Ashes to ashes, rust to rust
Vestiges of an industrial age at Eyedrum
San Francisco artists Robert Strati and Jim Haynes, paired in solo shows at Eyedrum, offer installations that look like cave paintings filtered through the imagination of an industrial age. Instead of antelope and bison executed in mud, Strati and Haynes offer shrouds stitched together with dental floss, sculptures composed of tape and rusted wire and works where pigments of rust predominate.
Offered in tandem, the two artists are a far from perfect match. Strati's floaty, ethereal combinations of wire and clear monofilament, which seem to move in and out of the wall like sutures on flesh, often suggest some kind of architectural rendering made three-dimensional or the kind of MOMA design store gewgaw hung above an urban baby's crib. He also employs lighting to cast a shadow on his works, to again emphasize its intangible aspects.
Strati's transformation of ordinary tape, wire and bits of rope into a large sculpture dangling from the gallery ceiling suggests the carcass of some industrial beast that's been skinned and flayed. "Scribble" exemplifies the artist's play between the conceptual and the familiar, a blend of wire and monofilament looking like nothing so much as the hairy gob you'd pull out of your shower drain. Testament to its trompe l'oiel aspects, "Scribble" managed to entice a small spider to head toward it as if looking for a prefab squatter's web.
While Strati's fragile sculptures evoke flight, or at the very least movement, Haynes' works are more elemental and earthbound. His sensorially complex assemblages combine sound, pumped in from stripped-down speakers on the gallery walls, and black-and-white photos of looming, unidentifiable structures — towers, silos, desert craters — splattered with rust and the green of corroded copper.
While Strati's work suggests a blueprint, map or model for some visionary's notion of the ideal, Haynes' works are the debased remnants of a culture founded on steel and industry, radio waves and fiber optics. It is those imprints of a human presence that linger in Haynes' nearly apocalyptic musings. In place of flesh, the figure of male and female bodies that decorate his paper shrouds are painted with rust and stamped with series of numbers. It is as if these mechanical creations are the only remaining evidence of mankind's presence in Haynes' hybrid of Survival Research Labs dystopia and the past/future fixations of industrio-gothics from Nine Inch Nails to Joel-Peter Witkin. The disquieting day-after effect is enhanced by Haynes' use of sound: scraps of human voices or snippets of techno warble bouncing off radio towers like cryptic found-sounds bleeding in from outer space.
Both artists are at their best in conveying a sense of dis-ease (in Haynes' art), or ethereal, strange beauty (in Strati's) in their confident approach to their materials. The intent or meaning of the works can be more elusive. Ambiance is clearly more seductive to these artists, whose works often share a sense of the intangible — the intangible nature of our bodies and the endurance of our creations. Well-suited to the industrial vacant lot setting of Eyedrum's new Martin Luther King Boulevard location, the work is a natural amplification of this scrap yard ambiance. The sudden gusts of air moving through exposed ductwork create an eerie symphony with Haynes' sampled space music, and the mix of utilitarian warehouse and conceptual art at Eyedrum match-up with the blend of the humble and the rarefied in Strati's industrial stitch wizardry.
Robert Strati's Mapping the Invisible and Jim Haynes' OKNO run through Nov. 24 at Eyedrum, 290 MLK Jr. Drive, Suite 8, 404-522-0655. Wed. and Sat. noon-5 p.m. or for an appointment, call Alicia Jenkins at 404-355-3179.??