Katina Huston, 'I Am What I Am'

KATINA HUSTON

Susan Rothenberg has her horses, Morris Graves had his birds, and Katina Huston has her bicycles. The Bay Area artist, philosophy professor, and former bike messenger has made bicycles her talisman, an idée fixe that she repeats in large, near-abstract washes of ink on Mylar. Using 20 different types of ink in a painstaking process (each layer must dry completely before another is started), Huston's elegant, gorgeous compositions emerge from greaselike stains and mud puddles (including Bounce, pictured). Ghostly yet surprisingly solid, Huston's totemic bikes are like a dim memory—a picture of a shadow of a fleeting glance. The tangle of gears and pedals and tires and derailleurs all add up to a lush vision of a machine that's a perfect and simple extension of the human body. Like some sort of holy relic, the works confer saintliness, and a bit of immortality, to her subject. And that's completely appropriate, since it's the bike riders (and I'll admit I'm one of the fanatics) who will save us all from global warming. Bryan Ohno Gallery, 155 S. Main St., 206-667-9572. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. ANDREW ENGELSON

I AM WHAT I AM

Scott Fife grants Frida Kahlo, Mies Van Der Rohe, Andy Warhol, and Popeye equal billing in his current solo show, "I Am What I Am," demonstrating what can be achieved with sheer gumption and a few modest materials. The artist uses glue, a screw gun, red pencil, and archival cardboard to represent legendary figures. They're positioned throughout the exhibit either rigidly upright or toppled over in the style of Roman ruins. Fife's gargantuan heads effectively convey the former determination of those they depict. A massive likeness of Van Der Rohe, arguably the most influential architect of the mid-20th century, rests on its side. Fife hasn't romanticized the man; he includes humanizing touches like faint red scrawls, obvious glue drips, and bags under the old man's eyes. Likewise, Fife depicts Kahlo (pictured) with iconic hairdo and unibrow, but also with penciled teardrops falling from her eyes. One of the art world's first celebrated tough chicks, Kahlo underwent multiple surgeries following a bus accident at age 18 that left her in chronic pain. Her gaze seems to say: "You think you have problems?" In his portrait of Popeye, Fife has effectively captured the cartoon icon's jutting chin, the epitome of American can-do attitude. The sailor-man who once declared: "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!" clearly still means business. For all the pomp and grandiosity of Fife's sculptures, there's also a sentimental note. Like Popeye, his work can seem as sweet as a handmade valentine to Olive Oyl, but it has sheer grit at its core. Platform Gallery, 114 Third Ave. S., 206-323-2808. 11 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. (or by appointment). Ends Sat., March 26. SUZANNE BEAL

 
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