Petterson, who has a special fondness for vintage machines, uses photographs, paint and ink to create explosively kinetic artworks that might help you shake off the November blues.
Gray skies have you feeling lethargic? Here’s an art exhibition to jolt you back into shape — the hyperactive machine portraits of Vancouver, B.C., artist Andre Petterson, now showing at Foster/White in Pioneer Square. Typewriters explode and multiply; bicycles are buried in ribbons; and energetic streams of paint, ink and pencil pulse through space like waves of sound, or bursts of electricity.
It’s all very eye-catching and kinetic; Petterson’s pictorial dramas are bold, musical and even humorous. Neither the titles (“Riddle 2,” “Whiteout,” “Sling 2”) nor his own artist statements give much away in terms of what the intriguing images might be about, but these are pictures that clearly make visual sense — and it’s up to us to figure out what that might be.
Take the 2-foot-square bicycle vortex titled “Show” (2015, mixed media on board). Highly reminiscent of cartoon fistfights with random body parts bursting out of a dust cloud, it features a pack of twisting bicycles struggling to emerge from underneath a heavy, bunched-up black cloth.
Andre Petterson: ‘To and Fro’
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, through Nov. 28, Foster/White Gallery, 220 Third Ave. S., Seattle; free (206-622-2833 or fosterwhite.com).
Like all the images in the exhibit, it’s based on Petterson’s photographs of vintage machines — computer-manipulated, printed out and then painted and drawn on top of, in a complicated layering process that makes it nearly impossible to figure out where the printed imagery ends and the hand work begins.
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“Show” is about conflict, but it could also be a bicycle orgy, or the birth of a new species of machine. Whatever is going on, it’s not lethargic.
Neither is the cornucopia of dozens of vintage typewriters swirling like a mechanical tornado upward from the seat of a tiny, overmatched wooden chair in a picture nearby.
Owing a serious artistic debt to early 20th-century photo collages associated with the Russian Revolution, “Coop” (2015, mixed media on board) is romantic rather than political; surrounding and emerging from the whirling machinery is a flock of blurry, flapping birds. What do the birds have to do with the typewriters? A spirit of imagination and energy, and a sense of freedom.
Color has never been a big feature of Petterson’s work (his career extends over several decades), but several of the strongest pieces in the current show feature large areas of intense, primary color, as well as ultra-dynamic cascades of paint and ribbons that mimic the flow of rain or waterfalls.
I’m very partial to “Fete” (2015, mixed media on board), which looks vaguely like a headless figure in a yellow and blue raincoat, perched on a typewriter and enjoying a Technicolor cloudburst.
As a counterpoint to his high-resolution photography and buttoned-down compositions, Petterson executes the paint layer on top with admirable verve and spontaneity. All of the images in the show feature extra drips, dribbles, spots and squiggles, tastefully arranged and going with the flow.
Ribbons of unknown origin also feature prominently, used as yet another visual metaphor for motion, process and the forces of nature. Something major has been dumped on the bike in “Riddle 2” (2015, mixed media), in the form of rubbery strips of bright red and black.
It’s a mess, but it’s cheerful chaos, and although we’re not taking that bike anywhere in a hurry, it somehow feels like this is the way things are supposed to be. Acceptance of change — that’s an artistic take-away I can live with.