The Power of 3 at Flower Pepper Gallery

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The Power of 3 is Mark Todd’s second curatorial collaboration with Flower Pepper Gallery and comprises an impressive mix of artists and illustrators, emerging and established.

When considering a theme for the show, Todd wanted to find a vehicle through which he could generate a unifying presence without imparting too many restrictions upon those involved. In his words,

I kept coming back to the idea of 3, of pyramids and triangles, artwork stacked from large to small. There is something about the power of 3. Many of us remember the old Schoolhouse Rock anthem, “Three is a Magic Number,” along with the endless popular references to the significance of 3 in literature and films.

To manifest this concept, Todd requested that each artist create three pieces of specific proportions: one 6” x 8”, one 9” x 12”, and one 12” x 16”. While this requirement provided an underlying theme for The Power of 3, the various relationships that the featured artists share are what ultimately lend to the exhibition’s strength.

Todd, himself, produced three paintings for the exhibition as did his wife, Esther Pearl Watson. The couple, who commonly collaborate and team-teach at Art Center College of Design, share several stylistic similarities, which they’ve used to approach numerous projects, including their book Whatcha’ Mean, What’s A Zine?

In addition to working with one another, Todd and Watson have forged independent careers. Todd’s comic book sensibility tends to keep him employed within the commercial sector while Watson garners more attention from the gallery world for her paintings that recall scenes from her childhood that often include a flying saucer, which her father attempted to erect more than once during her youth.

Known for their ironic yet lighthearted observations of everyday life, Rob and Christian Clayton (a.k.a. The Clayton Brothers) are also featured in The Power of 3. For this particular exhibition, each brother produced an individual work in addition to a third, which they created together. Shown side by side, these three pieces give viewers a unique opportunity to see each artist’s work, independent from one another, in addition to their collaborative efforts that involve an ongoing process of altering, erasing, and embellishing upon one another’s markings.

Additional members of the Clayton clan whose work appears in The Power of 3 include Christian Clayton’s sons, Henry and Coleman Clayton, along with his wife, Angela Clayton.

Also on view are paintings by brothers Aaron and Owen Smith. Although the two don’t work together, both have produced impressive bodies of work throughout their individual careers. Associate Chair at Art Center, Aaron Smith creates vibrant paintings that portray men of the Victorian and Edwardian Eras. Truly unique, his application of paint demonstrates an accomplished command over his medium, as iterated by Ben Mizra for The Huffington Post,

Aaron has achieved an amazing feat of aesthetic grandeur, working, on the most part, from simple black and white photographs; he is able to illuminate male authority and underline fragility with a sublimely accurate precision.

Owen Smith, whose work has graced eighteen covers of The New Yorker, also reflects a definitive style. Influenced in part by the scenes on old pulp noir paperbacks, his work echoes that of the Regionalists, namely Thomas Hart Benton, whose subject matter and reliance upon bold contrasts proved formative in his development as an artist.

Although no other contributors to The Power of 3 share familial ties, they all are alumni of Art Center. This in itself suggests why most in this group walk the fine line that often divides illustrators from fine artists.

Jason Holly and Souther Salazar, for example, often look to narrative as a tool to actualize their ideas. While Holly’s process involves repurposing components of old illustrations returned to him by clients, Salazar relies upon a variety of mixed media to recreate memories and evoke what he reveals as

the wonders and imagination that many of us abandoned in childhood.

And then there’s Shark Toof. While his style has been shaped by his life long relationship with street art and graffiti, he garners an impressive technical aptitude comparable to that of the Old Masters.

Two additional artists featured that reflect an interest working with untraditional materials include Brooks Shane Salzwedel and Erik Mark Sandberg. Salzwedel uses both natural and manmade materials to accentuate the focus of his subject matter: the friction that man’s invasive footprint has imposed upon Earth.

Sandberg, on the hand, tends to play with new materials because, as conveyed by Kristin Farr for Juxtapoz,

Sandberg doesn’t dwell.

Instead, he meanders and is constantly seeking opportunities through which he can traverse new terrain. Case in point, the three pieces he created for this particular exhibition do not include his brightly clad teens with hairy faces for which he’s become known. Instead, he contributed three abstract works that contain sculptural qualities, which he acquired through the application of acrylic, resin, epoxy, ink, and urethane.

A strong female component is also apparent in The Power of 3. While Frieda Gossett’s work illuminates her capacity for manipulating rough materials, such as leather hides, into beautiful works that emphasize the fragility of delicate creatures, Ana Serrano’s cardboard structures demonstrate her talent for shedding light upon the incongruous yet spirited attributes that characterize the diversity in and among Los Angeles’ many neighborhoods.

Last but not least are the works of Maggie Chiang and Sally Deng, two students handpicked by Todd, currently enrolled at Art Center, and whose caliber of work is indicative of promising careers.

The Power of 3 will run through June 23rd, at Flower Pepper Gallery, located at 121 East Union Street in Old Town Pasadena. The gallery is open Sundays and Mondays, from 11 am until 6, and Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 11 am and until 7 pm. For additional information or to shop the gallery online, please visit



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