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SAN FRANCISCO — Lyndi Sales’s show Apperception at Toomey Tourell Fine Art is a beautiful study in intricate complexity and light. Despite its prettiness, the work has an undertone of desperation; the artist started the series after being diagnosed with an astigmatism, a defect in the eye’s curvature that causes a distortion in images, commonly referred to as “ghosting.”
Sales’s work appears to be a natural progression from the Light and Space Movement pioneered by such artists as Robert Irwin and James Turrell in the early 1970s. The Light and Space Movement, like Sales, made work that confronted our body, or more commonly and specifically, our eyes — art that’s hard to focus on and demands many perspectives of viewership, with different experiences from each one. This lineage, along with her use of semi-reflective radiant acrylic (called “radiant mirror Perspex” by the gallery), puts Sales alongside artists Alyson Shotz and Olafur Eliasson, although her painterly style also recalls someone like Julie Mehretu.
Yet Sales’s physical condition (now mostly treated) was what compelled her to rethink her work and how she sees light, not necessarily these other artists. Looking at her earlier work, one sees her intricate meticulousness throughout, but the use of the colorful plastics and light is a newer edition deeply connected to the astigmatism. Much as Chuck Close’s prosopagnosia, or face blindness, has been instrumental in how he makes his work, Sales has turned an impairment into a exceptionally beautiful and dynamic series.
The show’s title, Apperception, means the mental process of perceiving an experience by assimilating it into the body of ideas a person already has. I suspect an artist like Sales would consider what we see, think, and believe as undeniably interconnected; thus viewing her work becomes a largely subjective experience of form, vantage, material, and the viewer’s unique personality and interests. What you see and how you interpret it are largely based on your own background, on where you stand both physically and metaphorically. I originally viewed the piece “Knots in My Cornea” (2012) (above) as an expression of a powerful transformation of something solid into air, like a scan taken by the Large Hadron Collider of two particles colliding. Now that I know the title and the artist’s history, it is obviously her troubled eye, confusedly trying to decipher the millions of photons bombarding it every day.
Lyndi Sales: Apperception continues at Toomey Tourell Fine Art (49 Geary Street, Financial District, San Francisco) until October 31.
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