Ted Vasin
Alternate Realities
Bay Area artist creates worlds out of paint and sound


by Nicole Docimo
The Davis Enterprise
July 10, 2008

"Ted Vasin: Paintings and Sound" at the Davis Art Center is a complete experience. Upon entering the gallery, the visitor finds that the exhibit seems spare, perhaps even Spartan; only four paintings hang, one on each wall. With the addition of machine sounds, Vasin integrates his surreal paintings with the white space around them, giving the viewer room to conjure up the alternate reality.

While this show is not a three-dimensional, environmental installation, Vasin explores the idea of bringing paintings into the third dimension by via sound. This of just one more sensory experience creates an entire atmosphere.

Vasin's audio track breathes trough the room and prickles up your backbone. This collection of man-made, metallic sounds - from an underlying chook-chook-chook, like a roller coaster climbing, to the whisper of a subway tunnel or the landing of a spaceship - creates an eerie, empty, machine-age feeling, which transports the viewer into alternate world.

Vasin's visual work creates a window into this other place, time or universe. Each piece is a completely different interpretation of color and shape that suggests and entire environment. While these works could be called abstract, in that very few recognizable objects are present, the interpretation of subjects verges hyper-realism; things are so real you could almost reach out and touch themů although you would not know what you were grabbing.

In "Is This What I Am", everything seems suspended in air, creating surreal moment in time. This piece a combination of M. C. Escher's mind bending enigmas, like "Drawing Hands", Salvador Dali's spilling clocks; and contemporary movies like "The Matrix" - mixes futurism, surrealism and abstraction. The one recognizable part, a hand hanging in air, melts away into pink vapors. The fingers hover, palm open, as if the hand is trying to help, but doesn't know what to do.

Free-form objects float like billowing scarves in shades of pink, purple, blue and red, while teal rings, like planet rings float in a group. Everything is moving and suspended at the same time. A red flowing object curves into a "T" and points across the canvas, taking center stage against the more subtle and continuous pink-purple-blue spectrum.

This composition lives just beyond the line of comprehension: somewhat familiar but not entirely recognizable, pushing the viewer to use the imagination to engage with this other reality.

"Your Birth and Death. My Grandiose Delusion" carries this abstract hyper-realism to another level, with details and shapes reminiscent of computer-generated future-scapes. A delicate purpule, machine-like object that could be a space craft, with details bringing to mind bugs and flies, hovers above a steely building top. This object - sleek, like automobile drawings - floats gracefully against green, blue and white swirled and rippled background.

Other similarly futuristic bodies float nearby, completing what might be an outer-space scene or an abstract landscape from the artist's brain, and bending the viewer's mind into another realm.

"Bigger Picture Number Seven" creates continuity though the repetition of a tube shape pointing to the right of the canvas. Beams of gradient color make these objects dimensional, but also create a visual rhythm. These tubes, beveled at the ends, bring to mind the front of a tank, although the bright color and chopped-up shapes make interpretation anyone's game.

Colors glue this composition together further, with flashes of lime green in each corner, and warm tones bouncing through the center.

The empathic use of negative space, to outline complex fragmented shapes, makes this piece visually fascinating, as the viewer studies all the different components and pieces them together.

While looking at these works and traveling into Vasin's surreal consciousness, the metallic music bangs around the viewer's head, adding to the overall dimensionality. This cacophony - techno beats, the hum of building, and what sound like machines turning on and off - makes the visual worlds more real, more physically palpable.

Whether this show is a vision of a futuristic idea, or the inside of the artist's mind, Vasin transports us into his alternate universe for an engaging gallery experience.

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