“Summer Reading”

Pub date August 5, 2008
WriterAri Messer
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW I wish I were Jorge Luis Borges. The Argentine man of letters was top among those writers, such as Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood, and Ali Smith, whose nonfiction is even more potent, surreal, and addictive than their fiction. Borges once remarked on a translation of William Beckford’s Vathek: "The original is unfaithful to the translation." I’d say the same about "Summer Reading" at Hosfelt Gallery. Taking as their inspiration a range of literary classics, from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), the 18 works on display at the group show manage to be more than just windows into each artist’s reading of a particular book. They provide a bird’s-eye view of internal floor plans, acting as translations from the literary into the visual, increasing ambiguity while lowering page count.

Su Blackwell’s four wall-mounted sculptures use actual books, their pages cut and molded into little trees of text and gallivanting characters, creating miniature worlds so fragile that they seem to have been frozen in time so they will not break. In Blackwell’s The Secret Garden — inspired by the book of the same name — a little girl is supported by tree branches from one angle, but from another appears to be reaching for them unsuccessfully, frightened and alone.

John O’Reilly’s collage, Dead Centaur — Of Cormac McCarthy, captures the dark textures of reality in McCarthy’s writing, and José Antonio Suarez Loñdono’s intimate notebook drawings, inspired by Kafka and Evan S. Connell, are like footnotes in the form of silhouettes. Amy Hicks’ videos, ReAdaptation: the book series (2007–08), use flip-books meticulously constructed by taping pictures onto book pages. One of the volumes is on display and looks like something a stalker would construct, but the videos are more melancholic than creepy.

SUMMER READING Through Sat/9. Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Glenn Kurtz reading, Fri/8, 6 p.m. Hosfelt Gallery, 430 Clementina, SF. (415) 495-5454, www.hosfeltgallery.com