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Keepsake

Immediately upon entering Juice Design, a graphic design company which stages occasional art exhibits "for fun", the scope of the show is clear. Think small. The high ceilings and white surfaces exaggerate the little pieces mounted, hung, pinned and stapled to the walls. The artists were given space perimeters roughly the size of a bathroom tile from which to create "keepsakes"; the limitations gave the artists room to play with the concept of an object which exists as a tool of remembrance. The lack of overt political themes, with a few exceptions, makes sense as one surveys the room. Keepsakes aren't souvenirs, something purchased to mark a specific event. Their meaning lies in connecting one discreet moment in time to larger themes, evoking rather than documenting.

Portraiture was plentiful, with the pieces often skewering the traditional solemnity of commissioned paintings. Diego Mannino erected a fancy pedestal to hold his three embossed-velvet picture frames. Seemingly made of brass, these frames held small freak show visages painted in sepia tones. A large key rested in front of the pictures, completing the campy scene. Derrick Snodgrass, in another nod to whimsy, decorated his medicine-green frames with hair clotted in with the paint. Steve Smith also painted portraits with irony, giving his faces a dour, depressed, graphic novel sensibility with a zombie stare.

Other artists chose a more sincere approach. Breaking out of the rectangular measurements, Alison Pebworth painted mournful eyes on stars, organizing the eyes in a circle around a central eye. All are weeping. Tucker Shwartz used swatches of fabric to work on, with eight wispy panels. Colored thread hung down from the embroidered suburban scenes in an unfinished way, making the simple design feel poignant. One of the most appealing pieces was by Paul Urich, who used paper, pencil, paint and wood blocks. On four blocks pushed together, the white scales of a fish grow larger as they bleed down across the divides of the blocks, a design he repeats on another, unconnected block. In pencil, in the lower left corner of the quadrant, is the word "flyaway." Across from it, on the lower right section is a delicately drawn skull. He paints on three other blocks in a similar fashion, with expanding fish scales, adding the message "travel well." Taken together, the images and the words manage to resonate without making a clear narrative.

Staring at a collection of pocketsize bits of art, it's hard to resist plucking them off the walls. The tactile nature of many of the pieces, like Chris Wright's rusted metal chests, adorned with cryptic stencils or Aki Raymer's knitted hanging balls, filled with dead flowers, encourage similar acts of thievery. The size made the art accessible; even the more complicated college paintings seemed like DIY projects, something to do on a rainy weekend. Or, for the less crafty, a foray into art collecting. Make no mistake; these keepsakes are priced to sell, with Ida Pearl greeting cards, bags and T-shirts available for those who missed snagging the keepsakes from the walls. Even if you forgot your wallet, you won't walk away empty handed, as Jeff Wiesner has thoughtfully copied his designs onto little pads of paper, mounted on the wall, just waiting to be tugged off and taken home as a reminder of the exhibit.

Juice Design
351 Ninth St., Suite 302, SF
The hours are by appointment.