I chatted with artist Michael Brennan for Zyzzyva.

If you’ve dined at any number of swanky Bay Area establishments, you might have unwittingly enjoyed your meal in a restaurant designed by one of the few people who is as well known and well respected for his fine art as for his commercial work. Michael Brennan has designed the interiors of such San Francisco hotspots as Farallon, Zero Zero, Fleur de Lys, and Bruno’s, and Alameda’s Miss Pearl’s Jam House, as well as Revival in Berkeley. He’s painted murals for many more places, too, including the Cliff House (also in San Francisco).

ZYZZYVA’s Winter ’11 issue features images of some of Brennan’s smaller-scale works. For these paintings, he often chooses as his subject small figurines and children’s toys. Brennan magnifies them in both scale and import, revealing affection for the mementos of childhood, but without sentimentalizing them or glossing over the sometimes-sinister tone these objects assume when considered out of context. Coating them in oil to add sheen, Brennan casts these toys and figures against abstract or ambiguous backgrounds, rendering them in near photographic realism. The results can alternate between the playful and the nightmarish, and recall the feeling of certainty nearly every child has that his toys “come to life” when no one’s looking. We talked with him about his work at his SOMA studio in San Francisco. (continue reading)

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