Shotgun Reviews

Ara Peterson: Wavepacks at Ratio 3

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses (250–400 words) to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Grace Momota reviews Ara Peterson’s Wavepacks at Ratio 3 in San Francisco.

Ara Peterson. Untitled, 2013; wood and acrylic paint, 40 x 68 x 4 inches.

Ara Peterson. Untitled, 2013; wood and acrylic paint, 40 x 68 x 4 inches.

While walking the most congested streets of the Mission District, one would never think to find a four-thousand-square-foot art gallery. Ratio 3 is situated behind a pair of inconspicuous small matte black doors, but inside the space is staggeringly large. Currently on display is Ara Peterson’s Wavepacks, which truly changed my perspective on contemporary art. His innovative sculptures turn basic, rigid material into undulating wavelike imagery. Thin strips of wood, each hand-painted in vibrant contrasting colors, are molded into arched 3-D wave shapes. The wall-relief sculptures follow the patterns of transverse waves, some mathematically laid out so that the amplitudes of each are an exact distance from each other. The pieces may seem geometric from afar, but in examining them more closely, the sculptures give off the sensation of fluidic, malleable material, similar to the effects of an optical illusion.

Inside, the first sculpture to the right features an assortment of colors ranging from deep mahogany to a luminescent pale green. While the hues may vary, they complement each other perfectly and ever more intensify the 3-D overtones. The largest piece in the gallery (which is untitled), spans 94 x 143 1/5 inches and portrays what appear to be tranquil waves forever intertwining, infused with a few subtle ripples. From a distance, these pieces are mesmerizing; the congruous, uniform lines shift into smooth, undulating patterns. Up close, however, the wood strips jut out of the wall, creating a completely different impression. Since the gallery itself is surprisingly enormous, there is ample space between each piece, which is necessary as it allows viewers to analyze and examine each work without feeling overwhelmed. Peterson’s work shows refined skill and can be appreciated from all angles and distances, emphasizing how the boundaries of sculptures can be pushed. Similar to how Ratio 3 may seem ordinary from afar, tucked inside the busy streets of the Mission, Wavepacks needs to be observed up close to appreciate its uniqueness.

Grace Momota, who will start her senior year of high school in the fall, currently lives in San Francisco and is the EHSS Summer 2013 intern for Art Practical.