Ted Vasin
Ted Vasin @ Limn Art Gallery

by Andy Richie
ArtSlant San Francisco
June 9, 2008

Limn, from the furniture store fronting Townsend to the galleries in the rear, exudes an intimidating virtuosic wonder. I felt a bit blunt when I entered, like playing Operation at a kegger. Fearing I’d disturb the sleekness and polish oozing everywhere, I caught myself lowering my voice, even breathing softly to preserve the entropy-defying state of fineness witnessed. Bring your diazepam. The artist Ted Vasin commandeered one of the two gallery wings, and to his credit broke the silence, literally. To alter the effect of his dozen-or-so paintings, which can be as amorphous as the brushwork, Vasin performed live electronic music at the opening in the gallery’s center, leaving his paintings the unlikely wallflowers. Following the opening, until the terminus of the exhibit, a prearranged droning soundtrack by Vasin will fill the gallery omnidirectionally. But what of his paintings?

As a painter, Ted Vasin has a CAD-like grasp of modeling, appropriate for a gallery that aspires to bridge art and design. That his screaming talent is delineable through the warp of abstraction he creates tells you what a reservoir he taps. His two portraits notwithstanding, the only recognizable depictions are little pink dicks in one piece by the office—apparently I have pareidolia for the Superbad set. Although unrecognizable, his painted forms are somehow tangible and feel very “concept,” like industrial design with bad math.

Originally, glass blowing seemed the clearest metaphor for his translucent pearls of paint, but now I can do one better: jets of liquid in zero gravity. Yet, these jets loop and zip as if part of this world. It is disappointing, then, that although flow and dynamism dominate his work, Vasin’s compositions lose speed up close. Colors are tightly and evenly brushed and rarely, if ever, touch or overlap—easy to tell through the translucent washes. In other words, I wouldn’t call Ted Vasin a painter’s painter, but he is absolutely an illustrator’s painter.

Faint pencil outlines mark the edges of rectilinear panes on the canvas, and I have no reason to think that the outlines stop underneath the paint—everything here appears rigorously planned. The compositions amusingly (unintentionally?) come off like the trials of an intermediate Photoshop user, blown up to near-billboard dimensions and spread, at times, across two or three canvases butted together. The design-savvy crowd that frequents Limn will have to suspend their evocations of pinch, pucker, skew, posterize, and color channel manipulation—or laugh along.

Accuse Vasin of paint-by-number pictures with limping vitals, but at its best his work induces a kind of superflat vertigo, as if Murakami and Rosenquist works blew up on canvas, then the canvas followed suit. His use of negative space is pocked with brilliant description, and opaque shapes joust for attention with the translucent rings and ribs. Applause is extended for his refreshing lack of irony; if any statement is being made, it’s in the gesture of creating.