Warren Farrell treats the paintings in his first solo show as if they were hatchlings. While he's talking, he can't resist jumping up to nudge them a half-centimeter to the right or left. Each wall in the claimed space he has fashioned into a gallery is in perfect equilibrium.
"If I take any one of those down the wall dies." He lifts a small painting off one wall and he's right: It does. "If a fly lands here I can feel the balance go off."
After painting for 30 years (he started by painting murals in the mess hall while in the Army) Farrell is treating himself to a show of his own. For him, the time is now. He says that nobody knows his work, and he fears that they never will.
The final motivation came in the form of a news article about an artist who was discovered after his death, only after his work had been scattered to various garage sales.
"He was the spitting image of me," Farrell says. "I could die tomorrow and this work is never going to be shown. I had to make an effort on my own behalf."
Farrell is a property caretaker. When 333 Ridgeway Avenue, a small commercial building he supervises, became empty, he asked to use the space until another tenant was found.
He has had a trickle of visitors. There were 28 people at the opening; he had hoped for 30. But he continues to open the "gallery," to offer cream sodas left over from the opening, and to add more work. A week and a half after his show opened, Farrell was filling the space between paintings with plastic packing material and bottle caps. As he did, he cited the Islamic artists' "profound fear of empty space."
"I'm always fighting contrivance," he says. "I tend to contrive. But being a self-critic, I fight that."
Paintings by Warren Farrell are on view indefinitely at 333 Ridgeway Avenue. 458-3874.
--- Erica Curtis