Read Between the Lines

It takes a brave artist to relinquish control over the creative act. John Cage did it when he used the I Ching to compose both his music and his art. Yoko Ono, inspired in large part by Cage, took the concept to another extreme in her “Cut Piece” when she allowed audience members to use scissors to slice away her clothes. Oakland artist Peter Foucault continues in this tradition of inviting participation and incorporating chance in his work but with a technological twist. At first glance the pieces in his solo show “I Walk the Line” are impressive simply for their complexity, for the sheer amount of accumulated marks on one sheet of paper. You might think of Sol LeWitt's “Wall Drawings” or of that Spirograph toy you played with as a kid to create layers and layers of pattern. Some of Foucault's line drawings were created by specially-designed robots set up in gallery exhibitions and at NASA's Ames Research Center alike, where the artist gathered as raw material the marks the machines made as they responded to sound or to public interactions. Chance also comes into play in another technique Foucault uses that involves blowing ink with bubbles of beer suspended in them across the paper, generating delicate black streaks. He then builds on that foundation of barely-contained chaos by adding in color and collage elements by hand. Foucault knows when to exert some control over his process but also when to let go.
Sept. 6-22, 2012

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