san francisco art magazine archives

"Signal Detection And Recognition by Human Observers"

Amanda Hughen
Shaun O'dell
William Swanson

The Luggage Store Gallery
1007 Market Street
San Francisco, California

November 3 - December 2, 2000

Reviewed by Greg Borman

Rural-Urban Fringe - William Swanson

Rural - Urban Fringe
acrylic on panel, 14" x 18"
© William Swanson, 2000

      In the six acrylic paintings on display, William Swanson utilizes muted colors and matte surfaces. These works eschew brushwork and stray marks, favoring a precision found in the work of contemporary painters such as Monique Prieto. Consisting of predominantly silhouetted forms derived from pre-existing sources, Swanson's work has elements of both the recognizable and the unfamiliar.

      "Replica" features a building reminiscent of a power plant, which has been rendered as if located distantly within a landscape. Various funnel-like shapes float against a flat, grayish-brown field of color. These shapes are, presumably, representations of trees and other plant life. Yet there is no evidence of either a conflicting or harmonious relationship between the synthetic and natural elements depicted. A strong emphasis on the subjective experience of the viewer seems to be at work here. While often visually striking, Swanson's work is also unflinchingly neutral.

      Amanda Hughen's untitled works fall somewhere between drawing and painting. Using solid areas of white paint as a starting point, Hughen also utilizes crisply drawn pencil markings. Several works have traces of xerox transfer showing through the coats of paint, and diagrams suggestive of architectural blueprints can be made out. Overall, the works seem to have gone through numerous stages of development, yet the final products retain a certain degree of minimalist sensibility. A sort of updated variation on a formal approach found in the works of artists such as Agnes Martin, Brice Marden, and Robert Ryman can be detected in Hughen's pieces.

Mariner - Shaun Odell

mixed media on paper, 22" x 30"
© Shaun O'Dell, 2000

      Two small-scale triptychs on wood blocks that project out from the wall are particularly effective. One triptych includes circular forms that have been dissimilarly rendered on each panel. A scratchy surface on one block conveys physicality. In another, the circles resemble strings of zeroes that have been haphazardly affixed to the wood. Here, the linear forms are on the verge of either pattern or chaos. Elsewhere, a trio of larger vertical pieces suffer from an increase in scale. The areas of white become needlessly expansive, the markings too diffuse.

      Shaun O'dell's works on paper are presented in a variety of second-hand picture frames. Installed at varying heights on several walls, the pieces read as interconnected parts of a whole. Seemingly mythologically-based imagery abounds--menacing whales with jagged teeth, birds, hieroglyphs, bodies of water. Duchampian apparatuses float amid the repeated motifs, seemingly reaffirming the element of naive wonder present in these works.

--Greg Borman
     Greg Borman is an artist and writer living in the Bay Area.

     For more information about The Luggage Store, visit

     For artists' web sites , visit:
     Amanda Hughen
     Shaun O'Dell
     William Swanson

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