Sunday, October 16, 2011

Adventures in Art: Six Weeks of Openings and Shows (Part I)

I admit it: I failed at keeping up my blog for the last few months.  It was partly due to my recent introduction to the full-time working week, and also due to my second job teaching art.  It's been exhausting just to get up, let alone make a blog.   Does anyone read it?  I dunno.  I make it because I like pretending I have an audience as enthusiastic about art, travel, and beauty as I am, yet just as caustic and been-there, done-that as I feel most of the time.  That's just the way it goes living in the Bay Area's art-filled city.  Even if you wanted to be optimistic and appreciative of the sheer amount of art that is out there, it's overwhelming in scope and mostly underwhelming in quality.  Maybe that's the school mid-semester blues talking, though... ugh, I digress.

Anyway, I have been taking a lot of pictures out in the world while I am looking at art and forming my  opinions of it.  I figured I might as well share all of it here after I have been out in the field taking it in.  I do also have to mention that I have been rather lazy about holding the iphone straight or waiting for the focus to kick in, so my quality of images leaves much to be desired.  I promise if you stick with me, I'll make a better effort towards better documentation.

Here's what I have seen, whirlwind style, over the past six or seven weeks.

My good friend, Courtney Johnson, bless her heart, volunteered this summer at Southern Exposure for their Mission Voices kids' art program.  They had a culminating art reception featuring work like this cardboard geodesic dome, and the night was capped with a flash mob dance scene that I wanted to hate but totally loved.

CCA had a number of summer art classes for middle school kids  including a class on building dioramas.  Their classroom was a disaster zone that I was glad to not be responsible for, but their reception for the work had amazing little pieces of art I ended up preferring to a lot of the adult work I've seen in these past weeks.

I didn't get a shot of the actual show in the adjoining room, but here's the scene at Andrew Schoultz's private reception for his new exhibition at the SF MoMA featuring his work in conversation with the MoMA's collection of Paul Klee prints and paintings.  The show will be up til January.  It's the biggest thing I've seen from someone I know!

"Jesus, take the wheel!" is all I can say in response to this show I saw at The Lab last month centered around performance.  I hate performance, and when you throw in Bay Area concepts, it almost always turns into a personal/political mess of exhibitionists and an uncomfortable audience who just holds their breath out of politeness until the thing is over.  This piece involves a bunch of dancers and a bunch of chairs, and some super creepy porno music with a voice-over recording telling the dancers what to do next.

I went to Unspeakable Projects for a show about pop culture which featured a ton of people from CCA so the reception doubled as a reunion of sorts for all of us recent grads.  I had never been to this space, which is the bottom floor of a home which is located in an alley.  While it feels strange trying to get there, once inside I thought it was curated and hung nicely and I generally was pretty impressed.  

I took this picture with the intention of writing a quip about how the world of art is so "arty" that even this is a piece to be considered, and sold.  Then I found out it was by my friend, Mark Benson, who also arranged the stantion installation above.  Well, what can I say?  I get it.  Objects can be reappropriated to mean something else, and I value that.  But still, Duchamp-ian art can look pretty funny and/or indicative of the pretentiousness of the art world.

Later that same crazy opening night I was driven over to the tenderloin to check out Jonathan Wallraven's solo show at Kokoro.  While an art space can do very little about the conditions of the neighborhood outside, the simple choice of a space's location can have a big impact on the view inside the gallery.  It took so long to find parking on the streets shared by sleazy clubs and sidewalks crowded with crackheads, that by the time we entered the calm respite of the gallery, my agitation was irreversible.  Jonathan's strange semi-3D cubes of stretched out drawings were interesting but not quite enough for me.

I went to what is now called "Eli Ridgway Gallery" instead of Baer Ridgway Exhibitions, to see their first big opening of the season, a solo show by Brion Nuda Rosch.  The large, two-level space was filled with really similar pieces.  Photocopies of nature with plops of paint on them seemed to say very little, and the same brown, black, and white palette repeated throughout was boring.  There were two-sided pieces on pedestals, but I was distracted by the little white brackets holding them in place, which appeared unconsidered.

Outside of Eli Ridgway and Catherine Clark

This is a terrible image, but you get the idea.  Julie Heffernan's solo exhibition at Catherine Clark was full of saccharine, pastel palettes and rendered figures which offered nothing other than her love for beauty and the old masters.  The whole show was sort of eh, despite the craftsmanship which went into the pieces.

Matt Borruso at Steven Wolf Fine Arts was thoughtful, consistent, and detailed.  The show was made up of three parts; a nicely hung group of weird, tripped-out dude collages, his signature, well-executed pencil drawings made up of collaged creepy heads, and a venture into film, (a split screen showing a sci-fi movie on the left and the movie about Helen Keller on the right, where cosmically the two meet up and show the same scenario of a person "seeing" for the first time).  I loved the hilarity of the movies side by side, but if I did not already like Matt as a person and an artist, I probably wouldn't have invested enough time in the film to get to the punch line.  Of course, since I make detailed pencil drawings too, I favor his drawings over the collages, but all in all, I was impressed by his carefully considered show.
The inside of Steven Wolf

Stoner gore drawing by Matt Borruso

Across the street from Steven Wolf is Guerrero Gallery, where Alex Lucas was exhibiting a large solo exhibition in Guerrero's beautiful space.  The show was full of related works which at first are photo realistic watercolors, but up close are screen prints of cityscapes which have been worked into with paint.  Does that matter?  No, I guess not- I would assume the artist still spends a long time with each one, adding layers of detail, which in itself doesn't matter either, but labor is almost always impressive.  What left me with more eh feeling was the simplicity of the message in the work.  The cityscapes, which have been left to rot or drown in water say to me, "Man has done bad things to the earth.  Let's all imagine an apocalypse that man deserves".  Yawn.  That skater mentality of FTW isn't anything other than played out this far into the post punk years.  I hope we find new messages to be edgy these days.

 Part II coming soon!

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