The ArtPadSF fair is currently open this weekend in San Francisco. Art fairs can sometimes feel like the Walmart of Chroma – many colors and sizes of objects – all with a price and few with nutritive value. ArtPadSF, however, is a rather wondrous collection of galleries and artists, many of whom have quality, thought- or emotion-provoking work on display. At The Phoenix Hotel in one of the city’s gentrification-ready neighborhoods, the fair has a very Miami-esque feel to it, but of a beach town covered in moist, 50 degree fog surrounded by heroin addicts.
Ever Gold Gallery is one of the many standouts. In the two years they have been open and I have been absorbing their programming, they have become deft riders of a fine line between low-brow absurdism and concept-heavy delicate construction. Their gallery has hosted miniature monster truck rallies on topsoil mounds, dedicated to Jesus Christ; a makeshift laundromat; a survey of mail art over the past forty years; Samuaris constructed of quotidian materials sourced from Home Depot; and a continuing collage of paintings and paper constructions that have required thoughtful maneuvering of brushes and Xacto knives. In short, one never knows what to expect before entering.
At the fair, artist Chris Ritson takes the spotlight in their gallery. While works from other artists are on display (tongue-in-cheek adaptations of war weaponry by Jeremiah Jenkins; edited stock neon signage by Guy Overfelt,) Ritson created sculptures of porcelain painted with Bismuth, mounted on shortened glassware stems. The constructions are tight, well-made and absent lazy or careless leftovers (epoxy splatters, paint splotches, etc.) They sparkle, and one would expect this of the shellacked animals – quick glances fool the viewer into believing a unicorn has had her horn smattered into a rainbow cream pie.
In addition to the miniature sculptures, Ritson curated the lounge for the fair, a front room of sculpture leading into a meditative area hung with dried lotus leaves and psychedelic light & video installations. The room is permeated by the fragrance of the dried leaves, a delicious association any dim sum devotee will enjoy. One can’t help but imagine that this is what a unicorn den would feel like if such a thing exists, perhaps with less carpeting. A trippy nature, an environment that does not exist except in our own fantasy – by chemical intoxication or daydream. And it is a chemical reaction that creates the sculpture. Ritson creates the rainbow crystals for his work in his studio in the same fashion that nature uses earth to bloom lotus flowers, creating pinks and greens from browns and blacks. The artist takes objects of earth (glass of melted sand, the porcelain of glass coated pottery) and fuses it with laboratory fantasy – chemically induced chroma from the fantasies of scientists looking to create something beyond a gemstone.
Sculpture work by Chris Ritson, 2011.