Visions of '50s bark cloth textiles and vintage sofa art featuring abstracted fruit bowls, Joan Miro, cave paintings, Picasso and more swirl around artist Jill Storthz's deliriously time-tripping Woodcuts at Get This! Gallery.
While so many artists chase the next big thing, Storthz is an unapologetic throwback. If "Mad Men's" Don Draper were a tad groovier and more prone to hitting up Manhattan's starving artists rather than bedding every sweet young thing he comes across, he might have something along the lines of Woodcuts on his bachelor pad walls.
The San Francisco artist carves her woodcuts from Japanese basswood and inks them in matte, chalky colors. The works' rich, two-tone backgrounds have the depth and texture of fabric and summon the color schemes of black-and-pink vintage bathroom tiles, institutional green linoleum and other delightfully outmoded shades. Some of Storthz's earthy, organic quality no doubt originates in the woodblock process with its traditional gestures of carving and printing, lending something elemental and salt-of-the-earth to the work.
Works such as "Matchbook," with its blend of fleshy pinks and heather greys and graphic imagery of suns and palm trees, show how definitively certain color schemes speak to a particular time and place, as instantly evocative as the whiff of a familiar perfume or the strains of a favorite melody.
It makes one ponder the shades our own era will be remembered for: nacho cheese orange? Fake-tan brown? Starbucks green? Stainless steel grey? You don't have to have lived through the '50s to appreciate Storthz's image bank, though she kind of makes you wish you had.
The work is a mind-meld of the ancient and the mod. In the borderline wacky "Space Surf" her array of surfboards are ornamented with decoration that conjures up the color scheme of '50s atomic ranch interiors and the patterns of Maori Indian tattoos and Tiki in place of the amoeboid blobs and graphic sparkles that defined the '50s sensibility. Storthz's shapes are sensuous, elongated, kinetic, sometimes coalescing into recognizable form and sometimes hanging in some liminal space between thing and not-thing. The slinky "Twist," for instance, could suggest a tethered hot air balloon contorting in the wind or simply the titular gesture.
Storthz's images have a semi-cartoon sensibility: The graphic, simple images can look like the abstracted, repeated backdrops of tree-sun-bush-tree-sun-bush that scroll by as Fred Flintstone or Wile E. Coyote gambol across their comic landscapes. In the fruity colored "Stained Glass Windows," the succession of half moon shapes piled one on top of the other suggest Russian nesting dolls, or the church form as a kind of sheltering maternal figure.
Storthz's images vary considerably, from charming but often one-note graphics like "Desert Sun" with its cobalt blue sky and tangerine molten sun to the truly sublime "Cathedral" set against a pitch-black background. The striated, crystal-like shards of the cathedral's facade cut into the sky, the lines suggestively urging the building into contact with heaven. "Cathedral's" got it all: form and content, beauty and brains. It's the artist at the top of her game. C