Evocative images of a film set 

Stunning skill and imagination characterize paintings by Oakland artist Mark Stock, whose show “Stage Stories” is on view at Modernism Gallery in The City.

The exhibition — a collection of 10 diverse oils on canvas of scenes from a film set — stems from his longtime interest in performing arts.

Stock, whose works are in permanent collections of the San Francisco and New York museums of modern art, studied ballet and modern dance in the 1970s, and he designed sets for dance companies before starting to paint figures and gaining acclaim for his narrative paintings.

While the variety and narration in Stock’s works are remarkable, so is the use of color in the paintings, many of which are untitled.

The decor and clothing in a provocative work of a woman sitting at a kitchen table suggest a 1940s- or ’50s-era film. It boasts a subtle ambiguity: At first it is unclear whether it is a film still, or simply a picture of an actor on the set during a break in filming, but a closer look, when the viewer notices a gun, reveals it to be a movie still.

“Impulse,” a large painting of a tall, elegant woman standing, focusing on what might be a cellphone, contrasts with the overall brightness of the kitchen scene. Her bright, white face against a dark background immediately attracts the viewer, as does a coffee cup on a shelf in the background that signals this image is not a film still.

The striking work, which has the illusion of being lit rather than painted, is reminiscent of masterpieces by Johannes Vermeer.

“Promo,” a 36-inch-square painting, differs from the exhibition’s other offerings. Unlike an intimate interior scene or a film still, it pictures two workers unfolding a large photograph of what is likely the movie’s lead actress, who has a Joan Crawford-like quality. Her face, which takes up almost the whole frame, is engrossing and intense, possibly indicating the dramatic nature of the film.


If You Go

Mark Stock Stage Stories

Where: Modernism Gallery, 685 Market St., S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes April 21
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 541-0461, www.modernisminc.com

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Murray Paskin

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