All the young Turks

Welcome to Hairy Eyeball, a bimonthly rundown of visual art

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Eye dares: The straight-razor gay wizardry of Gwenael Rattke
IMAGE COURTESY OF PING PONG GALLERY

arts@sfbg.com

HAIRY EYEBALL Welcome to Hairy Eyeball, a bimonthly rundown of visual art. We don't aim to be comprehensive, just opinionated. First Thursday is tomorrow, so enough with the introductions. On with the shows.

CCA is unleashing a new batch of Fine Arts MFA students into the wild Thursday night. With 66 artists total, this year's MFA show (which runs at the San Francisco campus through May 15) is one of the largest in recent memory. The cream from CCA tends to rise to the top pretty quickly, so here are some names worth looking out for in white cubes, near and far, in the future.

Llewelynn Fletcher's interactive sculptures aren't aiming to take a particular pulse, but will probably slow yours down. For Please Lie Down, she has created several enclosures of lead, ceramic, wood, and felt that completely cover the head, forcing you, per the piece's title, to lie down on the floor (thankfully, she's also constructed camping-style palettes for comfort). The mini-meditation huts, evocative of beehives as well as certain medieval torture implements, have the additional effect of transforming the wearer into something of a sculpture.

Maggie Haas' mixed-media pieces could easily be mistaken for installations-in-progress. But her arrangements and treatment of construction site detritus — sawhorses, wooden slats — cannily gut minimalism, This Old House-style, by preferring to hang out in the workshop with Donald Judd et al., turning the means of production into the piece itself. Endless Escape in particular performs a neat rope trick that yokes Robert Smithson and Yayoi Kusama with the ease of an Eagle Scout.

Hilary Wiedemann's installations, which frequently combine sculptures and projection, are far more elusive — and unsettling. In Untitled, a plaster cast of what looks to be a bullet hole-riddled surface (glass, perhaps?) leans against the wall; on the floor, laminated sheet glass has been contorted to resemble discarded tissue. Both components record the violence of the transformational processes that have brought them to their current states. It's not comfortable viewing — as if you've stumbled on a crime scene before the police tape has gone up.

Someone put Doron Fishman in touch with a textiles manufacturer, stat. His gorgeous ink-on-paper works, all black tendrils of liquid smoke, let it bleed. They're begging to be transferred to chiffon. The witchy Mulleavy sisters, of Rodarte fame, would be smart to look him up.

Well worth the trek to the other side of Potrero Hill is Ping Pong Gallery, which is currently showing Gwenael Rattke's dark, hypnogogic collages (through May 14). The collection's title, "Oktogon," refers to a street intersection in Budapest and also to the Ottoman-style "Kiraly" baths built during the Turkish occupation in the 16th century. These layers of history, architecture, exposed flesh, and power are not wholly self-evident in the psychedelic grandeur of Rattke's straight-razor wizardry — which recalls, among many associations, the graphic punch of Tadanori Yokoo and Keiichi Tanami's 1960s poster designs, the homo-plagiarism of Jess' massive Narkissos (1978/91), and the profondo rosso beloved by Dario Argento. Rather, they form the deep structures to these mandala-like works in which Op-Art geometrics collide with Art Nouveau scrollwork and leather daddies are refracted into Busby Berkeley chorines. The corner in which 14 of these pieces have been hung draws you in, like some black hole. Proceed with caution, and awe.

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