“Takako Yamaguchi”

Pub date February 3, 2009
WriterMatt Sussman
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW For anyone who has attempted to stare down one of Bridget Riley’s hypnogogic vortices or contemplated the point at which two color blocks mesh in a Rothko, Takako Yamaguchi’s recent set of paintings at Jancar Jones Gallery should produce some pleasantly familiar sensations. Upon entering the shoebox-size space, one sees five three-by-four-foot canvases that form a seemingly continuous horizontal vista of graduated lines and patterned strips done in earth tones and blues, with the occasional wink of metallic shimmer. (This panorama effect is offset when one realizes that an outlier has been sneakily hung in the back office area.)

Viewed individually, Yamaguchi’s warm bands of color and geometric repetition start to take on the cast of Southern Californian geography — oceanic expanse, suburban sprawl, and stretches of desert. Interlocking white donuts and intestinal curlicues suggest clouds; hills and waves roll ad infinitum; distant mountains have the repetitive crenulations of a side-scrolling video game; the faintest line of gold leaf could demarcate city lights twinkling midground, or a sliver of sunset. And yet your eyes never fully adjust to the precise play of blurred and crisp elements, which is especially forceful in the two halves of Strangely Familiar. What looks fuzzy in your peripheral vision sometimes stays that way when studied head-on, just as Yamaguchi’s palette toggles between subtle abstraction and figurative hooks. In this sense, her canvases are Magic Eyes in reverse: if you stare long enough, the geographic reference points start to flicker into the background, like unstable mirages. So meticulous and subtle are the gradations of color — so light is Yamaguchi’s brushwork — that at times you forget you are looking at a painting. (This is underscored by the way in which each landscape continues around the sides of the canvas, as if the image were sprayed onto it and then stretched onto a slightly too-small frame.). Jancar Jones may be the smallest gallery in the city, but from the vantage point of Yamaguchi’s landscapes, you can see for miles and miles.

TAKAKO YAMAGUCHI Through Feb. 28. Jancar Jones Gallery, 965 Mission, suite 120, SF. Thurs–Sat, noon–6 p.m. (415) 281-3770, www.jancarjones.com