Chimpanzees, Graffiti, and Bruised Skin: Exploring Memory and Place at Kiria Koula

October 12, 2015

 (Left) Patricia L. Boyd. Under Glass 3, 2015. (Right) Özlem Altin. Echo, 2013.  Photo by John White, courtesy of Kiria Koula.

(Left) Patricia L. Boyd. Under Glass 3, 2015. (Right) Özlem Altin. Echo, 2013. Photo by John White, courtesy of Kiria Koula.

An exhausted and despondent man wearily rests his head in his hands in a black-and-white photograph atKiria Koula. Multiple exposures make it difficult to definitively identify his eyes or where his lips begin and end. His hands appear to meld with the hair he is clasping. His anxiety is almost tangible.

This image, Echo (2013), is one of several photographs on display by Özlem Altin, shown along with works by Patricia L. Boyd. Atlin’s work explores the communication of abstract ideas through touch and memory. A similar work, Sleeping statue (2013), blends images of a chimpanzee’s face with the slender, outstretched fingers of human hands. The photograph feels like something out of science fiction — is this identity human, animal, or one in transition? Atlin’s grainy, dark images also resemble the creepy aesthetic of old, low-budget horror films, and even the image of a small child dancing possesses a sinister air.

These works are paired nicely with Boyd’s large-scale black and-white works. She created a one-of-a-kind photogram by pressing light-sensitive paper against the gallery’s window at night. Streetlights exposed the paper, but graffiti on the window blocked the light, creating a mirror image of itself, which now hangs across from the glass.

Boyd also presents three large silkscreens, showcased on the gallery floor under protective glass. The abstract-looking designs look like microbes or ambiguously malignant forms. They are, however, images of the artist’s bruised skin after suction treatment. Boyd explains that this therapy is meant to promote circulation, which in turn should result in sustained energy and increased productivity for the patient.

“Circulation,” “energy,” and “productivity” take on an additional meanings when viewing the exhibition at 5 p.m. on a weekday. The large gallery windows bear witness to the busy Mission District street life as workers and students return home or go shopping. Pedestrians, cars, and trucks noisily circulate around the gallery. Boyd’s skin treatment begins to feel like a metaphor for urban renewal and the neighborhood transformation happening outside the gallery walls.

The afternoon sun beams through the west-facing window, casting glares on the framed works. One of the floor pieces reflects the window graffiti, offering a third iteration of the scrawls. The floor pieces are subtly site-specific, referencing the language of development and reflecting the environment.