I sauntered in unaware. A faint glimmer on the wall caught my eye after I crossed the threshold of the gallery. There wasn’t much to it, really. A sliver of fabric and a few tiny pieces of wood glossy with silver glitter. I hesitated on the sparkle for a moment—there was a strangely familiar quality to this tiny fragment of wood suspended between the fabric and the wall.
Mitzi Pederson’s materials shift, evolve, challenge, but remain recognizable, true. Her language is visible in these strikingly minimal and delicate examples, even more so than past iterations of sculptural and installation-based works. Though the execution has changed, the aesthetic sensibility and formal courage remains the same. Here, Pederson has created images that are seemingly more reductive and fragile in their immediate reception, yet maintain a heavy presence that is counterintuitive to their physical weight. This exhibition marks Pederson’s foray into painting—the dialogue with the medium is there, but Pederson is managing to use her own vernacular. This is sparse, smart work.
Mitzi Pederson, Untitled, 2012, Silk tulle, wood, glitter, silver leaf, 56 x 71 x 9 inches; Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3
Many of the pieces on display are comprised of nothing more than silk tulle, small bits of wood, daubs of paint, and the aforementioned glitter. Pedersen’s use of these raw materials, however, is most inspired. Tulle is used as support for the other media, in lieu of canvas, and in some cases as the entirety of the work. Seasons (Blue), 2012, for instance, is a large swath of pale blue tulle hung precariously on two pins that all but disappear from view. It feels as if the work could float away from a gust of wind entering the gallery door much like a dandelion puff on a summer afternoon. Other works, like Untitled, 2012, manipulate the fabric a bit more to create subtle dimension with painterly ease that teeters on the edge of physicality. A trompe l'oeil is often produced by the sensuous folds of the fabric playing against the various materials and complicating the distance between the work and the wall and the wall and the viewer. I was forced to blink several times to prevent the onset of vertigo, an action that is infinitely more satisfying than it sounds.
This exhibition (Pederson’s fourth at the gallery) is a poignant homecoming for the artist who graduated with her MFA from the California College of the Arts, but currently lives and works in Berlin. Much of the work could be read as Pederson’s current relationship with San Francisco: present and complex (but not really there). Its title, “Ciphers,” is a playful twist in the conversation. A coded liaison between Pederson and her viewer: there’s not really much stuff separating the two.