• Remote Satellite
  • Walking on Foothill Boulevard (2005), Michael Damm, video projection, 9 minute loop, interior installation view

  • Remote Satellite
  • Walking on Foothill Boulevard (2005), Michael Damm, video projection, 9 minute loop, interior installation view

  • Remote Satellite
  • Walking on Foothill Boulevard (2005), Michael Damm, video projection, 9 minute loop, still image

Michael Damm, Leonie Guyer, and Kyle Knobel
September - October, 2005

Far from the hub of the San Francisco art scene, Michael Damm, Kyle Knobel and Leonie Guyer have created works of art that interact dynamically with each other and their location. The site-activated installations are located in an empty storefront in a far-away corner of Oakland’s Fruitvale District. Organizer Damm has fittingly named the temporary gallery “Remote Satellite.”

In the center of a strip of distressed facades, one is enticed by the video work of Michal Damm, projected onto a scrim seamlessly stretched across a garage door-sized opening. Viewable from the street and from the inside of the gallery, the video fills almost all of the gallery entry. Damm has framed images of pigeons, passing BART trains, trash swirling in the street, and other visual vignettes of the surrounding area. Recognizably of the location, the images attract one to the urban decay around and shift our relation to it.

Brownish water reflecting rainbow-hued tones off of its oil-slicked surface lap against the curb like waves on a tiny ocean. With the rhythm of iambic pentameter, the drab surrounding is transformed into a poetic visual narrative. Blown up, the images abstract the site into color and form. At times the ambient sounds blend so well with the imagery that one is tempted to look for hidden cameras. But this is not cinema verite - this is an illumination of the exquisite detritus underfoot.

Damm’s video installation sparks a sensitivity to the details of the location that leads us to Leonie Guyer’s ethereal encounter with paint and surface. A boarded up window, painted white, provides a visual and metaphorical entry into Guyer’s work. The window, situated in the center of one of the gallery walls, is an empty presence, inverting the notion of painting as a window.

Emphasizing this inversion, Guyer has painted a tiny red shape on the edge of the window frame. Gradually, one notices other similar shapes, painted in gouache, or drawn with pencil or colored pencil. One drawing on paper is taped to the wall and flutters softly as one passes. The outlined images are a mysterious synthesis of organic and geometric forms. Some evoke animal or bird-like contours, or hieroglyphs, but never coalesce into the recognizable.

Their emptiness is palpable, contained briefly by our proximity, and then dissolves into the wall as we step away. The forms draw attention to the other markings inside the gallery, smudges on the wall, wood knots in the ceiling beams, the colors of the gallery floor. Guyer’s shapes seem like an expression of the building itself, an extension of surface, detail and experience.

Kyle Knobel fills the opposite wall with a row of 45 pencil drawings of the same pair of handlebars, rendered in outline only, each nearly identical to the next, with slight variations. Each minute shift in perspective evokes a particular moment of the artist’s experience.

Like the exercise of trying to draw a perfect circle, the repetition reveals the limitations of hand and eye, yet played out as formal spectacle. The images, arranged horizontally, read almost like film stills, connecting to Damm’s cinematic abstraction of the site.

The use of the handlebars, likely something one would find in the streets outside, mimics Guyer’s consideration of form, but abstracts through Knobel’s repetitive and meditative representation.

The site itself is as much the subject of this show as the individual works. Each artist has engaged and activated the building and our presence in it, creating a fleeting articulation of presence and form.

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— Chris Komater is a San Francisco-based visual artist, and curator of the Marjorie Wood Gallery, A solo exhibition of his recent work will be on view this March at the WeissPollock Galleries in Chelsea, New York.

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