The Passing Throng

A caravan captured in the moment is a multitude of curves. Overlapping limbs appear to double and triple as if the result of a camera set for a long exposure. The camels’ necks form elegant curls like those of a bevy of swans: taken together they resolve into a pattern like on printed fabric, suggesting the roll of the dunes or successive swells.
Andrew Li’s work now on display at the Jack Fischer Gallery captures the attention with its rhythmic quality. But long after you’ve admired how well composed the pen and ink drawings are, you find yourself lost in the details. Faces reveal their distinctive quirks, uniforms their particular and arcane regalia.

According to his artist profile, Li works quickly, which is almost hard to believe given how perfectly framed are the works on display. Out of what would appear to the disinterested eye a faceless multitude he plucks out a scene, showing us its exceptional quality. The “unnecessary duplicates” of humanity en masse identified by Ishmael in Moby Dick are redeemed by Li with the particularity of their distinctive rendering. It’s a kind of “wave-particle” deftness: Li shows us the patterns, then, like the image of two faces becoming a goblet, we apprehend the individuality.

My favorite work was of festive Chinese street celebrants. A team of performers is manipulating a dragon costume above their heads, the undulating “body” circling round to form a halo over the heads of the spectators. Huddled underneath a lion dancer crouches like a real beast, sniffing the air. It’s the kind of situation you can find yourself in, unexpectedly, right around the Chinese New Year here in San Francisco and Li’s work reminds me not to take such welcome surprises for granted.

throng2As usual, there are all kinds of works squirreled away in every corner of the available gallery space and each one tempts you to delay your departure. I see one of Lauren DiCioccio’s pieces that was on display last year at the Lab leaning against the wall, one of those amazing ciphers wrought in tiny colored circles of paint. In a cubby hole atop a plan chest is a Sarah Bereza sculpture festooned with antlers that used to hang above the doorway. Yep, I still want it.


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