Art & Development

some art highlights

First Thursday openings in San Francisco. Some highlights:

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Ant Farm
Gallery Paule Anglim

Cheers to Anglim for consistency: local notables, nice work, a smartly paired exhibition.

Leeson, of course, is a significant figure from early Feminist Art, has been in and around San Francisco for decades, and has continued to make new work in new media. I really loved her museum show at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, which showed off her facilities in multiple media. At Anglim, she’s showing mostly large, impressive photographs of a female mannequin with a look of surprise; the mannequin has also been placed behind a digital projection of Manet’s Olympia, and there’s also a wholly digital, multivalent media presenting another female avatar. The odd, cold distance between viewer and subject (mannequin, avatar) is an important part of the work, so there’s lots of “meta-” to mull over.

Detail of slides at Ant Farm show (Gallery Paule Anglim)

Detail of slides at Ant Farm show (Gallery Paule Anglim)

Detail from drawing/print on vellum by Ant Farm (Gallery Paule Anglim)

Detail from drawing/print on vellum by Ant Farm (Gallery Paule Anglim). Text: As if to steer the future.

In the small room, Ant Farm presents fantastic dreams of a media van via architectural prints/drawings on vellum, with some supplementary media (such as digital photo collages and a completely conceptually honest lightbox displaying slides from 1977-78, when Ant Farm initiated their first van project). Of course, the van itself will be on view at SFMOMA (whose site has finally undergone a cleaner, crisper re-design) in The Art of Participation exhibition, which opens Nov. 8. It’s great to see how these art elements take form in the public sphere after seeing the van in production for months at the building next door to my studio.

David Huffman at Patricia Sweetow Gallery

David Huffman at Patricia Sweetow Gallery

David Huffman
Jefferson Pinder
Patricia Sweetow Gallery

Another nice pairing of good art!

I never met David Huffman, though our stints at CCA overlapped quite a bit: me undergrad, Huffman grad; me grad, Huffman professor. So I’ve seen his work a bunch. His ‘bots continue to evolve, and his paintings are staying a few astral steps ahead of those of many Bay Area painters. In this exhibition, washes of paint and glitter verge on sublime, still, they’re paired with tightly rendered, pointedly racial people, places and things, such as the pyramid of watermelons in the picture above. In lieu of a firsthand account of the artist himself, I offer in congratulatory spirit this favorable account of the painting professor’s words: “You’re a painter! You have to be a vampire of paint!” For sure! The teacher shows an insatiable drive to forge ahead…

Jefferson Pinder covers his photogenic face in shaving cream — a whitening-out reversal of Zhang Huan’s self-drenching in ink — in a series of self-portraits with butoh-like results. In fact, an Asian stringed instrument accompanies the riveting video of still images of the whitened-out artist behind a projection of a rocket launch. The juxtapositions are quite tense, and result in some brilliant images captured in additional photographs. It’s an interesting bridge between video, photography and performance, with much in kinship with experimental theater that incorporates video, like the work of Sarah Kraft and David Szlasa.

Vik Muniz
Rena Bransten Gallery

Gilson inspects a photograph of a paper cut by Vik Muniz (Rena Bransten Gallery)

Gilson inspects a photograph of a paper cut by Vik Muniz (Rena Bransten Gallery)

Awe-inspiring. Muniz makes pictures out of food, garbage, and now, puzzles and cut paper. The sheer feats of craftsmanship are engaging, and the photos perfectly executed. The prints have an uncanny depth. As Gilson pointed out, it’s a common art school assignment to make a collage from gray paper or found objects. But Muniz proves that you don’t have to be the first one to do an idea, you just have to do it best. I’m starting to wonder what can’t he do?

Stripes!

Stripes!

There were also some nice pictures by Richard Avedon at Frankel Gallery, rare perfections from Life Before Photoshop. The Dustin Fosnot show at Steven Wolf Fine Arts was poetic, edited, and personal — in contrast with his last, which was quirky-quirky-quirky. I find pathetic art appealing. Ironic, distanced pathos is common and easy, but the new Fosnot pathos is restrained, uncomfortably intimate.

I missed two shows that are probably good — Diem Chau at Mark Wolfe Contemporary and Tiffany Bostwick at Gregory Lind — but I was already crossing Market and going back in time to 111 Minna, which manages to be forever young. At their group show of figurative painters and draw-ers concerned with fauna, I saw old friends with new beards. So goes 2008.

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