Sunday, October 23, 2011

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

Even more shows...
As I mentioned in Part I of this post, as part of my 'job' as an artist, I have been looking at a lot of art in San Francisco over the past six or seven weeks.  Regretfully, I haven't posted about any of it.  Here is a view of some Bay Area Art taken with my very amateur photography skills.  I am starting to feel like my blog is too positive- geez, what a curmudgeon I am- so here's to being more honest with you.  Because what we desperately need is another mouthy, cynical blogger in the world.  So very desperately we do.  What can I say- I'm just calling 'em like I see 'em.  If you get offended, you can take pot shots at me on your own blog.

Seriously, there's something weird about Root Division.  Maybe it's the fact that they have art hanging opposite all the bathrooms.  Anyway, another round of their annual juried exhibition was under way, "Introductions 2011", and several of my CCA peeps were on the roster so I sort of had to go show my support.  Really, the people there seem nice but the implied donation to get in just to the reception is off-putting.  And while it's great that they serve a portion of the community with classes and another with studio spaces, there's something I can't put my finger on.  I just get the creeps there.  Maybe it's the SFAI connections of the staff.  Like I have said before, these MFA school loyalties run deep.  BTW, this is a chalk piece by Jillian Clark, from my CCA graduate class.

Sarah Thibault, another grad from my CCA class, was upping her game with this very classy drawing/installation.  Word on the street is that fancy-but-wild-bearded art gallerist, Jack Hanley, has been in conversation with her about her work and recently took her pieces to the Frieze Art Fair in London.  Go Sarah!

I went to see my old art professor, David Huffman's, show "Shift" at the San Francisco Arts Commission, which is situated downtown by all the fancy buildings like City Hall and the Opera House.  This view across the street is a nice change from the seediness of the Mission or the Tenderloin or wherever else in the city I end up schlepping around to see art.  The show is still up until December 10th.

Fancy marble digs inside and a jam-packed turnout.

David Huffman's installation of a pyramid of basketballs, (I couldn't get back enough with the crush of people to get a whole shot), which was basically a part of his signature sarcastic narrative of black cultural tropes come to life in 3-D.  There were paintings and videos, too, but too close to get photos.  It was a good show but the space was too small for the grand pyramid even without the people inside.  

Art in the Mission:  You know it's a bad sign when there's a sandwich board.  

On the same night as my Arts Commission jaunt, I did a small tour and drove over to Triple Base to see Todd Bura's new show, but I seriously could not find a parking space around the decidedly car-unfriendly Mission neighborhood and said "Fuck It" and drove over to another part of the Mission to Southern Exposure as the third leg of my gallery crawl.  So-Ex was also having its annual juried exhibition with a theme, this time called "Proof".  So-Ex,  just in comparison to Root Division, was equally crowded with onlookers hung with art I liked or didn't like just as much.  A juried show is always a mixed bag.  However, it felt much more welcoming as a space, and that does really stand for something.  Above is a textile triptych piece by current CCA MFA student, Johanna Friedman.

Rachel Foster's prints hung in constellations and an old lady deciphering Rachel's print depicting the average suicide age for literary greats.  

Here's Rachel Foster, herself, who forced me to accompany her to Lafayette, a weird outpost of rural suburbs outside of Walnut Creek, to deliver some of her artwork for a show.  It just happened to be the Lafayette Annual Art and Wine Festival, so we seized the opportunity to people-watch big-boobed blond women and gawk at the terrible art in the lovely weather.

Yeesh.  The worst kind of art might possibly be faux-naive "Outsider" art of Tom Waits and mohawked nerds with guitars.

The best space I saw this year so far was the Chapel of the Chimes, an actual chapel and columbarium (a place which houses ashes), down the street from my house in Oakland.  The fact that they had an art show with a call for proposals within the space was sort of dwarfed by the sheer beauty of the architecture, designed by the renowned architect,  Julia Morgan.  There were rooms within rooms featuring tons of indoor gardens and many of the ashes were encased in vessels shaped like books and held within walls shaped like bookcases, totally changing your expectations of what a columbarium would look like.

There was some art, but it was so small and put into nooks and crannies of the walls so that we could barely detect it in the first place.  This is tiny funereal diorama by Maggie Simpson, which apparently was the controversy of the night because the original display held a real tiny dead kitten inside the miniature coffin.  Not cool in the house of the Lord, I suppose.

The problem with an art school is that we learn so much about art that we are over-educated and constantly confused.  "Is it art?", Rachel and I discussed many times throughout our wanderings inside the infinite walls of the Chapel of the Chimes.  Are the flags art?  Are the cones art?  The draped coffin-shaped thing?  No, was the real answer, but the sad thing (maybe it's not?) about our observations was that sometimes we preferred the random findings to the real art.  

Here's a ceramic piece by our friend, Rachel Dawson, ( bad image), which was completely hidden within the many cubby holes of the shelves of the columbarium.  It was kind of like a treasure hunt to find the art, but we had to cheat our way through most of it because we simply couldn't tell where the work was.

Another night, another art show.  Here I am dragged to the Tenderloin again  to Jonathan Runcio's solo exhibition, "Wide Wide Ruin" at a new space, The Popular Workshop.  Much to my delight, the space was lovely, (look at those ceilings!), and his art was great, as always.  Don't tell him I said that.  I don't want him to get a big ego.  

Some how-does-he-make-it? screen-printing on canvas with beautiful colors.

The scene: prints, sculptures, etc

A metal sculpture.  I like it. I mean, geometry is not my number one love, and neither is minimal sculpture, but I think the whole show worked very well together and it's worth checking out just for Jonathan's color combinations.  It's still up but the site doesn't say until when.  I would guess at least til November 1.  

I went on another art adventure with Rachel the other day and had a positively delightful day checking out art, indulging in food, and going shopping.  I'm sad to say I can only afford to do such things once every couple months because now I am broke as a joke again.  But, the SF MoMA is free for me as CCA staff, at least, and that's where we found not only CCA Painting Faculty, John Zurier's, luscious abstract painting in the Contemporary Collections  section, but also his own dessert in the cafe!  "The John Zurier Popsicle"- that's how you know you have arrived.

Outside in the sculpture garden I indulged in a Blue Bottle coffee served in an artisan-crafted Heath Ceramics mug, and the "Wayne Thibaud Layer Cake" frosted to look as delicious as his cake paintings.  Awesome. 

Down the block we stopped into Eli Ridgway Gallery to see recent CCA Curatorial Grad, David Kasprzak's, curatorial venture, "Better a Live Ass Than a Dead Lion".  The show, as far as I could tell without reading the press release, was about place and environments.  I thought it was a successful show, and not too over-hung.  Elisheva Biernoff's hand-painted double-sided postcards and other works were featured predominantly in the downstairs space, and her slide show screening with mist was great, though her heavy-handed environmental message is better off unread.  

Rachel put on the white gloves to check out Biernoff's art book, featuring an idyllic landscape and the various disasters that could befall it painted into the image.  I would have liked it better if all of the disasters happened one after another to create a total anarchic apocalypse, instead of flood, back to normal, fire, back to normal...

A photo negative piece by Richard Misrach, who I can tell from the price list is a big deal.  Check out the show- it will be up til November 5.

That's pretty much how I can wrap up the last two months of art in the Bay Area.  I don't get to everything, and I should be making art and talking about it less, anyway.   See you at the next round of openings.

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!