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San Francisco
Jack Fischer Gallery
311 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94103
August 6, 2009 - September 19, 2009

Moki's World
by Andy Ritchie



Moki's canvas-wrapped boards don't exactly activate the fourth wall like Ottinger's work, but they inhabit a pervasive, transcendent world that equally eludes easy description. Simply put, these are pictures. Each piece bleeds the edge of the canvas, not like Ottinger's players in space. Roughly 30 smallish paintings, differently sized, are hung at alternating height—why? Are the jazz angles funkay? Or just layzay? After the previous show...well, it's lazy. Let's move on.

A verdant, pastoral, rushing-river landscape was the first piece I locked into—mostly because it looked so wrong. None of the surrealist fancy of the online images I previewed was present. Viewing those works was like a dizzy free-fall into, like the first time I saw Moki's furry lemur/shrew/gremlin feed itself to the hay baler inside a light-polluted barn. (Off-topic: Isn't Photoshop the ultimate surrealist toy?) The river, as it turns out, is one of just a few non-fauna paintings. Interesting on their own, Moki's landscapes showcase her deft foliage-rendering skills, with dapples fine enough to relax Bob Ross's hair.

The hay baler isn't the only quixotic laborer in town. Plump, lumpy black silhouettes populate the naturalistic greenery, like Hayao Miyazaki-tinged Caspers. Some of them haul strands of sinewy unknown hairy chattel (7+ bodies "onscreen" in one case). Another bows under a back-bundle of sticks. Another extends a lamp at twilight, white smoke snaking out like Aladdin's lamp. These characters are rather smoke-like themselves. Though fully opaque, they are only vaguely hominid. I think the clue to their identity is found in their graveyard congregation. In one piece, a group sits casually among whorling trees draping willowy moss across grey tombstones. It seems their one moment of peace.

But what of the humans and the animals—the full-spectrum warriors, so to speak? Their roles seem less defined. A huge Asian girl rides bareback, like a portable Glamour Shot, on a sloth-like, Wookiee-like quadriped about to ford a river with Seuss-like lumps of hay in the background. The hatched hay appears to be ready to take wing, which is exactly what it does in the picture adjacent; it actually levitates, under a teal-fade sky, revealing mysterious orifices. (Aren't they all?)

In a similar duo of Deus Ex Machina across the room, a gurgling pit of Cheeto-orange magma bursts through a rock fissure. Its surreality is masked until the neighboring picture reveals a male, down-gazing scarf-wearer—sporting a rock beanie—grip basaltic earth under his Atlas hands, folding under an otherworldly atmospheric gravity. 

In any given painting, the scene is powerfully saturated with a) Sky b) Water c) Rock, often a cave d) Vegetation, or any combination. Organic forms move within, but the persistence of the world allows them to thrive together in a gallery. What's the scoop? Is there an environmental motive to the naked wilderness depicted? There are seemingly hints at the hazards of unchecked nature, actually. An upright, weasel-like, haunch-resting hound is patiently being overtaken, it appears, by a massive overgrowth of hair. The dog's advance parts, such as head and front legs, are no longer visible, helpless as an unshorn sheep.

On the other hand is a painting of a bear wading in a water hole turgid with invincible plastic trash. Then again, across the room a man navigates with a bamboo pole through still, grey waters on a raft of salvaged plastic and fabric refuse. This piece has the most spare landscape, its downcast angle yielding only a little reflection and none of the familiar lichen-crusted rock outcroppings, cleaved with injections of encroaching sand or vegetation sprouting from carved-out volcanic stone. 

After my dalliance with a magical sort of realism, it's jarring to find heavily referential work on my way out. (I worked my way counter-clockwise.) The black silhouettes are back, but less globular, sometimes non-hominid in fact (but still mammalian). The finely graded realism of the previous backgrounds gives way to outlined land with a Mickey Mouse face and a displaced killer whale, and a larger baleen whale. A black figure in a puffy jacket is mounted by centipede silhouettes. It seems Moki struggles with heavy referentiality like Ottinger—but struggle is the only way forward. I'm patient. I'd like to see where it goes from here...

--Andy Ritchie

(Images: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Fischer Gallery, SF)

Posted by Andy Ritchie on 8/24/09

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