canvas, 83 x 63 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

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Mayumi Hamanaka in group show

Mayumi is busy with her post at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, but finds studio time for her beautiful and detailed art. Her work is subtle and enchanting, but carries strong political messages. Some pieces involve layers upon layers of paper cut out and pinned together like topographic maps. At first glance, it looks like a sculptural representation of a landscape. Looking closer, you can see her source is a photograph from wartime. Sometimes the shapes of Mayumi’s pieces give her subjects away, like a group of soldiers standing in front of a fighter plane. Other times the subjects remain hidden, like the ravaged pages of history: a crowd of war captives, dead soldiers laying in lines in Germany, or Kamikaze soldiers right before their final flights. The understated presentation of this work is what makes it so interesting. In contrast to overtly political art, Mayumi pulls you closer into the nuanced details of her constructions. The effect is disarming and curious, and at times heart-wrenching.

Mayumi presents some work in this group exhibition (info below), closing Friday, August 2, 5-8PM at the Asian Resource Center, 310 8th Street (between Webster & Harrison) Oakland, CA 94607.


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Studio Visit: Greg Ito

Preamble: If I were being brutally honest with myself about running an art gallery business, I would admit that the studio visits, time with the artists to establish and develop critique and in-depth discourse about the work and production of an exhibit are all compromised by the daily details of keeping the doors open. I’m not saying having a financial drive is problematic for art galleries. It’s as necessary as any other business. I’m just saying as a sole proprietor, I had to prioritize the more pragmatic aspects of running the gallery over the ones that inspired me to open the gallery in the first place. In an ideal situation, like having a co-director or two, one would be able to balance the creative and curatorial needs of working with artists and developing programs with the administrative needs of the business. One thing I very much look forward to in my post-brick and mortar era is more studio visits and dialogue with artists about, yep, you guessed it, art.

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Web Browsing: Laura Ball

Former Swarm Gallery artist Laura Ball unveils the mystique of her work in this short video profile. Laura had a solo show at Swarm Gallery in 2009, a two-person show in 2011, and was a part of numerous group exhibitions between 2007 and 2011. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s MFA program, Laura currently resides in Southern California and is represented by David B. Smith gallery (Denver), and Morgan Lehman (NY). I’ve been a diehard fan of Laura’s work since I saw it in LA in 2005, and feel very proud to see such skillful development of her artistic prowess. Enjoy!

Facebook Town - A Visit with Jessalyn Aaland + Paul Morgan


On Wednesday, I visited Swarm artists Jessalyn and Paul during their curious residency at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park. Aside from a huge building with thousands of tech workers, I imagined stocked fridges, ping pong tables, maybe a few bean bags here and there. I really didn’t know what to expect of the home office, much less of an art program there. Jessalyn and Paul were waiting for me in the front lobby, sitting beneath a huge monitor showing a map of the campus. I nervously signed my name on an iPad at the reception to obtain a visitor pass (noting without surprise the hip fluorescent orange lace for around my neck), and we passed through the building into what I assumed to be the inner courtyard. Instead, it was more like a small European town, with a thoroughfare of pedestrians and cyclists heading from one building to the next. Within 15 seconds, my mind was blown. Really. Blown. And my cheeks were already hurting from smiling.

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Kathy Aoki’s Summer Sessions

Kathy’s art motion isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The South Bay-based artist is taking her practice on the road. From our local beach town Pacifica, to Belgium to Seoul, Korea, we follow her exciting next steps.

First, the Asian American Women Art Association presents “Shifting the Body,” featuring Kathy’s work along with the work of Jennifer Huang, Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong, Julee Lee, Cathy Lu, Melissa Nolledo, Wei Lah Poh, Ruya Qian, Mara Red, and Cindy Shih. The group show is at the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica and should be a grand old time. Opening is Friday, July 12, 7-9PM at 1220 Linda Mar Blvd, Pacifica, CA. Curated by Pamela Ybañez, and presented through Asian American Women Artist Curator Mentorship program. Through August 10, 2013.

Kathy just left for a five-week residency at Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium. The center ”offers residencies and a work place to graphic designers, artists and critics who want to work with intaglio, relief printing, screen print or lithography, or who want to investigate the relationship of graphics with other visual arts.” Kathy will be realizing a lithography project during her stay. Below is an image of “Not Another Damn Parade,” which was included in Kathy’s recent solo show at Swarm Gallery (Note, the etching just sold from the Crocker Art Museum auction in Sacramento for nearly double its retail value. We love that!)


Kathy Aoki, Not Another Damn Parade (2012), Etching, 8 x 10 inches

In August, Gallery Godo will present Kathy’s work for exhibition. The work will be selected from “Construction of Modern Girlhood” series (2003-2005).


Kathy Aoki, West Sorting Station (2003), Acrylic with Paint Marker, 50 x 70 inches


For more of Kathy’s projects, visit her artist web site, http://www.kaoki.com/ or http://swarmgallery.com/kathy-aoki/. Cheers!