The trompe l’oeil art style seeks to give the illusion that what you are seeing is real rather than something the artist painted. In “Short Stories,” an exhibition of Mark Stock’s work on view at Modernism gallery, the artist uses the mode in a unique and creative way to produce a richly imaginative series.
Each of the show’s 22 paintings has the rudiments of a story attached to it; clues offer a sense of what the story is about, but never disclose a conclusive narrative.
Most intriguing about Stock’s paintings is an element of mystery. In interviews, he has said, “I paint people thinking. I try to capture them in the moment. Just what it is they are thinking is up to the viewer to decipher.”
Paradoxically, the inconclusive nature that characterizes the paintings in the end enlarges the viewers’ sense of wonder, which starts small and grows as the exhibit
The paintings’ titles add to the sense of mystery.
In “Butler Study with Man Ray,” a butler-like figure — sad-looking, with his head bowed — appears drawn on what seems to be a fragment of scratch paper. But actually, everything in the scene is painted.
Another illusion is that of pieces of tape attaching the drawing to a wall, while a pair of intense red lips is drawn on another, smaller piece of paper, which is taped both to the wall and the main drawing.
The prominence of tape begins to give the work particular significance and the question arises: Does the butler’s melancholy appearance accompanied by the exceedingly full lips indicate a story of unrequited love? Or does the presence of so much tape tell of a person who constantly tapes mementos of his life on walls in his house?
Barnaby Conrad, writing about Stock’s work, says the artist has an eye for life’s telling moments. Such moments, imaginatively painted, are the heart of this exhibition.
IF YOU GO
Where: Modernism, 685 Market St., San Francisco
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes Dec. 23
Contact: (415) 541-0461