‘Subreality’ a new view of pop art 

Given the title of the installation at the Aftermodern gallery — "Subreality" — one might walk in and expect to find super dense, post-apocalyptic works wielding visions of doomsday, death and deceit.

Yet this group exhibit showcasing works by 15 artists ever so coyly plays off the idea of "suburbia," and within that vein takes a clever approach to an often overdone theme that continues to dominate the American artistic landscape.

Many of the works, such as those by local artist Cathy Liu, seem as if they were rescued from the interior of a tract home in southern California, exploring a new area of pop art, examining details, accessories, the parts of the sum.

Liu’s abstract works burst forth from the canvas with bold lines and an even bolder, albeit limited color palette. These are the colors that comprised your first box of Crayola crayons — the smaller set, the one without the sharpener.

"Hawaii influences her work quite a bit in terms of her color palette," said Marissa Gianni, director of Aftermodern and curator of "Subreality," which closes Saturday.

The artist, born and raised in San Jose, transfers imagery that develops in her mind directly to the canvas. No preliminary studies, just a straight shot. "Oroenpaz," with its dominating swirling motifs, was created with only 25 strokes of her brush.

"A ’60s urban aesthetic populates her work," Gianni says. "It’s very meditative; very poppy."

Also taking a cue from suburbia’s more interior aesthetic is Fawn Gehweiler, whose images distinctly recall the work of Margaret Keane, whose paintings of sad-eyed children are coveted by collectors and kitsch fans alike.Shay Kun’s pieces are near spitting images of those by PBS resident painter Bob Ross. Drawing upon the Hudson River School for inspiration, technically, Kun’s works are stunning, if not a tad hokey.

Kun illustrates the vastness and majesty of nature by placing "tourists" in the landscape, such as two parachuters who’ve apparently crashed to earth.

In a second work, a small-scale explosion is nearly camouflaged by the lush landscape.

Light and airy in its approach, refreshing, yet familiar, the works in "Subreality" recognize that the artistry of 1960s households can be relegated to kitsch and nostalgia — yet not without depth.

Then there is the technical wizardry of artists such as Molly McCracken, whose imagery stems from a deep interest in science and nature. Her pieces take these works into a new realm, one that is unmistakably 21st century.

It is easy to lose oneself in McCracken’s pieces. Painted on massive canvases, her work is at once organic and artificial. Layering countless coats of acrylics gives the work a waxy appearance, an unusual water color effect without the usual transparency.

The details are stunning and elusive. "Anchorless Strings" is a hallucinogenic underwater garden. "La Flor Del Mar" is another beautiful marine-theme image.

"She works on these paintings for months at a time," Gianni says. "She demonstrates really good contrast within abstractionist art."

Subreality

Where: Aftermodern, 445 Bryant St., San Francisco

When: Through Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 512-7678 or www.aftermodern.com

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