Carl Dobsky (b. 1972) brings a muted sense of poetry to humble everyday objects and urban scenes. His fall show at John Pence Gallery in San Francisco, where the artist recently moved from New York City, demonstrates both technical skill and individuality.
Like many of today’s accomplished young realists, Dobsky studied at Jacob Collins’s Water Street Atelier, after stints at the Ringling School of Art in Florida and the New York Academy of Art. Dobsky is an excellent still-life painter, bringing grace to the most mundane of objects through the alchemy of light. Carburetor (2006) is almost a portrait, the ungainly bit of machinery becoming biomorphic as it sits on spindly legs in the middle of a wide-planked, stained white floor. The plebian color palette—dirty white and weathered, metallic darks—is surprisingly attractive. The detritus of Chinese Take-Out (2005) is depicted with similar grace. Touches of red—a Coke can, a couple of firecrackers and the clichéd pagoda motif on the paper containers—enliven the composition.
The best of the still lifes, however, is Studio Shelf with Military Bag (2004), an arrangement of utilitarian objects with a matte surface that seems appropriate to the plaster wall, raw wood frame and canvas sack. The play of light and shadow gives the dull green, collapsed-rectangle bag the presence of a soft sculpture.