San Francisco is one of those far off places I often muse about on cold winter mornings. Mystic fog and winding hills rife with cobblestone. If you ask me, that’s some grade A fairy tale imagery. The fact that I’ve never been might have something to do with it. In recent years though, I’ve become somewhat of a fan from afar. The San Francisco art scene continues to impress me. Among the truly engaging galleries and project spaces in that city is Justin Giarla’s White Walls gallery. Since he opened it in 2005 the gallery has expanded to over 4,000 square feet. White Walls, as you might expect from a gallery in the Tenderloin, is largely a street art-centric space. They throw the kind of show’s you might hope to see featured on a site like Fecal Face. The older the space gets, the more range it seems to encompass.
Their current exhibition, Something about Everything about Something, is Mark Warren Jacques’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. I met Mark a year ago when he visited New York to work on a project with then Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based Cinders Gallery. Perhaps it’s fitting that on my first visit with the artist we spent half of a day in the Egyptian wing at the Met and the other half drinking Tecate on the Lower East Side. His paintings are equal parts pop and mysticism; they linger between the monastic, the psychedelic and party time. A Portland-based artist, his works assert themselves with a clearly defined West Coast swagger. They beam light straight into your head, they knock you down with colorful brilliance only to offer you a leg up and a wholehearted wink.
So, I’m obviously a fan, I’ve loved Mark’s work ever since I happened upon it in Williamsburg. What is particularly exciting about this exhibition is to see the artist stretching himself. Though my first encounter with the artist was admittedly a positive one, his small scale works often have left me wondering. Not all painting has to be large scale but there is something encouraging and heartwarming about a painting big enough to wrestle. The paintings on display are large; something new for the artist. They hang like totems on Justin’s White Walls, dripping color across the space and into the viewer’s brain.
His 8 foot by 8 foot canvas “Something About Everything About Something” is monumental, yet nowhere on the surface does Mark lose his whimsy or sense of humor. His visual repertoire references folklore, Amish barn decoration and the geometric abstraction of early 20th century Modernism. While there is an incredible sense of accomplishment, an ambition to transcend the bounds of normal consciousness, these larger scale works are unfailingly humble. Seeing these paintings, even from afar, I feel good and I can’t help but smile.
Mark Warren Jacques’s Something About Everything About Everything at White Walls Gallery (839 Larkin Street, Tenderloin, San Francisco) continues until January 7, 2012.
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