Community, Art & Development

Artist-curated shows and alumni notes

Summer is supposed to be the low season for art, but this is San Francisco and we don’t summer in the Hamptons; the fog rolls in just the same. A few galleries have mixed up their programming with artist-curated shows.

“They Knew What They Wanted”
Katy Grannan, Shannon Ebner, Jordan Kantor and Robert Bechtle curates selections from Altman-Siegal, Fraenkel, Berggruen and Ratio 3. Go see this show for insights into four interesting artist-curators, pictures and objects you wouldn’t normally get to see, and some really great works, including a communal ballpoint pen drawing initiated by Arte Povera artist Alighero e Boetti at Ratio 3.

A similar work by Alighero e Boetti, Mettere al mondo il mondo 1972 -73 penna biro blu su carta intelata 2 elementi, cm 159 X 164 cad. Source: Archivo Alighero Boetti.

If you aren’t familiar with Boetti’s work, have a look at the virtual tour at Archivo Alighero Boetti.

Over at Patricia Sweetow Gallery, abstract painter Kim Anno curates a group show called “Everyday Mystics.” I wish I could have made out the images in Ricardo Rivera‘s projections on and alongside reflective objects like helmets and metal cups. The idea was neat. I overheard the owner mentioning something about the work being about communicating with outer space, so I figured it’s just as well I couldn’t tell what was going on, since I’m not the intended audience. The MP3 player embedded in the center of a spinning turntable is crafty and chuckle-worthy.

Ali Naschke-Messing‘s thread installations shined with glitter and glowed with fluorescence. Two large floor-to-ceiling works that exploited incidental marks and holes in the existing architecture. A series of wall-based works, which incorporated some sort of putty or plaster, were striking in their simplicity and efficacy. The works are formal investigations of site and form and volume; they’re also catalysts for subtle perceptual experiences. From a distance (and in photographs), the works are almost imperceptible; I almost didn’t see one until it was right in front of me. In person—and particularly with PSG’s abundant afternoon light—the density of thread creates vibrancy. They are more materially substantial than Fred Sandback‘s string intallations, but not by much.

Suné Woods contributes some moving black and white photographs whose imagery is memorably unstable.

Woods is a recent MFAs from CCA (class of 2010). Naschke-Messing was my classmate (class of 2007); I’m proud to have studied alongside so many bright, hardworking, curious, supportive and respectful artists. They change directions, start new projects, stay connected, and keep showing. This summer, shows around town by my classmates include:

Lindsey White: Equivalent Exposures install at Baer Ridgway Exhibitions, Source: http://www.baerridgway.com/

Through July 17
Lindsey White: “Equivalent Exposures”
Quietly humorous and deceptively simple photographs, videos and sculpture
Baer Ridgeway, SOMA, SF

Through July 25
Robin Johnston : “meditations on space and time” (two-person show with Chelsea Pegram, Mills MFA candidate)
Data-driven weavings and drawings
Swarm Gallery, Oakland

Just closed July 10
Amanda Curreri: “Occupy The Empty”
Installation, text, video, participation
Ping Pong Gallery, Dogpatch, SF

Opens July 16
Erik Scollon: “The Urge”
Queer porcelain fetish-based installation
Ping Pong Gallery, Dogpatch, SF

And internationally, new media artist David Gurman is a 2010 TEDGlobal Fellow, participating in the technology and ideas conference in Oxford, UK.

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Citizenship

Irwin, Acconci, Poundland tat, Anno

Robert Irwin‘s works at MOCA‘s Collection exhibition: Gorgeous. Incredibly well-installed and lit. His flat dot paintings appeared soft and voluminous; the rounded discs read super flat. Really stunning to see them the way they are meant to be perceived.

My interest in art has never been about abstraction; it has always been about experience… My pieces were never meant to be deal with intellectually as ideas, but to be considered experientially.

—Robert Irwin, wall text, Collection at MOCA Grand

Following Irwin’s stellar lecture at Mills College, Vito Acconci will lecture there Wednesday, March 31st, 7:30pm. If the Irwin lecture was any indication, you’d best arrive 30 minutes early.

These odd, home-made product review videos sardonically critiquing cheap goods from Poundland stops (discount stores in the UK). Clearly, you get what you pay for with pathetic, mass-manufactured tat (crap); to review them is an exercise in absurdism. A jaunty Brit attitude keeps it cheeky.

Christine Wong Yap, This Too Shall Pass, 2010, papercut/collage: found cat calendar on fluorescent colored paper


Southern Exposure’s Monster Drawing Rally. I made two collages and had a great time. The Rally is a grand tradition in which artists draw for one hot hour, and collectors and non-collectors fight over who gets to purchase the works for a mere $60, all benefiting the alternative art org. When I see multiple buyers crowd around a work, the capitalist in me thinks about how much money the non-profit organization is losing by not auctioning the works. But selling the works at the fixed price to whoever draws the lucky card is really a fair system that keeps art affordable for everyone. Yay!

I also really like this video, “Spoiling Yosemite,” by artist Kim Anno.

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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

moments in Bay Area art-time

PAST:

I really liked Kenneth Baker’s review of Kim Anno’s show at Patricia Sweetow Gallery (SF Gate, Sept. 26, 2009) — very concise writing about the work and the context of contemporary painting. How’s this for a tight lede:

New abstract painting arrives today in an interpretive hall of mirrors where quotation, pastiche and the cannibalizing of motifs by designers can instantly embarrass any claim to originality.

The review also mentions a show by stellar artists Walead Beshty, Patrick Hill and Karl Haendel at NOMA Gallery. I’ve been a fan of Haendel’s insanely detailed graphite realism since Glen Helfand’s Particulate Matter at Mills College Art Museum, and of Beshty’s since I saw his Fed-Ex’d glass cubes at the Whitney Biennial, so I regret missing the chance to see their work as well as Hill’s.

Another show I wish I saw was Ian McDonald and Conrad Meyers II at Queens Nails Annex. I totally loved Ian McDonald’s mixed media sculptures at Rena Bransten and YBCA’s Bay Area Now 5; in both exhibits he showed ceramics works that were functional yet their identities were somehow unhinged, with a lot of great material juxtapositions. His latest work about everyday objects and usability really resonates with my Pounds of Happiness project, but I just haven’t been able to make it over there…

Besides opening a show in LA last weekend, I’ve been logging hours at the studio…

PRESENT / JUST PAST:

…where I’ve been nerding out on behind-the-scenes art stuff, like:

1. Taking joy in the small things in life.

1. Taking joy in the small things in life.

I haven’t painted in ages, but that doesn’t mean that I no longer enjoy that brand-new brush buzz… This is my first-ever Purdy. It’s sharp as a razor, and it buoys my hope that craftsmanship can still exist within mass manufacturing.

Some things, though, don’t change: Wood stain, it turns out, smells exactly like the last time I used it, in junior high wood shop class. I’ve lost my printmaker’s tolerance for oil and solvent smells, but gosh, it’s satisfying to wipe down fresh stain and see the wood grain magically re-appear.

Lately, I keep thinking back to Mr. James’ shop class, and my dad’s garage, because those are the places where I learned most of my woodworking skills. I picked up a few things in college and grad school, and I’m picking up new skills quickly as a preparator. But the foundation is the same, and certain traits seem to show through. For example, in junior high I found the jigsaw and bandsaw least intimidating, and to this day I still use circular saws with extreme respect and caution. I also still appreciate my dad’s improvisational handyman approach — try to use what’s around, instead of running to the store for every little bit of hardware or new tool — and his good humor inherent in tinkering.

2. Building a big crate.

2. Building a big crate.

This crate, which has a detachable compartment, took about:
— 2 hours to design,
— 2.5 hours procure and unload the materials, and
— a solid day and a half to construct.
To move the crate, though, is gonna take three people and a truck.

(A recurring puzzle: Why do people think that artists just make art all day? When in fact, there’s so many other things that need to be done, like making crates, storing stuff properly, framing, writing, reading, research, procurement, bookkeeping, seeing art, talking to people, emails, etc. That’s why CARFAC Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le Front des artistes canadiens is so exceptional: it reflects an understanding that an artist’s work extends beyond studio work and exhibition installs. See their PDF guidelines for Professional Fees, which include admin and preparatory work, as distinct from baseline Exhibition Fees.)

This crate is for mirrorsblack, my newest sculpture, which will be unveiled at…

FUTURE / Art events I won’t miss:

Friday, October 16, 8–10 pm (Member’s Opening)
Saturday, October 17, 4–10 pm (Public Opening)
October 17–December 12, 2009 (exhibition)
Bellwether
Southern Exposure, 3030 20th Street, San Francisco
I stopped by SoEx’s new digs the other day and it’s all abuzz with activity. Their purpose-built gallery/office/classroom is brand spanking new. I can’t wait for the inaugural exhibition to launch. There’ll also be loads of activities and artist’s projects at the Public Grand Opening / Block Party, so hope to see you there.

Monday, October 5, 7:30 pm
Fred Tomaselli lecture
SF Art Institute
Tomaselli’s resin-cast mixed-media paintings are mind-bending. His works in MOCA’s Ecstacy show were trippy and hallucenagenic enough, but his more recent work at White Cube were completely stunning. He also seems like a down-to-earth kind of guy. I think his lecture will be great.

Thru December 12
Moby-Dick
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art
Though I helped to install this show, I didn’t get to spend much time looking at the work, especially the media works. I’d love to spend more time with the lovely paintings by Marcel Dzama, prints by Rockwell Kent, and the installation by Ellen Gallagher and Edger Cleijne. Also, I’ve heard high praise of the film by Peter Hutton.

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Meta-Practice, Research, Values

Enthusiasms Unbounded, Mentality, Reviews

My Art Practice as Enthusiasms Unbounded

“Enthusiams unbounded” is neither grammatically correct nor concise, but it’s the best linguistic capsule for my sentiment: that many aspects of being an artist can be seen as exercises in honoring curiosity.

I love my life in art because I’m constantly learning new things; I made a decision to cultivate areas of knowledge and skill, and they’re accumulating more or less every day. When I look at it this way, art practice is even more satisfying.

I’m starting to think that being an artist means studio work, as well as enacting one’s enthusiasms at will, anytime and anywhere. To borrow examples from my own recent past, this manifests via browsing exhibition catalogs about shopping, learning how to use a nail gun (powered with air: brilliant!), getting over my fear of hand-held circular saws, and savoring donut shop typefaces. My enthusiasms fuel my art practice, so as an artist, it’s my job to follow them.

An Observation on Mentality

My friend Stephanie pointed out that longevity in art can often be attributed to sheer determination. In other words, success in art is partially a war of attrition (especially for women, as my friend Jenifer would add). Stephanie vowed to make art, no matter what. I want art in my life, but I need happiness too. And I think there’s a way to cultivate both:

I suspect that another secret to longevity in the arts is good morale, which requires (at least) two skills:

1. The ability to welcome and accept all forms of validation. I think it’s along the lines of being a connoisseur, not an addict, of the tangible evidence of success. That means blocking out mithering resentments or bitterness in light of any successes, and not letting hang-ups limit the extent of one’s satisfaction.

2. A high tolerance, or the quick ability to recover. May the stings of rejection fade quickly. May the forgettable exhibitions be soon forgotten. May petty resentments pass, along with all the reasons to be jaded about the art world.

The goal, it seems, is to make optimism and happiness “sticky,” and to let all the rest roll off your shoulder. Duckin’ and weavin’. Stick and move.

Enthusiasms, specifically

A cursory look-see of downtown galleries less than stunning, with two major exceptions:

Kim Anno at Patricia Sweetow Gallery

Kim Anno’s paintings on metal are pretty and formal — two things I’m not usually that wowed by. But I felt that feeling of worship that I think overcomes many art lovers when I looked at her paintings — my God, the light! The works are pure abstraction, with large expanses of white paint nestled by wisps of translucent color; they “read” quite simple and gestural and yet there are passages upon passages of textures, patterns, marks and contrasting surfaces. The whites revealed themselves to be rich in color as well. They’re works that continue to reward the act of looking. Expertly executed.

Bruce Connor at Gallery Paule Anglim

I first saw one of Bruce Connor’s miraculous black-and-white inkblot pattern drawings in Lawrence Rinder’s Galaxy at Berkeley Art Museum a few weeks ago, so it’s a treat to see more of them so soon. I absolutely adore them. There are several tiny ones on view, as well as a generous series of leaf-shaped inkblots and a few fuddy-duddy assemblages. The inkblots, though, are sublime. Completely abstract, moments of recognition appear and fade away, with a variety of textures, media and mark-making devices that result in an surprising magnitude of visual experiences — some lent the sensation of solarized photographic prints, others are clearly tactile acrylic, still others suggested small infinities. They strike a balance between meticulous compulsion and the fine art of knowing when to stop.

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