Let's Get Small 

Assemblagists play tricks with scale.

"One pill makes you larger; one pill makes you small," according to the Jefferson Airplane's hippie-trippy anthem, "White Rabbit." Actually, it was cake and drink in the Lewis Carroll book. In any case, assemblage art has the same power to alter scale and perception, as Lily Black (pseudonym for a local painter, illustrator, and musician) and Philip Krohn show with their work at Kuhl Frames + Art.

Black's series, entitled "Photographism" (for reasons unknown), comprises shadow boxes of various sizes and shapes that are filled with found and manipulated objects. Some boxes house tiny LED lights, like "Geidi prime mantle box," into which we peer through a bulbous wide-angle lens to catch glimpses of its tiny skeletal inhabitant. Some resemble vitrines, or museum glass cases, like "Portrait of Herman Melville," a headless skeleton with a scrimshaw cigarette lighter for a head reposing on a bed of pink fabric. Some resemble enclosures or shrines, like "Hi, Mr. Monkey," with its slightly alarming, reassuringly sequestered, miniature red simian. Still others recall dioramas or stage tableaux, combining painted and three-dimensional elements: in "Even Cats Have Dreams," a black cat bounds from between two trees out of the frame, like Magritte's locomotive steaming from its fireplace; in "Come Basement Walk With Me," we see a miniature cross-section of a house's joists, crawlspace, and basement, all ornately framed in gold; in "How Everything Works," perhaps a parody of David Macaulay's illustrated books on pyramids and cathedrals, we see a beautifully rendered miniature garage, dingy and dark, and replete with rickety steps and ventilation ports — and a strange flattened form suggesting a car, covered with gears and hubcaps. "Proposal for a New Economic Recovery Vehicle" presents another strange vehicle, this time a hurdy-gurdy steamboat/motel/temple covered with wheels and sprockets, and sitting atop a column as if awaiting floodwaters. Survivalism was, of course, the subtext of the Big Three's SUVs.

Krohn's eye-popping installation, "Hanging Orchard," is composed of branches, slotted metal strips, wooden slats, flattened cans, long strings of plastic bottle caps, lights, paper cups, and white faux boulders. In some views it appears a dense chaos of competing materials; in others, the forms reveal the artist's careful placement. Recalling the thickets in Cornell's miniature boxes, but on a larger scale, this is perhaps a meditation on humanity's spoliation of nature, or the commercial domestication of the contemporary mind, or nature filtering and detoxifying culture; or all or none of the above. "Photographism" and "Hanging Orchard" run through January 24 at Kuhl Frames + Art (412 22nd St., Oakland). KuhlFrames.com.


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