By Janice Bressler
“I have no idea what they mean, but they’re just so so cool!”
That observation, from Roosevelt Middle School eighth grader Naadin Chinbataar, seems to sum up the bemused delight generated by the creations of artist Michael Pedroni whose “Big Show” of unique sculptures opened recently in the Inner Richmond. Part of ArtSpan’s Open Studios 2019, Pedroni’s solo show is housed in the old Busvans for Bargains store at 244 Clement St. and has already drawn crowds from all over San Francisco and beyond.
Pedroni’s works assemble vintage toys, old radios, stone Buddhas and scores of other found objects into large, often towering structures. The assemblages sometimes suggest, but never spell out, a theme or meaning. The odd juxtapositions of curios seem to encourage viewers to actively engage with the works and try to puzzle out a theme or meaning for themselves.
“It’s an extravaganza of absurdity!” exclaimed Barry Brilliant, a working magician and long-time friend of Pedroni, as he admired an almost ceiling-high piece titled “DJ Gabe.” Centered around a male mannequin outfitted in a leather jacket and headphones, the 3-D collage includes multiple trumpets, an inset suggesting heaven and a Sanskrit “om” figure.
“I think it has something to do with Judgment Day,“ offered a gray-haired woman, squinting at the piece. “I don’t know,” a young man standing nearby replied, shrugging his shoulders. “I think it means whatever you say it means.”
Far from being arbitrary assemblages, much of Pedroni’s work employs symmetry, whether that is the matching trumpets in “DJ Gabe,” or pair of wooden ducks in “Sitting Ducks,” as well as hand-crafted elements. Other sculptures use mirrors or lenses to change what the viewer sees by revealing hidden qualities, depending on one’s vantage point. “Altar Ego,” for example, appears to center around a Buddha figure. But, as viewers move to the side and a little closer, they will see something different.
Pedroni, who started out as a film major at San Francisco State University, says he has spent years culling objects from flea markets, garage sales, junkyards and other corners of odd or discarded stuff. His works have been frequently featured at the annual Burning Man festival as well as the Maker Fair.
Maria Christoff, an artist and veteran of many Burning Man festivals, was at the Big Show on Clement Street to see Pedroni’s latest works.
“He’s a wonderful Dadaist. The nonsense is sly. It’s intentional. It’s poking in different ways at the absurdity and cruelty of modern life,” she said admiringly.
Michael Pedroni’s Big Show will be open at 244 Clement St. Nov. 2-3, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.artspan.org. View a collection of photos of Pedroni’s show at http://www.richmondsunsetnews.com.
For more photos of Michael Pardon’s art show, follow this LINK.
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