Photos courtesy of the artist.
Video courtesy of John Yoyogi Fortes.
To experience the work in "Made for You and Me: New Work by Martin Webb", opening June 15 at The Compound Gallery in Oakland, is to come across sophisticated folk art, conceptually vigorous, visually intriguing folk art, in some out of the way place you stop on the way to somewhere else.
The exhibition consists of paintings and a sculptural installation. If the paintings concern themselves with landscapes, then the installation's concerns are more cosmological.
Mr. Webb wrote out the lyrics of Woody Guthrie's iconic folk song, "This Land Is Your Land" on the surface of the paintings. Subsequent layers of paint obstructed most of the words, so they appear subsequently as either design elements or else as a reminder of the passage of time. Of significance, Mr. Webb, originally from Britain, was going through the naturalization process to live in the U.S. The work, then, addresses personal issues of identity and assimilation and more general dynamics of permanence versus impermanence, nature versus human progress, and transformation versus stability.
Made from mixed media, cement, and acrylic on panel, the paintings resemble pictographs, simple maps of landscapes with featureless figures and schematized trees that appear to be seen first from a speeding car or train and then transcribed from memory. Trees and figures appear to be hastily drawn, as if to catch, for future reference, an approximate sense of place and location.
Consisting of 16 recycled freeway guardrail posts, each 64x8x8 inches, placed 8 to 10 inches apart in a loosely circular cluster about six feet in diameter, the painted sculpture installation "Grove" resembles a cluster of totem poles arranged in some once-significant but now forgotten pattern. They are made from paint and gold leaf, and finished with wax. Incised just below the surface of the wood, the painted glyphs reference the geometric abstraction of, say, Mondrian and, set against the crude timber, create a visual and conceptual tension between the organic and the man-made.
The exhibition runs from June 15 - July 21. Gallery hours are 12 - 6pm, Thursday - Sunday. The gallery is located at The Compound Gallery, 1167 65th Street, Oakland, CA 94608. For more information call (510) 601-1702 or visit www.thecompoundgallery.com.