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Take a Seat: Two Shows that Demand (and Reward) Contemplation 

Wednesday, Nov 20 2013

The films of Federico Fellini, says Dutch artist Rik van Iersel, "teach that you can stand in the street and see it as surrealistic theater. That's how I want to paint." Which van Iersel does, creating layer upon layer of surreal dreamscapes. Fellini's Dream is the apotheosis of van Iersel's approach, shoehorning within its 4-foot frame numbers, squares, circles, splotches, scribbles, a faux Picasso, face doodles, and other shapes that are strange, silly, serious, joyous, and funny. All these things simultaneously? Done in a style that has panache and verve? Paintings don't usually reach the kind of critical mass that van Iersel achieves in work after work. Van Iersel's latest San Francisco exhibit, "City Walk & Other Stories" at Caldwell Snyder, features some two dozen distinct pieces. The collection amounts to a trip down a very delightful rabbit hole.

In May, Bay Area painter Kenjilo Nanao passed away at age 83, leaving behind a body of work that, in its own quiet way, is breathless. Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery is exhibiting select Nanao canvases of the past two decades, and it's a good thing the gallery offers a sitting area. Taking in a large abstract work like Blue Strokes and Squares, which is awash in waves of delicate brush strokes, demands relaxed contemplation. A one-time student of Richard Diebenkorn, Nanao married artistic traditions from Japan and the United States, settling into a style that emphasized basic but graceful shapes and symmetries.

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Jonathan Curiel

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