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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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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