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East Bay Express on Habitual Homesteaders (September 1st, 2010)

Containment Vessels at the Compound

Artists Gina Tuzzi and Tyler Bewley go mobile.

By DeWitt Cheng

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  • Detail of Tyler Bewley’s “Fragility.”

Gina Tuzzi and Tyler Bewley ponder Americans’ predilections for motorized cocooning and domestic bliss on the road in Habitual Homesteaders, a two-person show curated by the aptly named BayVAN. Tuzzi’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures depict the euphoria of pop culture (and its various subcultures) with affection, humor, and possibly a bit of premature archaeological nostalgia. Granted, they also seem to imply the good times will continue to roll, given enough good old American baling-wire ingenuity. Bewley’s brightly colored watercolor and gouache paintings on paper depict a brave new world of towering cities and equally vertiginous residential/cargo/factory ships; like Hayao Mitazake‘s animated films, they’re seductively beautiful, but also serious.

Tuzzi sees the Golden State mythically. We live inside “a vast solar system of mythologies … spiritual and electric,” a dynamic, delirious, freewheeling “dreamscape” comprising “paradisiacal blueprints” and “cosmic architecture.” Night driving, rock ‘n’ roll, and getting high are also among our cherished freedoms, her poetic rebuses seem to suggest. In “Let’s Get Stoned and Listen to Motown,” a minivan decorated with a large painted rose is paired with lovingly rendered album liner notes and diagrams on the doobie ceremony. In “Kickin’ Hippies’ Asses and Raisin’ Hell,” a truck camper shell sprouts an ungainly tower of barnlike additions, variously decorated with starry night skies and various symbols. In “1967,” the names of The Beatles and The Beach Boys are stacked like blocks into a pyramid surmounted by an uroboric serpent swallowing its tail, forming a figure-eight infinity sign. Tuzzi explores the rolling-tower habitat idea further in a trio of sculpted balsa-wood Babels perched atop metal toy trucks — high-clearance buildings (bearing flag, night-sky, and infinity symbols) from low-gravity dreams.

Bewley, interested in “the tension that exists between man, nature, and the environment,” depicts the convergence of social and economic systems into hybrid structures. His high-rise buildings/beacons set amid mist-shrouded hills (“Fog Bank”) or flooded by rising waters (“Oceanfront Property”); visionary cities (“Untitled”) resembling architectural mountains; and skyscraper-bearing cargo ships navigating through ruined bridges and fallen overpasses (“Overpass Park Community,” “Polar Houseboats,” “Glacier Preserve,” “Let’s Go Cruising for Polar Bears!”) have a cheerfully retro 1950s look that belies their futuristic subject matter and the artist’s “sense of a dark and ominous future that awaits a world without change.” Spilt oil all gone bye-bye, really? Habitual Homesteaders runs through September 19 at The Compound Gallery (1167 65th St., Oakland). Sunday tea and artist talk on September 18, 3-6 p.m. 510-817-4042

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