SAN FRANCISCO — In the show Metropolis at Municipal Bonds, Austin Thomas uses bright colors and broad shapes to tell the story of the city. And particularly of Thomas’s home, New York City.

Thomas’s prints are made on recycled materials. In an email to Hyperallergic, she said, “Vintage paper is a treasure for me. I used to work in recycling and am accustomed to trash picking. I am drawn to yellowed reams of paper I might spot in a clear trash bag or box on the street.”

Each work is a monotype, cranked through the press multiple times. Plates are rarely re-inked and the colors traipse randomly across the print. The architecture of old buildings shows through, like a historic brick mansion among glass and steel high-rises.

Austin Thomas, “Diagonally Placed Straight Edged” (2019)

Works like “Diagonally Placed Straight-Edged”(2019) instill a sense of memory. Here we see the scars of a city, as structures fall and rise over time, are used, disused, and recontextualized for changing needs. The city itself is an organism that outlasts its inhabitants. Each next generation undoes, remakes, and tries to forget the trauma of undoing. Thomas’s art exists in that space where our longing for the past and our curiosity of the future meet and blend.

Among the sharp, hard angles of the rectangles which might be actual buildings, Thomas inserts bold circles — the potential for something new. While the hard-edged shapes bleed into one another and fade, circles are firmer, independent, as if they are the essence of the city that remains unchanged, or the part of a community that gives residents a sense of belonging.

“Printmaking is community-making for me,” said Thomas. “Art is where my home is, and Manhattan is my home. Manhattan is my easel and a place for meaningful cultural conversations.”

Through her prints, we come to understand the shifting structures that define us and that in return become defined by us.

Austin Thomas, “Chromatic Intensities of Chartreuse” (2016)
Austin Thomas, “Rectangular Architecture” (2019)

Austin Thomas: Metropolis continues at Municipal Bonds (1275 Minnesota Street, San Francisco, California) through September 3.

Clayton Schuster is a writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of his days are spent being bossed around by his dog Willow and finding cool, weird, and unusual things to write about for Hyperallergic,...