Ladders are Judith Vogt’s currently consuming image--quite a change from earlier crosses and boxes that bristled with nails and emitted a shudder of dangerous intimacy. Still, you know that the slender, rickety, wooden structures are really hers by their affecting fragility and stressful craftsmanship. Charred, wrapped in string or metal, painted by brush or spray can and occasionally dotted with protruding pegs or sharp little nails, they range in personality from a damaged soul, called “Who Asked You,” to funky extroverts, such as a black-and-white piece aptly titled “Zebra Ladder Trying to Pass Into Checkered Pants.”
Branching out from the wall pieces, Vogt fashions a free-standing sculpture that sprouts hair and “pickles” some tiny ladders in glass jars--a sight that’s oddly touching. Three yellow-and-gray paintings fuse the ladder motif with shadowy space and almost return full circle to the Minimal drawings that preceded her sculpture. This is neither Vogt’s most cohesive show nor her most authoritative, but it probably is her most adventurous. The exhibition suggests a transitional period that could lead in several directions.
Richard Baker concurrently shows large paintings that hover between abstraction and representation. Shapes suggesting bottles, typewriters, furniture or human heads--in outline, brushy blobs or hard-edge shapes--float on muddy backgrounds and evoke murky associations with the work of Craig Kauffman and Philip Guston. This is graceless art that seems adrift in confusion but its underlying structure produces a sense of equilibrium. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to be convincing or memorable. (Cirrus Gallery, 542 S. Alameda St.; Vogt to Dec. 2, Baker to Jan. 4.)