Switchback: Matt Gerring and Jay Nelson

Switchback: Matt Gerring and Jay Nelson
January-February, 2006

Jay Nelson, The Joy of Nature (detail), 2006, graphite on paper

“Switchback: Matt Gerring and Jay Nelson” presents two emerging San Francisco-based artists who explore spirituality as seen through the popular California pastime—camping. Both Gerring and Nelson use their practice to explore their personal connection to the natural world within an increasingly technological modern age. While the two artists share a common point of interest, their artistic processes are inversely related. Nelson creates subtle patterns of negative space in his large-scale drawings by rubbing an eraser over layers of graphite, while Gerring embellishes his fabric canvases with detailed hand embroidery.

Matt Gerring investigates the phenomena of “home-grown” spiritual questing and aesthetics arising from 1960s psychedelic culture through the medium of embroidery on camping equipment such as sleeping bags and tents. Gerring’s newest work will be on display in the Triple Base gallery’s storefront windows. These new pieces made of the frayed rope and deconstructed rigging mechanisms used in mountain climbing suggest a lust for adventure and risk that many outdoor enthusiasts experience. Gerring’s embroidered camping gear remind one that such products act as an intermediary between the body and the elements, only allowing a person to “get back to nature” while wrapped in state of the art petroleum by-products. Gerring’s detailed work simultaneously comments on the imported spiritual philosophy of Asia and the appropriated teachings of Native Americans. Gerring is a recent MFA graduate of California College of the Arts, a recipient of the prestigious Skowhegan Residency and a current artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts.

Jay Nelson likewise finds the inspiration for his large-scale, psychedelic landscapes in nature. Building from early California photography and etchings, Nelson’s epic drawings incorporate his own feelings of transcendence experienced while backpacking through the terrain of Northern California. Nelson’s newest wall-sized drawings will cover the walls of the gallery, creating an installation that envelops the viewer.

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Click here for an ArtBusiness.com write-up of the show