Thursday, March 28, 2013

Up, Down, Left, Right

"Return to the Source" acrylic by Cable Griffith

"World Two Overview (Night)," acrylic by Cable Griffith

"Side Scroll World 2," digital prints by Cable Griffith

Cable Griffith and Michael Johnson shows at Kittredge Gallery
reviewed by Alec Clayton
The Weekly Volcano, March 28, 2013

The latest show at Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, has Seattle painter Cable Griffith’s video game-influenced paintings in the main gallery and an installation by sculptor and UPS art faculty member Michael Johnson in the back gallery.

Griffith’s paintings are abstract, stylized images based on imagery from early video games. Titled Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Start, the show references directions in maps, games, cities and the countryside with schematic renderings of colorful streets, rivers and buildings — Pop Art renderings of the pathways taken by players like the Mario Brothers and PacMan. They are inventive and fun to investigate. There is even a video game that can played by using projections onto paintings that can be remote controlled by viewers/players. This piece is a collaborative work with Brent Watanabe.

Griffith has noted: “Influenced by modernist painting and early video game imagery, my recent work explores the connections and potentials of both. … Notions of play, practice, improvisation, and exploration add an additional narrative to the relationship of symbols, actions, and reactions.”

“World Two Views (Night)” is a dark and moody landscape in tones of purple, green and blue with tree stumps, a winding highway, mountains, rivers and lakes all painted to look the way they may have been depicted in a video game circa 1985. It’s a night scene with the only point of light being a campfire, and it’s the only dark image in the show; everything else is light in tone.

Two pieces titled “Side Scroll World” numbers one and two, comprise square and rectangular panels painted with oil and connected tiles put together in irregular patterns. Griffith calls the panels elements. Number one has 25 elements, and number two has 10. The painting on the elements pictures schematic renderings of factories or industrial villages with ladders and pipes, various machines and smoke stacks. The larger piece, number one, has elements on either side of a large central shape that break away as if the whole is orbiting in space and parts have floated off.

“Return to the Source” and “The Navigator” are the paintings most closely conforming to painting tradition; i.e., flat shapes arranged on a flat surface (“Two World Views” also fits this category). “Return to the Source” may be my favorite piece in the show. It depicts a kind of Incan-village factory built into a mountainside made of stacked boxes all connected with canals running among them, each waterway ending in a round pool or waterway roundabout and none getting anywhere.

“The Navigator” is another fantasy town with trees and waterways and something that looks like giant pink mushrooms. Let your imagination run wild. These are fun, fun paintings.

Other works include a piece called “Here, Near, and Far (First Person Traveler),” nine paintings in a row that look somewhat like simplistic trees and zig-zag patterns that might be seen on Indian blankets. This is the least interesting work in Griffith’s show. And a group of four small paintings in acrylic on paper that look like watercolor — similar to the images on “Here, Near, and Far” but nicer because of the loose handling.

Michael Johnson’s installation in the back gallery is called You Are Here. It is made of a series of six sculptural drawings, titled “A Systematic Account of Random Movements” based on “the collection and processing of random GPS data within a predetermined controlled construct.” I will explain more of that when I review it in this column for the April 4 edition.

[Kittredge Gallery,  Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Start,  by Cabel Griffith, through April 13, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701]

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