Carson Fisk-Vittori's two- and three-dimensional work provides a rare complement to the artwork by Anna Sagström, now showing at Et al. gallery (620 Kearny Street, San Francisco). Fisk-Vittori is one of the most intriguing multimedia artists to have relocated to Oakland in the past couple of years, as her work twists the influences of her specialization in photography and the plastic veneer of suburbia to create a paradoxical, contemporary momento mori of our natural environment. Her installation pieces in the exhibition, entitled Hard Weather, are composed of live tulips, municipal and briny water, fake grass, lawnmower parts, and plastic.
Sagström also specializes in installations made from commercial objects. Some of the Berlin-based artist's works were shown in 2012 at MacArthur B Arthur gallery, also put together by Oakland-based Et al. curators Aaron Harbour and Jackie Im. In October, Sagström received a residency at Real Time & Space in Oakland to support her research on sound as a tool for understanding history.
Harbour, Im, and co-director Facundo Argañaraz demonstrate a thoughtful consideration of both artists' compelling arrangements, infused with a heavy dose of humor. One of Sagström's works, "Pink Collar Work," includes a framed screenshot of what is presumably a knockout round (because of the scowls) of the reality show The Bachelor. The ABC network logo creeps in from the bottom right corner of the image and a barcode sticker within the thick white frame cheekily reads "Elegance" in cursive.
The baubles, fake tans, and false eyelashes that fill this piece represent the same type of plastic aesthetic with which Fisk-Vittori's installations are fascinated. Her sealed aluminum tubes make for an unnatural presentation of three artifacts: a real tulip drowning in "DIY room spray," a lawnmower blade, and a couple of fake grass tendrils.
The tube with fake grass and municipal water is titled, "Temperature ranking: projective ecologies." The presentation and titles point out our warped relationship with nature — as humans cause global ecological damage, we simultaneously mass-produce fake grass. Last year, Fisk-Vittori also experimented with plant grafting as part of another satire of the human tendency to manipulate nature. As she explained to Fixe Magazine in 2012, plant grafting is "a process where a stem from one plant is inserted into another, and can create such things as a tree that grows lemons, oranges, and grapefruits on one single tree."
Both artists' recent works resemble consumerist still-life collages. Instead of the conventional still-life props, such as fruit or cow skulls, Fisk-Vittori's subject is, for example, fake grass, and Sagström's is latex vibrator rings. Common manufactured objects are reintroduced and become strange to us in Hard Weather, and the inverse also applies: We have labeled and attempted to commodify natural conditions such as weather, creating systems to measure precipitation down to a percentage. Without confrontations such as those in Fisk-Vittori and Sagström's artwork, we wouldn't even notice how absurd invented labels like "sweater weather" truly are.
Through Dec. 5. EtalEtc.com or 415-269-4873.