Sights

See: Art Season again

Though it feels like the dead of winter, there are lots of art shows and events on the horizon, on both coasts. 

Ortega y Gasset, the artist’s collective I am in, will have a new home at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus! Exciting exhibitions are lined up for this Spring. Don’t miss them; sign up for updates!

3/13–4/12: Thinking & Touching Time, curated by Zahar Vaks, Ortega y Gasset Projects @ Old American Can Factory, Gowanus, Brooklyn

2015: Land and Sea’s project space, Oakland, CA:

AS A SPACE, LAND AND SEA WILL TAKE A STANCE TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD, BY USING OUR LITTLE PLATFORM TO PRIMARILY PRESENT WOMEN, LGBTQ AND FOLKS OF COLOR. ITS OAKLAND. ITS 2015. LETS SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

 

Little Syria Parade, in  Lower Manhattan’s first Arab-American neighborhood, envisioning an early-20th century Manhattan skyline.

Little Syria Parade, in Lower Manhattan’s first Arab-American neighborhood, envisioning an early-20th century Manhattan skyline.

2/25: Edge of Arabia presents Brian Zegeer’Little Syria Parade, Lower Manhattan
2/27–3/27: Michelle Blade: If the Spirit Moves You @ ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR

2/28: Art + Process + Ideas (A+P+I) residency Open House at Mills College, Oakland, CA

 

Works on paper by Anthony Ryan (left) and Annie Vought (right).

Works on paper by Anthony Ryan (left) and Annie Vought (right).

3/6–28: Annie Vought & Anthony Ryan @ Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, San Francisco

Through 3/8: Trajectory @ Van Der Plas Gallery, LES, NYC

Through 3/19: Hydrarchy: Power, Globalization, and the Sea @ SF State Fine Arts Gallery, organized by Mike Arcega

 

WhoWeBe_Superpanel_flyer

4/4: Who We Be: Superpanel on Art, Protest and Racial Justice, with Jeff Chang, Alicia Garza, Ben Davis, Steven W. Thrasher, and Christian L. Frock, moderated by Elizabeth Travelslight, Bay Area Society for Art and Activism @ San Francisco Main Library

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Impressions

Impressions: Bay Area

Some art shows I saw in San Francisco and Oakland.

When I visit California during holidays, I recall the familiar, discover what’s changed, and encounter weird schedules. It’s catch as catch can.

Baby (Medium for Intercultural Navigation): An installation by Michael Arcega @ SFAC Grove Street. Kids dream of floating down a river, and MA has made a real outrigger sailing canoe. It works. Hope you got to ogle it, suspended in flight.

The Point: Kirk Crippens in Collaboration with the Bayview-Hunters Point Community @ SF City Hall The SF Arts Commission’s humanizing portrait series continues, and currently ties in to The Last Black Man in San Francisco moment.

Here’s an interesting line-up of spaces to visit back-to-back: Kiria Koula (nice fluorescent white cube with cool, linear, geometric interventions), the expanded Ratio 3 (terrifyingly perfect and high-ceilinged white cube with hard edged, linear, oft black-and-white interior design and architectural installations) and CULT/Aimee Friberg (b/w architectural interventions/wall paintings/geometric sculptures).

Stephanie Syjuco @ Workshop Residence. A combination of things difficult not to like: a residency, workshop, and artist’s multiple store, with very desirable objects. Even shopping-agnostic-I couldn’t resist a tote bag to support the artist and program. The price points were mostly out of my range, but nobody said that manufacturing things in SF would be cheap.

Dud: Oakland Black Friday. I tried not to spend money, out of respect for Ferguson, and lingering memories of Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Day. I had some help—parking meters were free thanks to “Plaid Friday” (Is the Oakland Chamber of Commerce targeting lumber-sexuals?) and Arizmendi was closed (in an almost-throwback against the creep of retail hours into the holidays). But I was only able to visit three of four galleries on my list. Admittedly, I failed to look closely enough at their websites to see if they were, indeed, actually open. So Royal Nonesuch Gallery, Random Parts, and City Limits Gallery, I guess I’ll have to check you out another time. Thanks, Johannson Projects, for opening your doors.

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Community, Travelogue, Impressions

Points of Reference: West Coast

Some aesthetic impressions from a Portland-San Francisco tour:

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge, from Crown Point in Oregon, USA. Author: Hux. // Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge, from Crown Point in Oregon, USA. Author: Hux. // Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Columbia River Gorge. The more I visit grand vistas, the more I understand Romanticism.

Landscape paintings don’t usually affect me—but imagine living in a crowded, dirty city in the Industrial age, then exploring such vast, stunning locales like the Columbia River Gorge, the Catskills, or the Lake District in the UK. Post-postcard, post-Ansel Adams, I might be desensitized to the images of these places, but I never fail to experience awe—smallness in light of something greater—when I visit these places. It seems natural to want to capture the grandeur and qualities of light, as much as preserve the environment for future generations. [Go Parks!]

Ryan Pierce. Preview image for New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags. // Source: ElizabethLeach.com.

Ryan Pierce. Preview image for New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags. // Source: ElizabethLeach.com.

Get excited:
Ryan Pierce: New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags
Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Portland, OR
Through June 23

Really happy to catch the solo show of my CCA MFA classmate. Ryan specializes in hard-edged, post-apocalyptic narrative painting over luminous Flashe washes. He constructed this show around weeds, with tight botanical renderings of thistles, milkweeds, etc., as well as giveaways of pesticide-resistant seeds. My favorite paintings were from a sequence featuring the sun and the moon. I sensed some Charles Burchfield-esque visionary heat.

Karl Blossfeldt, Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair fern, young unfurling fronds, 12x. // Image source: PortlandArtMuseum.org. Caption source: karlblossfeldtphotos.com.

Karl Blossfeldt, Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair fern, young unfurling fronds, 12x. // Image source: PortlandArtMuseum.org. Caption source: karlblossfeldtphotos.com.

Karl Blossfeldt’s New Objectivity photos of botanical geometry.
70 Years/70 Photographs
Portland Art Museum
Through September 9

My knowledge of photography is a bit anemic, but this means that I get to enjoy many discoveries in the repair process. Blossfeldt’s images were a delight. See more at karlblossfeldtphotos.com.

Portland Sewing

The short: Private lessons with Sharon Blair. Highly recommended.

The long: My sewing knowledge comprised making clothes for Puffy, my stuffed Crocker Spaniel, under the guidance of my mother. (Mom’s an excellent seamstress who made some of my favorite childhood dresses. She still uses a Montgomery Ward Singer dating from the late 1970s/early 1980s; to change stitches, she manually changes a baffling array of stamped metal gears.)

Remarkably, this experience, along with much experimentation, has girded me through sewn sculptures and ribbon projects over the past few years. In the same time though, I’d accumulated a battery of questions about fabrics and techniques. Sharon, the instructor, patiently answered them all. She has tons of industry experience, and started the lesson with a quick history of sewing machine manufacturers. <Tool nerd swoon>

I got a crash course in cutting and sewing, and practiced three of the six kinds of fell seams, which will be critical for an upcoming flag project.

The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco), Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-up Shop), 2012. // Source: StephanieSyjuco.com.

The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco), Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-up Shop), 2012. // Source: StephanieSyjuco.com.

The Marianas (Michael Arcega and Stephanie Syjuco)
Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-up Shop)
Montalvo Project Space
Woodside, CA
Through July 20

Friends’ first collaboration. It’s good. Go see it, and bring cash!

Allison Smith, Fort Point Bunting, 2012. // Source: international-orange.org. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

Allison Smith, Fort Point Bunting, 2012. // Source: international-orange.org. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

International Orange
FOR-SITE Foundation
Fort Point
San Francisco
Through October 28

Really good show in an amazing site. Go! I went on a foggy, chilly Monday (no crowds) and it was lovely.

My favorite was Allison Smith‘s Fort Point Bunting. Each of the 75 swags is accompanied by quotes from servicewomen printed on linen and framed in waxed canvas cording. The narratives were empowering. While military intervention is fraught, this insight in the battle for equal access to combat is pretty thrilling.

Stephanie Syjuco‘s International Orange Commemorative Store (A Proposition) establishes a standard of finish and level of production that is sublime, and should have most artists quaking in our boots. Anadamavi Arnold‘s crepe paper gowns were magnificent. I read Kate PocrassAverage Magazine off-site, but found it to be the most entertaining and insightful look at the Golden Gate Bridge. I also loved Andy Freeberg‘s portraits of workers on the bridge, for the diverse, recognizable subjects, rarely-seen perspectives, and cool tools.

Fort Point’s history and vistas were great to explore. I enjoyed how the show engaged the site, so that viewers browsed historical/permanent displays in the course of visiting the exhibition. I expected a strong show due to the roster of international artists; I was pleased to find that the projects that resonated with me most form a collection of articulate, accomplished female artists.

Robert Kinmont: 8 Natural Handstands (detail), 1969/2009; nine black-and-white photographs; 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. each; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photo: Bill Orcutt. // Source: bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Robert Kinmont: 8 Natural Handstands (detail), 1969/2009; nine black-and-white photographs; 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. each; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photo: Bill Orcutt. // Source: bampfa.berkeley.edu.

State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970
Berkeley Art Museum
Through June 17

I’d heard rumors that this is the best show  many locals had seen in a long time. Unfortunately, I had only one hour, so I didn’t have the quiet mind required for uncovering the historical significance of the performance documentation and historical ephemera that ran through the show.

I loved that the show brought the major West Coast art initiative Pacific Standard Time up to Bay Area. Also, it’s not often you get to see an major survey exhibition about California art that doesn’t have a Los Angeles bias. I enjoyed learning more about seminal artists like Gary Beydler, William Leavitt, Bas Jan Ader, and Guy de Cointet (these de Cointet text drawings are fantastic, backgrounding Tauba Auerbach’s text paintings). It’s always nice to see Bruce Nauman‘s video pieces installed—here, Come Piece, two closed-circuit televisions with different halves of their lenses taped off.

The only thing that struck me negatively was the way that political art (works by artists of color and feminist artists) was the last thematic section. The architecture of the last room especially made the agit-prop David Hammons seem like an afterthought. I can’t pinpoint it, but I suspect that the early earth and performance work relates to a spiritual quest in merging art and life, and I intuit a bit of a woo-woo factor there, reinforced by the fact that my contemporaries who are especially fond of these artists tend to make transcendental works themselves.

Robert Bechtle, Potrero Hill, 1996; painting; oil on canvas, 36 in. x 66 in. (91.44 cm x 167.64 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Ruth Nash Fund purchase; © Robert Bechtle  Source: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/104616##ixzz1xQHskP3n  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. // Source: SFMOMA.org.

Robert Bechtle, Potrero Hill, 1996; painting; oil on canvas, 36 in. x 66 in. (91.44 cm x 167.64 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Ruth Nash Fund purchase; © Robert Bechtle Source: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/104616##ixzz1xQHskP3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Robert Bechtle, Potrero Hill (1996)
SFMOMA 

Bechtle is a perennial favorite of the SFMOMA’s, and mine too. This late, great painting—on view in the second floor galleries—is like five paintings in one. The JPG doesn’t do it justice. Bechtle’s understanding of reflected light and surfaces is phenomenal. This work was the highlight of my SFMOMA visit, along with Anthony Discenza’s The Effect in  the contemporary language art show, Descriptive Acts.

I expected that The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area and Parra: Weirded Out shows would be more extensive. In fact, the Fuller show has two huge wall graphics that leads to a room of fantastic, large screenprint posters and transparencies. That’s followed by a group show by local, contemporary designers that is so un-related visually that my companion and I assumed that we’d drifted into the permanent design exhibit. The Parra exhibit is a massive mural, that is lovely and loads of fun, but I would have loved to see some works on paper, to get a little more intimate with the person behind these famous graphics.

I also would have loved to see more of Mark Bradford‘s video and performance works, especially documentation of his intervention at the San Diego-Tijuana border, though those could have been in the Bradford show I just missed at YBCA. The extensive selection of Bradford’s collages helped me understand the depth of his innovation with the materials (posters and curling papers) and tools (rope and power sander).

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Meta-Practice

It’s a joy

On Tuesday, I drove 240 miles to de-install and pick up my work from Catskill, NY. Today, I spent over 2 hours in transit going to Chelsea and back to photograph my installation. After this, I’m going to color-correct the photos, then work on a residency application. (Meanwhile, my latest studio project has been untouched—frozen in a state of incompletion—for the past 1.5 weeks.)

There is little joy in schlepping. The transit left me knackered, and feeling not especially productive. But I want to contrast these niggling feelings about artists’ extrastudio activity with a different sentiment about being an artist, to make space for an attitude adjustment.

When I visited Michael Arcega’s and Stephanie Syjuco’s studios in San Francisco last Friday, it felt like this is where they report to work, because it’s their jobs to be artists. This is less about occupations—Arcega and Syjuco both work as teachers—and more to do with the seriousness and intention of their practices, of their drive to be making and exhibiting as artists. The visits made me want a bigger studio, and somehow restructure my life so that I can spend more and more of my time being an artist. I left feeling inspired to be more ambitious, diligent, and committed.

I savored this sense of forward momentum. During my long drive to Catskill, I came to this realization: Being an artist for a day—working on your art, managing your art career, even undertaking extrastudio activities—is a gift.

Artists often want to focus on studio work—most of us probably became artists because of the pleasures of creativity and discovery. But there is much more to being an artist, and rather than disparage the extrastudio work—the unending grant applications, the mounting rejection letters, the mindless schlepping—I thought about being grateful for it. There are countless other things competing for our attentions—but we choose to be artists, and therefore the activities we engage in are of our volition and intention.

A few points of reference come to mind:

Lee Pembleton, in my interview with Earthbound Moon for Art Practical, said,

We pour our resources in to the work. Of course, it is not a suffering work, but an ecstatic one.

The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is about finding pleasure, satisfaction, purpose, and happiness in one’s work. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that there are spoken words in this nearly silent film, and they are of lasting import to me.

Yes, there is little pleasure in schlepping. But perhaps I can approach this work, in all of its facets, however transcendent or mundane, exciting or tedious, in terms of finding satisfaction and purpose. From that perspective, the ability to be an artist—the capacity and circumstances—are delights in themselves.

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Research, Projects, Meta-Practice

Should I Stay or Should I Go? on Art Practical

Art Practical, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Christine Wong Yap

My feature on artists staying or leaving the Bay Area is finally out in the current issue of Art Practical. Thanks to the interviewed artists—Michael Arcega, Pablo Guardiola, Stephanie Syjuco, Emma Spertus, and Jenifer Wofford—for their time and insight. And a deep bow to Editor-in-Chief Patricia Maloney, Copy Editor Victoria Gannon and the rest of the Art Practical team for their support and guidance!

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Feature story published on
Art Practical, Issue 2.10

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Community

Wunderflator, Junk Spaces, Hunger, Drucker

Life in California is pretty great.

Yesterday I drove down to Stanford University for Wünderflater, the MFA show by Reed Anderson, Michael Arcega, Kazumi Shiho, Cobi van Tonder and Jina Valentine. Palo Alto always strikes me as a surreal idyll, but the cool breeze, setting sun and beautiful arty people had me savoring my good luck of living in California. I might have lingered a bit too long, though, as my time inside the exhibition was too brief. Still, the inflatable structure containing a room displaying studio detritus made a lot of connections, which I haven’t yet all sorted out…. The inflatable reminded me of Ant Farm’s early inflatables, which were meant to radicalize architecture, though I was told that the inflatable in Wünderflater is meant to evoke a dream scene, which it does in a metaphoric, rather than theatrical, way. The detritus reminded me of Goldsmiths’ Professor Irit Rogoff’s comment at Global Modernities at Tate Britain that much of the Nicolas Bourriard-curated Triennial was about the re-presentation of junk spaces. For example, Bob and Roberta Smith’s installation combines hand-painted signs literally with junk that would turn up on Bob Smith’s street corner, and Franz Ackermans’ de-constructed installation about immigration and borders was strewn with flags on the ground. I thought that for the MFA grads to refuse to show spectacular, finished, marketable work — their “brands” in the art worlds — is pretty courageous and really interesting in the context of thinking about the hangover of overproduction in a globalized manufacturing system.* And strangely recursive and shockingly straightforward at the same time — exhibiting the objects (that exist directly in the world) that are banal and yet inspiring for the creative process of making more objects to exist in the world… It may not be the most earth-shattering show ever, but it evinces a really interesting sequence of ideas and actions…

[*Likewise with Weston Teruya‘s work at Patricia Sweetow Gallery — sure, the works on paper are these human-less narratives of ecological disaster, yet the pictures are populated with the signifiers of consumption/overconsumption… of maybe sea garbage washed ashore, adrift without nationality and mortally banal in their ubiquity.]

During the after-party (which was kindly serviced by a taco truck and tamale ladies: brilliant!), I got a peek at the amazing, huge studios. It looks like each MFA grad gets their own studio building. I was agog. It made me want to go to Stanford for another MFA. After the brief flash of jealously passed, I added the vision of a luxuriously large, comfortable studio in a wooded grove to my new found hunger. Since I’ve been back from the Breathe Residency, I’ve been living more intently and intensely, filled with this urgency to go for it, to get what I want — to be an artist all the time, not just for as long as I can afford it, or dependent upon deadlines / external validation. To just live it. To be hungry, to be unstoppable, like Pacquiao.

If you’ve read the blog before you probably know I’ve got a healthy obsession with artist and theorist Johanna Drucker. In addition to my good fortune of living in beautiful Calfornia, I’m also happy to share the good fortune of hearing Drucker deliver a keynote address for an event affiliated with an exhibition I’m in. It’s coming up on Wednesday, and I would wager a pretty penny that you won’t be sorry if you take the time to come out to Santa Clara for it.

Tactical Digital Aesthetics
Wednesday, May 20, 2009, 6:00-8:00 p.m., free
An evening of art and conversation exploring new media, remediation, and cultural politics. Keynote by Johanna Drucker; roundtable by Ray Beldner, Stephanie Syjuco, Anthony Discenza, and Johanna Drucker; and moderated by Katie Vann and Kathy Aoki. Co-sponsored by the de Saisset Museum; the Public Engagement Program of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society; and a SCU Technology Innovation grant.

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