The first room of the gallery is occupied by artist in residence Elizabeth Haidle, who is also responsible for the stairway psychedelia. Rather than The Beatles, her ink and paint works call to mind illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s works. (Lennon is said to have derived his song’s walrus—and its absurdist wordplay—from Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”)
Haidle’s works come in three sizes, all smaller than a sad attic window. They feature a mixture of colorful effusions and what look like careful 18th century pen-and-ink illustrations. The encyclopedic acetone transfers are reminiscent of the longstanding web comic Married to the Sea, which contrasts public domain Victorian illustrations with biting captions.
With a humor not nearly as dark, but sometimes awfully funny, Haidle imagines whimsical inventions and realizes them with a draftsman’s attention to mechanical detail. “Piscine-Pollination Blimp” has a giant fish as the blimp, complete with an anchor, a man on deck and a flower for said pollination. “Auditory-Hood Ornament” presents the hood of a car as if its primary function were to make noise, achieved by a horn contraption larger than the car itself.
Haidle’s largest works continue with a sensational mix of left and right brain: Rube Goldberg-like combinations of machines and everyday items—scales, pens, wheels, balloons—share space and function with insouciant flowers. One vehicular Frankenstein is the fertile bed for a blooming rosebush, whose budding red guns suggest the rose can’t fall too far from its thorns.
The gallery’s other two rooms, which snake from the first, are filled with Visions Photo Lab owner Cody S Brothers’ large-scale black-and-white photos (digital chromogenic outputs from analog captures) of Western landscapes.
French theorist and general thinker Roland Barthes, in his mediation on photography, Camera Lucida, obsesses that photography, in its implicit reminder that time has passed, is the death of the subject. Never does this seem truer than in Brothers’ exhibition Western Abandon.
Using infrared film, Brothers takes subjects that would otherwise be nostalgic or mournful, and renders them as eerie haunted remnants.
“Tierra Amarilla House No. 1” shows a house crumbling before whited-out leafy trees. The hazy texture signifies something unsettling is in the works. In “Del Norte Train Cars,” one expects a ghost to pop up for a ride, as in Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion.
The gallery space itself, owner Evan Glassman tells SFR, will continually be in a state of flux. For now, the lighting pokes out from coils of metal vent casings, while carpet padding takes the place of a rug and large painted-on crisscrosses make tiles out of the laminated floor. The crude and colorful personages and text on the closets are not the scribbles of some delinquents, but the lively renderings of local artist Richard Kurtz. No surface is off-limits, and everything from the furniture to the kitchen sink (well, a bathroom sink that Glassman made) is part of the show.
To put it simply: Eggman and Walrus has a rough quality to it, but it isn’t a haphazard venture. One likely has to get permission to deface the walls.
Like Lennon’s song, the show and gallery don’t hold to any one meaning or even a cohesive general direction. But there’s never more potential than when everything is up in the air.