Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce Time Shadow, an exhibition of recent work by Bernadette Jiyong Frank. Her highly layered compositions are notable for their striking geometric abstraction, effecting a multidimensionality that is both solid and ethereal. Though they exhibit strong formal parallels to natural phenomena, her paintings also move beyond the visual realm to one that can only be experienced with eyes closed.
At the heart of each of Frank’s paintings is the Japanese concept of Ma, which is the space or pause between events, moments, forms, and thoughts. It can be felt, for example, at the bottom of a bow or in the silences that are common in Japanese conversation. These ostensibly empty intervals are in fact full—of energy, meaning, or agreement. Ma is also central to many Japanese art forms, including ikebana (flower arranging) and Noh theater. It likewise serves as the basis for Frank’s paintings, which are built up from hundreds of layers of paint. But rather than the layers themselves, it is the space in between the layers, Frank notes, that gives the works their depth and allows them to be experienced both visually and viscerally. The final paintings produce a sense of transcendence, asking us to consider how the edges of our lives—those areas adjacent to wherever we are, physically or emotionally—might be charged with an energy, potentiality, or resonance.
Frank’s Spaces in Between series features precise forms that fan open and close, like the scattered beams of searchlights as they whirl and rake through the sky. These beams are often concentrated in the center of the compositions, where they intersect to create hourglass-like shapes. Other times, their arrangement is more diffuse, crisscrossing in elegant patterns of syncopation that result in crystalline structures. Her series Refraction uses light in a similar way, though to different ends. Frank explores refractivity in these works, using her own language to capture the optical play of light rays deflecting and transforming as they interact with their environment. The remarkable depth conjured by paintings from both series is a product of their inherent Ma, which Frank achieves through her rigorous and time-consuming process. Each layer represents a single day, as Frank has to allow the medium to dry between applications. By emphasizing deep, ponderous blues, greens, and purples, her color palette aids the contemplative, almost mysterious mood unleashed by what can be viewed as renderings of time.
Self-portraiture is her point of departure in her newest series, Migrant. Though Korean, Frank grew up in Japan before moving to California at the age of thirteen; as an adult, she lived in Germany before moving back to the United States. Her story is one of displacement and movement, of never feeling fully rooted in one land. This is reflected in the shifting motion of the rectangular shapes, which glimmer as they expand and reshuffle, moving back and forth in an unbroken dance. At the same time, the rectangular shape—a robust, solid form—signifies the strength of the individual. Unlike Spaces in Between and Refraction, which primarily feature white paint mixed with one color to create a range of values, Migrant utilizes multiple colors to expand a composition’s valency and enhance its depth. These paintings manifest a hypnotizing, Rothko-like energy, while also demonstrating Frank’s emphatic engagement with the passage of time and the interceding moments that shape our world.
Bernadette Jiyong Frank was born into a Korean family in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964. She moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a young teenager and then to Los Angeles, where she later studied at the Otis Art Institute of Parson School of Design and the nearby Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and Germany and has been acquired by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. This is her second solo exhibition at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.
Marsh’s minimal, graphic images feature empyrean, enigmatic, and often surreal landscapes that speak to forms of power—natural, cosmological, and man-made—as well to the sublime and its attendant enchantments and contradictions. While her mixed-media process is based in photographic techniques, Marsh does not work with a camera. She instead layers cut-paper silhouettes on top of photosensitive paper, making multiple exposures that she further manipulates through dodging and burning techniques.
Her most recent series, The Sun Beneath the Sky, depicts mountainous peaks and valleys in creamy pastel tones of pink, purple, and yellow. These unadorned and lucid landscapes are also strikingly atmospheric, as if seen through a thick haze or fog. Their light source is often low, reminiscent of sunrise or sunset, as glowing light rakes dramatically across the scenes, softening the focus and hard edges while heightening the play between layers. The works appear lit from within, an effect that conjures the sun itself. Sunlight it not only Marsh’s subject matter but also her medium in these lumen prints, which she creates by exposing silver gelatin paper to the sun.
The Sun Beneath the Sky features geographic locations across the American West, such as Mount Hozomeen in Washington and Grand Teton in Wyoming, which she identifies in her titles. This titling system is a nod to conventions favored by some of photography’s founding figures, including Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams. While Marsh’s works often merge multiple locations to evoke a somewhat dreamlike or ethereal space, the specific references in her titles serve to ground the images in a sense of place and earthliness.
Marsh grew up in Seattle, surrounded by the mountains of the North Cascades and the Olympics. This daily proximity to the sublime has heightened not only her appreciation of the timelessness and unknowable magnitude of the landscape but also her awareness of its potential for sudden and dramatic change: volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are an ever-present threat in the Pacific Northwest. As a result, an interest in how landscapes can transform over time inflects much of her art. By couching the sublime in imagery that shifts and dematerializes, Marsh’s works are a reminder that, despite its scale and grandeur, nature is also a living system of moving, interconnected, and sometimes fragile parts.
Vanessa Marsh was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1978. She earned a BA from Western Washington University in 2001 an MFA from California College of the Arts in 2004. Marsh has exhibited across the United States, including at the SFO Museum; the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; the New Museum of Los Gatos; the Richard L. Nelson Gallery at UC Davis; the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art; the Sun Valley Center for the Arts; Camera Club of New York; and Schilt Publishing and Gallery, Amsterdam. She was a Critical Mass Finalist, Top 50, Photolucida, in 2018 and has been awarded fellowships at the Headlands Center for the Arts (2004), the MacDowell Colony (2007), and Kala Art Institute (2011). She was an artist in residence at the Jentel Foundation in Wyoming in 2018, and at San Francisco’s Rayko Photo Center in 2014. Her work can be found in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the San Jose Museum of Art. This is her fourth solo show at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.