Greeting card sentiment meets minimalist art 

Over the weekend, San Francisco’s Ping Pong Gallery hosted a lively show called "This Time I Wanted You to Know." In two- and three-dimensional works, Brian Wasson takes on a wide range of ideas, exploring contemporary portraiture, the ambiguous icon and the structure and meaning of duality.

While the 33-year-old artist’s themes may be weighty, his true craft lies in his ability to choose materials and subject matter that evoke sweet waves of nostalgia and comfort.

If minimalism could be a grilled cheese sandwich, Wasson’s exhibition just might be it.

Even the title of the show is taken from the inside of a greeting card; his collection boasts a sincerity that is also tongue-in-cheek. No pretense here, just Wasson’s genuine intent.

"It’s all kind of one string of thoughts — finding the pleasure and the irony of life," he said at Friday night’s opening.

The artist, from Little Rock, Ark., ventured to the Bay Area to earn his master’s of fine arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. Today he works fulltime as a model maker for a design firm in the South Bay.

His cheeky humor dominates "This Time I Wanted You to Know," a show in which he manages to overcome what can be a huge obstacle for minimal artists: injecting warmth and universal feeling into each piece.

His success comes, at least in part, from the materials he uses. In "Chair Webbing Painting," he lines up individual strips of material from back of a beach chair in neat, vertical rows on the canvas. The piece is an homage to his grandfather, who replaces a broken strip of webbing on his trusty lawn chair every year.

"His lawn chair literally looks like that painting," Wasson says.

"Velcro" is a modest yet potent diptych. Wasson covered two canvases, each measuring 20 by 24 inches, with a massive block of Velcro. One canvas represents the front, the other is the back.

Wasson says the piece exudes a sheer physical power: "It’s like science. No human would be able to pull it apart."

Science comes to the forefront again in "Painted Box," a small box held together only by layers of paint — no nails, no glue, just about 30 coats of paint, Wasson estimates.

Again, Wasson’s humor shines through the deceptively simple work. While riffing on the expression "the only thing holding that house together is paint," he also eloquently puts into perspective the artist’s existence: "When you’re an artist, you have to go to the studio every day or you’ll feel guilty," he says, drawing a interesting parallel between the physical and metaphorical ideas of home, security and willpower.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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