Front Gallery's three featured artists do what artists do best — position you to see something you didn't know you were seeing. Sue Ayako Higo reprises paper snowflakes, intricate and delicate versions of the kind you were introduced to in kindergarten. These are precise renderings of the silhouettes of snub-nosed revolvers and mud-flap naked ladies. What you thought you were seeing — snow-white renderings of that quintessential children's craft project, and a little lesson in individuality (no two snowflakes alike, as the truism goes) — turns out to be delicate kaleidoscope versions of mass-produced markers of adult sex and violence. Virginia Garcia's black-and-white photographs of Parisian scenes also seem familiar, reminiscent of Goddard stills or framed prints of the Eiffel Tower you might find at Target, but the natures mortes of table lamps and rotary telephones cause the gaze to pause long enough to reconsider the banal objects of everyday life.
Speaking of which, Dave Meeker's sculptural objects, which initially read as crystal vases or delightfully spiky melamine anemone bowls, are, it turns out, made of plastic forks and spoons, or drinking or coffee straws. Not only visually striking, they are utilitarian, well-suited for holding holiday nuts or candies — although, as Meeker points out, maybe not the guacamole. His "Fescue" pieces, part of his "air fountain" series, feature condoms, internally lit with neon green lights, inflating and deflating. Meeker wanted to be a water fountain designer when he was a kid, but later discovered air was cheaper and easier to manipulate than water. He is still fascinated with "bio-tanical" forms, the living-ness of plants; fescue is a type of grass that the green-lit condoms symbolically resemble, the oscillation of their alternately erect and limp stature mirroring the motion of the wind. And he is interested in that misrecognition that prompts a double take. He turns what you thought you knew — the detritus of everyday life — into something else. This detritus is exactly what we see most often and consequently don't see at all. Higo, Garcia, and Meeker bring our eyes back to those forgotten items and coax us into stopping to see what it is we've been seeing. "12X12X12: Thirty-six works by three artists for the Holidays" runs through January 14 at Front Gallery, 35 Grand Ave., Oakland. FrontGalleryOakland.com or 510-205-9793.
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