san francisco art magazine

Erik Foster

Split Hearts Unevenly

GlamaRama! Hair Salon and Art Gallery
San Francisco, California

May 4th - June 22nd, 2008

Reviewed by Julie Boddorff
Untitled - Erik Foster

ERIK FOSTER - Untitled, 2008
14" x 18", acrylic and ink on canvas

     "Split Hearts Unevenly" refers to a feeling that is common to all people ... emotional loss. When relationships end, there is an inequality. One side hurts more than the other ... it is never equal in the end.

--Erik Foster

     When I first heard about Erik Foster's upcoming show, "Split Hearts Unevenly", I was just as curious about attending an art show at a hair salon as I was about seeing the art itself. When I arrived toward the end of the opening on Sunday night, a few people were still milling about the salon. Over two-dozen brightly colored paintings hung on the wall among several large vanity mirrors. Unlike most hip and contemporary hair salons in San Francisco, each hair station was completely unique, with its own set of products and sense of style. Between each, Foster's paintings formed a kind of static connection that tied the decor and ambience of the room together. The paintings seemed similar at first glance; the solid, bright colors and smooth texture of the paint in his pieces gave the entire body of work a very cohesive and polished feel. Most of the paintings were quite simple: each contained a solitary figure and a background landscape that split the painting in half with an effortless yet bold horizon line. The figures within the paintings seemed to begin from simple line drawings, and, while small and intricate details were apparent in their clothing, they remained character-like in appearance. The shadows that appeared in the crevices of their bodies made them pop off the "page" and distinguished them from the background. I noticed that the majority of the figures were wearing skirts, and, not wanting to assume that the artist was making a daring statement about the feminine figure, I asked him about the overwhelming female presence in his work:

     I use these dresses and kilts or what have you for areas that I can communicate to the onlooker ... so the male characters also use dresses or skirts or kilts ... because I like to use this space for expression. I could put pants on the males and dresses on the females, but to me it really just doesn't matter about making them gender specific. I like patterns, and this space allows me to have an outlet for these patterns or sayings or colors I like to incorporate into my works.

Untitled - Erik Foster

ERIK FOSTER - Untitled, 2008
30" x 40", acrylic and ink on canvas

     After taking another look, the elaborate patterns within the clothing of these figures did seem to stand out and create a sense of diversity between the otherwise similarly styled pieces. One of the larger paintings stood separate from the others; the painting, shown above, was displayed prominently behind the reception desk near the front door. What was most prominent about this particular piece was the complex, patterned cloak worn by the figure. My eyes were immediately drawn to the cloak, which was filled with patchwork squares, each square utilizing a separate space in an almost exceptional way. Unlike the other paintings, this piece was essentially a portrait; there was no background, and in fact there was no need for a background. Elements of Foster's work are reminiscent of characteristics assigned to the Mission School art movement, in particular in the obvious similarities with comic and cartoon art. Margaret Kilgallen's work is often associated with the Mission School movement, and while Foster's work is very different in meaning and appearance, the comic-like drawings he creates could be paired with her uniformly colored figure portraits.

     Erik Foster has been creating art for his entire life and his work has often included characters similar to those in "Split Hearts Unevenly". His interest began in high school with Japanese animation; he was part of an anime group called CFO, where he created covers for their early zines. He considers the work in this exhibit to be his most developed:

     I have no formal art training. I do feel that my current work is the most cohesive it has ever been. Many parts of my current landscape can certainly be seen in my past works and installations, but there is a marked difference in what I am doing now. My work in this exhibit is the most developed and complete. I feel at this point I can convey what I want to say with my art. Don't get me wrong; this is not all that I have to say, but it conveys what I want to say right now.

Untitled - Erik Foster

ERIK FOSTER - Untitled, 2008
15" x 30", acrylic and ink on canvas

     Solitude seemed to penetrate most vividly in all of Erik Foster's pieces and therefore seems to be the most important message he conveys in his current work. Most of his characters were alone and set among the foreground in an almost blank yet colorful landscape, with the exception of a few lone houses behind them. When asking Foster about the message of solitude his art illustrates, he mentioned, "I have always been compelled to try to convey loneliness and melancholy in my works. My cast of characters seldom interacts and they never communicate. There will sometimes be a sense of going home, looking for home, longing for home ... the theme of home plays a role in my works." Interaction among characters was impossible because of their physical separation, yet the repeated feeling of loneliness among the pieces created an ironic sense of unity that surrounded the show as a whole. One piece depicted a floating head without a background and somehow this displayed more loneliness than any of the other characters; perhaps being without another illustrates one degree of loneliness but being without oneself is an entirely different experience.

     I appreciated the message of solitude that came across in Erik Foster's paintings, in addition to the solid and cohesive body of work that his message created. The characters' display of emotions did not seem depressing; instead, I felt as though they were content in their loneliness. Perhaps I felt this way because their collective solitude created a distinct and meaningful connection between them.

-- Julie Boddorff

Julie Boddorff currently works for a literary networking site and spends her free time writing for independent publications in San Francisco.

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