Triangle Gallery: Hiding in Plain Sight

For someone who has been an art dealer for 46 years, Jack Van Hiele’s most notable professional quality may be his ability to stay in the background and let his artists speak for themselves. Mr. Van Hiele lists no personal bio on the Triangle Gallery website and nothing comes up if you google him. Out-of-print “Art in the San Francisco Bay Area 1945-1980” by the late Chronicle art critic Thomas Albright is handy on a gallery table for quick reference and will have to serve as the gallerist's calling card. (This book is a must-read for anyone who is serious about learning the history of San Francisco Bay Area art- it is the one and only text on the subject.)

Van Hiele features contemporary American, Japanese and Chinese painting, graphics, sculpture and photography. He is not new to the contemporary Asian trend that is rocking the international art fairs and shocking people at Sotheby’s and Christie’s with off the charts auction prices for yet untested Chinese and Japanese young artists. In fact, he’s been paying attention to that market and developing relationships with its artists for over thirty years.

First a note about the neighborhood because that is part of the fun of the visit. The first block of Kearny is in transition as the original San Francisco Chronicle building on the corner at Market is undergoing an astonishing transformation. It’s been masquerading as an ugly office building for years and now the Ritz-Carlton is literally peeling off the outer skin to expose the original red brick grandeur. The trade-off for another few dozen luxury timeshares and condos is that the building’s rediscovered character greatly improves the personality of the intersection.

Triangle is right there in the middle of everything. (Paule Anglim & 49 Geary are around the corner and SFMOMA just down the street.) It’s a little awkward getting in the door of 47 Kearny because a heavily cologned security guard will require you to sign in. (He was surprised to hear I wasn’t going to Dorota European Skin Care on 6.) But Triangle knows and offers its regrets from the “Contact Us” page of its website: “Our apologies: Building management requires visitors to sign in at the lobby. We regret the inconvenience.”

I regret that Mr. Van Hiele was taking his annual holiday when I visited Triangle however I really lucked-out getting to meet his understudy for the weekend, photographer Robert Hartman. The Professor of Art Emeritus from UC Berkeley (1961-1991) also happened to be one of Andy Black’s professors at Cal (see more below) and is represented by the gallery himself.

Robert showed me the dozen or so examples of his work in the back room of the gallery and explained his approach. A self described addict of low-altitude flight, Robert flies over the Bay Area recording human impact on the earth. He used to fly the plane himself but heart problems a few years ago have turned him into a back-seat flyer. “It’s not quite as good.” he said.

Photos look like abstract paintings at first because he uses infrared film. The 19” x 23” series is framed in simple unvarnished pine, a neat juxtaposition with the high-tech work. This unusal medium transforms the water of the delta, salt flats and irrigated farm plots into black or red, only once in a while do they develop into vivid turquoise. Old World hand-painted maps of not-yet-explored continents come to mind. There’s a piece in the hallway that looks like finger-painting but once your eyes adjust to the light you can make out ant-scale construction equipment decimating the landscape of San Ramon for a new housing development.

Lynn Sondag’s watercolor landscapes are beautiful- she captures the lime and marine greens that you remember from past visits to Golden Gate Park and the Legion Of Honor but won’t be there if you go back to double check. ($650-$1500). M.F.A., Painting: California College of the Arts, 1997 and B.F.A., Painting, Savannah College of Art and Design (cum laude), 1990. She teaches at Dominican and CCA.

Andy Black’s intimate oil on paper abstract expressionist pieces are noteworthy for their intense masculine colors and for recording the action of painting. You can see how the paint was pushed before the brush was pulled away leaving wake like fresh vacuum cleaner tracks. ($400-$1200). Andy is influenced by the beauty of geometry; each piece begins with a compass & straightedge construction of a Golden Rectangle. B.F.A. Drawing & Painting: CSU Long Beach, 1981 and M.A., M.F.A. (Painting): UC Berkeley, 1983, 1984.

Hope Kroll is the headliner for the show ($300-$1200). Her work would be perfect for the interior of a Tim Burton-designed gothic dollhouse. She intricately cuts up pictures from books, the topics of which range from science and medicine to mysticism and nature, giving the effect of a frozen drama or illustration for a story. M.F.A., Painting 1992, San Francisco Art Institute and B.F.A. 1990 University of Illinois.

This show $400-$1500

Through July 21, Triangle Gallery, 47 Kearny, San Francisco, 11 AM - 5 PM Tuesday through Saturday, Tel.: 415.392.1686