Art & Development, Community

Art and Interaction

In a nice counterpoint to the typical gallery-going experience filled with ho-hum pretty, salable pictures, I had a great weekend that was filled with art as well as experiences, friends and community.

M and I skipped over to San Pablo Ave for Blankspace Gallery‘s annual Holidayland sale. The gallery is set up as an indie mart featuring affordable knickknackery and small works of art, which tends to be more cute and lifestyle-y than my tastes in art usually run, but perfectly appropriate for gift-giving. I thought Misako Inaoka‘s small guoache paintings on paper were extremely great values. M beamed–he’s always happy to support small businesses in Oakland. We really appreciated Blankspace’s reasonable prices and community-minded partnerships (such as the photo diorama, whose proceeds will be donated to art in Oakland schools).

After a gut-busting stop at Juan’s Place in West Berkeley, we wobbled up San Pablo to the Pacific Basin building to catch the end of Ice on the High, a series of feral experimental events organized by Kim Anno, Maggie Foster, and Aida Gamez. After watching video projections on empty storefront windows, the chilly air lent us the nerve to try the door to an darkened, empty storefront. To great relief, this led us to a sublime installation of mylar and sundry scraps of digital light in the back of the unfinished space, and on to open studios. Kim’s studio was thoroughly engaging, for her gorgeous paintings on aluminum (recently on view at Patricia Sweetow Gallery) as well as her newest work in a wholly different media. We were ushered back to the unfinished storefront for a live video and sound performance. M gamely looked and listened, and I found my brain responding to the Cagean sounds with the unselfconscious unfolding unique to attentive listening. I missed Joshua Churchill‘s performance, so I’ll have to make a point to stop in to his show at NOMA Gallery off SF’s Union Square.

The next day I popped in to David Cunningham Projects for Jigsawmentallama, a group exhibition featuring contemporary San Francisco artists as well as emerging and established international artists. I like DCP for its local/international blend and conceptual/installation/video/performance bent, so I was saddened to hear that the shop is closing and this will be the last exhibition. DCP’s going out with a bang-on show, however.

There’s a selection wall works — including San Francisco-based artist Keith Boadwee‘s beautifully produced, seemingly improvised, visceral photographs exploring the potential of fruit for torture — and some fantastic prismatic Polaroids (look for a witty one of Buckminster Fuller). The show includes an impressive number of videos for such a compact space; many of them trade in psychedelic imagery, but the space doesn’t feel overpowering. Skye Thorstenson‘s high-wattage overdose of color via found footage was installed precisely on a vintage television facing a corner; in effect, it is an exercise in tolerance under a barrage of sound and grotesque pop imagery. I also enjoyed Ireland-based artist Austin McQuinn‘s video in the far back viewing room. In it, a man donning a goofy primate mask mixes clay on a kitchen table, sculpting mountains and finally a ‘man’ in his own image. The kicker is the grandiose orchestral soundtrack, a stark contrast to the video’s poor production quality. I think most artists recognize the implicit egotism in our creative acts; McQuinn’s parody captures this feeling that the artistic act is both slightly supernatural and yet somewhat fraudulent. Don’t miss the installation hidden behind black felt by Swedish, Berlin-based artist Sonja Nilsson. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I will say that it’s got a pop song, hologram-like effects and a (literally) stunning surprise.

Finally, I also went to Exercises in Seeing, a exhibition to which I contributed a new work, curated by the Post Brothers at Queen’s Nails Project. The premise of the show was unusual — it was a one-night only exhibition held in the dark with 31 local and international artists. The event was spirited, experimental and experiential. I enjoyed watching visitors make their way into the dark, and explore the show as their eyes adjusted. The rules of standard operating procedure had been thrown out; many visitors were liberated to touch and smell the works, while others forged into the darkness with their cellphones held out aloft, both examining and determining worth of examination within milliseconds. Visitors were meant to explore the exhibition with the aid of an audio guide, written in characteristically speculative high style by David Buuck. The audio guide lent much desired in-“sight” to the works on display to me. It’s a pity that more viewers did not take advantage of it in the venue’s party atmosphere, but it’s not too late to download the audio guide and take an audio/visual(ized) journey.

The show seems to be a collection of experiments in art- and exhibition-making, with artists and viewers freed from their conventional roles and responsibilities. I appreciated artists and viewers who were able to run with it.

Though the experience of the artists’ works in the show was limited (due to visibility as well as the nature of group shows in general), I find the work of many of the international artists to be cool, conceptual and witty — here’s a list of the artists’ names with links to their sites or their galleries’ sites.

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Art & Development, Sights

so much easier to love…

I came across some snippets of snipes on NYMag.com, wherein two of NYC macho-garde chefs rain rants across the land. It’s hilarious, and it made me wish that there was an equivalently funny bullshit-calling in the art world.

But, there isn’t that much that I hate in art. Hate is a strong word. Maybe I’m just not grouchy enough. Plus, there are loads of things right now that I love, or at least, expect to really, really like:

Maurice Sendak at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
In my college years, I spent hours studying the illustrator’s line and hand lettering. In The Night Kitchen remains one of my all-time favorite illustrated books. We may take for granted the grief and pathos in children’s fables thanks to Pixar, but I think Sendak, along with Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein, bridged a tradition of making children’s stories that are more psychologically powerful and ambiguous than the sanitized moralism of fairy tales and Disney.

Charley Harper at Altman Siegal Gallery
Sooner or later, every designer (myself included) borrows from modernist geometry and late 20th century decoration, but the illustrator Charley Harper was the real deal. I’m looking forward to checking out this show of illustrations from Harper’s estate in person, and spying on his paintings on canvas. It naturally follows that for hard-edged, patterned, geometric abstraction would evolve in Adobe Illustrator, but it’s destined to result in hollow imitations without illustrators’ keen eyes.

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Black Mirrors

Some of my fellow CCA post-grads share an interest in black mirrors. For example, I learned of the Claude glass from Elizabeth Mooney last year. Recently, Bessma Khalaf created a black mirror for a video. The object and video appear in You’re Not There, Khalaf’s current solo show at Steven Wolf Gallery. The exhibition is sometimes funny and often disturbing. Bessma’s style might be described as no holds barred; You’re Not There trades in creepy, powerful experiences that are hard to shake, the visceral discomfort reminds me of Bruce Nauman’s work.

My project for SoEx’s Bellwether, incidentally, is called mirrorsblack. I’ve been literalizing the idea of putting viewers into my work for some time, but this new sculpture also attempts to literalize the dissolution of self as well. So it’s a pleasure to read about the latest massive installation in the Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall: what it amounts to be is a black hole of visual perception: Miroslaw Balka’s giant, pitch black chamber. So often I think people go into museums expecting only visual pleasure, I love the idea of turning this expectation on its head, and putting nothingness — or, perhaps more accurately, non-visual experience or the vision of darkness — at the fore.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Exercises in Seeing, a show curated by Matthew Post at Queen’s Nails Annex coming up in November. It’s a one-night exhibition in which the gallery will be completely dark. The question of where the art is will be literalized, and again, experience will be emphasized over visuality. I’ll post more details as I hear of them.

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