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Photograph by Kathy De La Torre


Alexandria Casano gives a tai chi demonstration at the opening reception for artist Mirang Wonne's new exhibit at Villa Montalvo.

Rocks float into Montalvo exhibit

Show will spill onto front lawn

by Shari Kaplan

Rocks and stones have long been the topic of metaphor and maxim. From Pythagoras' little-known yet intriguing quote, "a rock is frozen music," to the cliché that a rolling stone gathers no moss, these powerful chunks of hard earth have repeatedly proved inspiring.


Such is the case for Mirang Wonne of San Francisco, who had extensive art schooling in her native Korea and in France. Her newest installation, Floating Rocks, fills the Gallery at Villa Montalvo and spills onto the grassy lawn that surrounds the concrete steps leading to the main building.


The exhibit consists of an abstract environment of rocks and boulders of various sizes and shapes, crafted from assorted metals and paper collage and sometimes covered with paints. Boxes and banners also have a place in the show.


Visitors wending their way up Montalvo Road to the Gallery can't help but notice what appears to be a large boulder and a small rock sitting together like sentinels in front of the old Villa. On closer inspection, the gray, irregularly shaped forms reveal themselves to be galvanized steel mesh and wire carefully crafted to look like their real counterparts.

It's a fitting prelude to the exhibit inside the gallery, which houses some of Wonne's favorite imagery--rocks and boulders--which she says in her artist's statement are representative of "us, our will and our never-dying identity, amid this supreme universe."


Gallery curator Theres Rohan adds that "this body of work goes deeper and elicits even more out of Mirang's ever-obsessive study of rocks as metaphor. Her work holds a universal metaphor and has a poetic thrust."

Unlike some exhibits, which leave the viewer to figure out the meaning of each abstract form, Wonne provides brief hints about her thoughts and intentions on the labels near each piece. This is particularly interesting at the display of copper mesh banners illuminated from above, which hang over rugged, almost crumpled-looking rocks made from copper foil treated with various acids and lacquers. While the outsides of the rocks are dulled to a patina-like finish, their bright copper insides evoke smoldering fires within. The banners offer a similar color contrast of turquoise and orange.


"I tried to put the very solid concept of the rock into lightness and weightlessness," Wonne says of the banners. Of the rocks, she says, "I tried to transform the idea of the rock into a temporal shape. I see this form like life itself; when life seems molded in one uniform way, it can in fact be beautiful in other, different ways and constantly change."


Pastel on canvas is a new medium for Wonne's installations, she explains in her description of a wall covered with 12 square canvases depicting floating rocks tumbling through a white void. She also sets up an interesting question with these images: Are they 12 different views--ranging from extremely close to very distant--of the same boulder, or are they a dozen completely different pieces of earth?


Not limited just to rock-like images, Wonne's exhibition also includes another wall covered in 13 three-dimensional boxes that seem to pop from the wall. All are crafted of cardboard, mulberry paper and acrylic and metallic paints; some also have what appears to be Asian writing on them. Various other boulders, rocks and scroll-like copper foils round out the exhibit.


  • Floating Rocks runs through Feb. 20. The Gallery, at 15400 Montalvo Road, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 408.961.5820 or visit the Montalvo website at


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