Passivity and playfulness are two overarching themes that tie together artists Darrel Mortimer and Gail Tarantino’s individual installations in “Precious Cargo,” an exhibit running through Sept. 7 at San Francisco’s Lincart Gallery.
Though the artists’ series of works are vastly different, both evoke a feeling of being on the outside looking in — not in ways that suggest angst or loneliness, but rather from a calm, collected, watching-the-world-go-by perspective.
Mortimer, who spent approximately 15 years riding freight trains as a hobo, brings to his work a vision that can only come from watching the world flash by in a series of blurred images.
The most compelling pieces in his collection are untitled framed-ink-on-paper drawings that represent his self-taught artistry and use of low-profile materials such as ballpoint pen and paper.
In these pieces, Mortimer creates an intricate world composed solely of swirling, dizzying lines. On one particularly endearing drawing, a tiny stick figure is barely noticeable amid a sea of microscopic shapes that fill every corner of the canvas. The image clearly symbolizes how Mortimer feels like a perpetual outsider, and serves as an illustration of how a lifelong speech impediment has made it difficult for him to communicate with others.
While the outsider point-of-view extends to most of his pieces, it comes across as an overall aesthetic, and not an overwhelming emotion.
Mortimer’s drawings are also impressive in that his intricate patterns work in concert with each other; never is there a part of the work that dominates.
Meanwhile, Tarantino’s installation features acrylic ink paintings that combine her penchant for wordplay and alliteration with a real view of a train yard she has from her studio in Emeryville.
Most of the works in her series play on words and labels that identify a ship’s cargo. They’re appealing due to her airy, light interpretation of a heavy, industrial world.
“The words on the containers are meant to convey humor, sincerity and a smorgasbord of musing,” she says.
Pieces such as “Urgent” and “Certainty” surfaced as fictitious cargo companies. Others — including “Big Idiot” or “Eavesdropping” — could be considered political, but they were not created with that intention, according to Tarantino.
In one painting, she lightly inscribed a stack of containers with the phrase, “I do not speak jargonese today,” poking fun at the obtuse language that keeps the shipping and freight world afloat.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: Lincart Gallery, 1632 C Market St. (at Rose Alley between Franklin and Gough streets), San Francisco
WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; through Sept. 7
CONTACT: (415) 503-1981; www.lincart.com