Finish Fetish artists of the 1960s, such as Billy Al Bengston, Craig Kauffman and Larry Bell, attained notoriety for their innovations with plastics, automotive lacquers and cast resins. Evoking the lustrous surfaces of cars and surfboards, they fashioned pristine, hard-edged geometric objects seemingly made to glitter in the brilliant LA light. Their work comprises a subset of the broader Light and Space movement. Oakland-based Freddy Chandra’s exhibition “Slipstream” explores these concerns in his own, 21st-century Bay Area incarnation of the genre. Like his predecessors, Chandra works in a territory skirting two and three dimensions, presenting installations of cast plastic objects that hang on the wall—sculptural works with a painterly presence. Arrangements of shiny plastic components might initially appear to form a single unit, but the separation of elements is intrinsic to the work. Chandra’s very deliberate spacing between the bars creates staccato bursts of color that allow each tone to sing separately. In another bit of sleight of hand, the elongated rectangular prisms, which appear at first to be solidly tinted from within, are actually painted with acrylic that is airbrushed on in thin, transparent or translucent layers.
Haze (all works 2016), comprised of a long, horizontal arrangement of vertical elements, is grounded by a wide swath of green ranging from bright kelly to a darker viridian. Bars of gray or lavender may also range from a faint hint of color to a dark mid-value. This work has both an urban and a natural feel to it, the colors suggesting trees and the concrete of buildings, the haze of city streets, or perhaps of clouds and mist. The irregular spacing conveys a logic of its own, reminiscent of musical composition. These harmonic groupings also suggest the stackings of a metropolitan skyline, the structural feeling clearly relating to Chandra’s early studies—which included that of architecture, along with art practice.
Flare, the largest work, uses a palette of greens and golds to complement the clear and pale gray elements. This expansive piece extends beyond the peripheries of our vision, even from a substantial distance, necessitating our shifting gaze from left to right and back to take it all in. Chandra’s work engages the viewer in an active process of appreciation, like a puzzle to be solved; we may strive to comprehend an individual work’s unique inner logic, or, suspending our attempt to quantify the experience, opt to bask in the array of sensory effects.