Continuing through July 16, 2016
One of the notions attached to conceptual art is that the ideas embodied or elucidated in artworks transcend their material qualities. This is a polemical expansion of the idea that artworks need not be handmade objects crafted by the artist. It is perfectly valid that they be made by artisans or technicians — phoned in, so to speak (we remember Minimalist outsourcing by Robert Morris and Sol Lewitt). Well, art is diverse enough to accommodate many philosophies. Jim Melchert, one of the Bay Area’s pre-eminent conceptualists, who has in the past explored painting, photography, film, drawing and performance, has been working in recent years with ceramics. Not in the physical, expressionist style of Peter Voukos, his long ago teacher, but in a conceptual mode, incorporating the medium’s limits within his creative process, indeed, allowing the medium itself to largely create his compositions.
In “Channels," Melchert fractures store-bought porcelain tiles and reassembles the pieces, with the cracks outlined by lines of red, blue, green, orange and black glaze. From a distance, the eleven beige squares seem to be Magic Marker drawings, or 1960s hard-edge abstract canvases. Seen up close, the semi-matte tan shards, each with its own shiny colored border, suggests the colored political boundaries on maps or globes. The slight chipping at the outer edges of the squares suggests the deformations of seismic plates (or manhandled dinnerware). In these works, the “chance action” of Dada and Surrealism meets gestural abstraction — and the Japanese aesthetic of shibusa, the aesthetic appreciation of simplicity, modesty and, of course, imperfection.