Drawn to I-8
Maya Lin—artist, architect and designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.— once said, “My work originates from a simple desire to make people aware of their surroundings, and this can include the physical and the psychological world that we live in.” Another artist, Kathy Prendergast, set out to copy the world's capitals and their thoroughfares in pencil. These are approaches that artist, furniture designer and college lecturer Todd Partridge employs in “Arteria,” a 30-foot-long drawing that maps Interstate 8 from Ocean Beach to La Mesa, on view at North Park's Art Produce Gallery (3139 University Ave.) through Oct. 2.
Schooled in graphic design and later in woodworking, Partridge has always depicted what's close at hand—things like his tools. Now his subject matter's become his commute from home to work and back. Using Google satellite images, Partridge constructed Interstate 8 on a grid of 10-by-10-inch gypsum panels. He then worked back into the smooth surface with charcoal, bringing forth the freeway, mesas, canyons, property zoning lines and San Diego River with a chiaroscuro-esque delicacy. Six months and 80-plus panels later, the result is gorgeous.
An arteria, or artery, carries blood from the heart to the body as freeways similarly “deliver the things that enable us to live” Partridge says. His rendering of this delivery system and its squirrely, slithering, cephalopodan cloverleaf interchanges is strangely inviting and aesthetically pleasing. They are organic yet sensual, vital yet seemingly arbitrary—controlled chaos through efficient design.
Is “Arteria,” by the art world's conceptualist creed, prescient, political, relational, awe-inspiring or even radical in its message? No, but it's not trying to be. What it is, though, is genuine and personal—a small treatise on (or journey through) where we live, how we get there and what we deliver or even gather along the way. That's good enough for me.
Notes from the Underground
A few weeks ago, artist Michael James Armstrong unveiled “Study in Transparency,” his incredibly clean and precise minimalistic, site-specific installation at Ice Gallery (3417 30th St. in North Park). Before the installation even began, the four artists behind the experimental art space had to repave part of the sidewalk in front of the gallery, and they did what they could to fix a relentlessly leaking roof. The piece, which relies on a series of colored cloth screens and frosted glass and maximizes and nearly masks the rundown architecture of the old building, can be seen 24 hours a day for the next few weeks (or until it rains) by standing outside the gallery and looking in. Perception of the installation changes depending on the time of day, so I recommend stopping by at dusk to watch the piece transform as light disappears.
Another impressive undertaking is Stricken, an “endurance” performance in which artist Jenna Morrow will knit for 24 hours straight in hopes of “letting go of control” of her own body and allowing instincts and autonomy to take over. The performance is set to happen at the new alternative gallery space Helmuth Projects (920 E St., Downtown) from 6 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, to 6 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.