San Francisco Chronicle

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Fine Furnishings
San Francisco Chronicle Online
by Alison Bing

If you're looking to furnish your mental space with some new ideas, head over to Andrea Schwartz's new group show. Devoid of occupants and their fantasies, Thomas Chang's show-stealing lap-dance chairs are deliberately and provocatively uncomfortable. The beige vinyl overstuffed chairs and wall-mounted television in "Lap Dance Chair, Boys Toys" are exactly the nondescript, clinical decor you'd find in a dentist's office, but for the poles rigged up between them and the prominently featured magnum of champagne. "Lap Dance Chair, Gold Club" shows more signs of humanity -- perhaps too many for comfort, what with the indelible hiney-print in the red plush couch, the used green cocktail napkins on the gold side table, the stained red walls and the worn-out palm-frond carpeting.

Belinda Gray shows spectators as part of the furniture at rural county fairs, just as surely as the ring toss and roller coasters. "Lassen County Fair No. 3, Susanville, CA, July 2001" shows a carny flanked by sawdust-stuffed animals and a wall of balloons to be as colorful and elusive as her surroundings: Her gray hair is dyed caution orange, a faint mustache asserts itself on her upper lip, and her eyes seem far away. In "California State Fair No. 4, Sacramento, CA, July 2001," a couple dressed up in anticipation of a big day out is captured taking a breather in the misleadingly named "Oriental Fantasy Garden." This couple could come off as caricatures given his toupee and ironed blue jeans and her rhinestone-studded shades and blond bouffant, except for the evident amusement Gray captures in the gentleman's spry blue eyes.

Sharon Wickham's intimate portraits of discarded furniture have a certain melancholy flair; it's as though we're seeing homes breaking before our eyes. "She's Gone" shows an abandoned tan couch missing a cushion, its pink underbelly bared to view as it sits on the sidewalk. There's a whimsical humor here, too -- "Patriot" shows an upended blue couch with exposed red-and-white lining as a desultory salute to our throwaway culture. -- Alison Bing, special to SF Gate Andrea Schwartz Gallery, 333 Bryant St., Suite 180, SF; Mon-Fri 9 am-5 pm and Sat by appointment; free; (415) 495-2090.