Saturday, April 14, 2012

Art Shows That Are Already Over

Eleanor Harwood, Steven Wolf, and Ratio 3

Hello, it's me, your hopelessly late, half-assed blogger and nit-picker of art culture.  Here are some images of shows that aren't up anymore so you won't be able to see them.  Most opened a good two months ago. Helpful?  I thought so.

What is it about San Francisco art that gives itself away as so 'Bay Area'?  I am not sure I can answer that, and I certainly can't tell whether the following shows at three quintessential SF galleries do a good job of avoiding or following our Bay Area trends.  Just the same way you can't hear your own accent, or because it doesn't exist without a comparison, I can't possibly see whether I like my friends' work because it's original or because it falls within my Bay Area idea of good.  

I'm not able to tell whether or not I am biased towards my own community.  Maybe my taste is charmingly provincial, but I make the effort on this blog to not only show you what I think is note-worthy, but whatever else exists in this city around me.  

What I do know about the taste-making of San Francisco is that there are two main currents running through our gallery culture: The '90s Mission School left a slime trail of graffiti-inspired, graphic and color-soaked drawings, paintings, and murals, (though I do have to admit I enjoyed the movie, Beautiful Losers, and I think Mike Mills in particular is a genius).  Also, the 'everything is art' hippy free-for-all known as Social Practice shows no signs of stopping the incessant condescension towards impoverished communities by giving them free blankets, nor leaving the rest of us alone anytime soon.  Occassionally, there are gems from both cults that surface and give me hope for our city's future and our reputation at large.  However, it's the other art I post here on this blog that I hope reaches beyond our local cul de sac of "hella cool" and lands somewhere around good art, if only so that I can believe our stock as San Francisco artists is going up in the art world.  

"Snow Dream" Group Show curated by Gaelan McKeown-Hickel, Eleanor Harwood Gallery, San Francisco 
February 25- March 25, 2012

Eleanor Harwood's unassuming exterior in the deep Mission District
I went to see this group show with my buddy Libby on a quiet, sunny afternoon, which is the best way to see an art show.

The show featured work by ladies interested in magic, or other sort of mystical, dark ideas.  Considering the title even quotes Stevie Nicks, this could easily be translated into a terrible or just OK show. My verdict was surprisingly positive after seeing the art hung together.  Each work fit tightly within the concept, as well as in harmony with the other pieces.  Behind Libby is work by our friend, Kara Joslyn.  I was especially impressed with Anne Regan's artwork, which made references to witchy or morbid things but each piece still held its own as a strong formal and conceptual work.

Anne Regan, exorcism spell, wax encaustic, safflower, St. John’s Wort, wormwood, horehound, and orris root

Anne Regan, top:  beeswax, grass, rocks, and earth from the grave site of Johnny and June Carter Cash in Hendersonville, TN, bottom: Conjure Bells

"Jonathan Runcio:  Blue Turns to Grey", Ratio 3 
San Francisco,
February 24- April 7, 2012

Ratio 3's garden-covered sidewalk down a tiny side street in the Mission
Libby and I also checked out fellow CCA MFA Alum, Jonathan Runcio's, new show at Ratio 3.  I have posted his work before, and have been admiring it since starting school at CCA.  I've always found his graphic work to have a bend towards beauty, which he never seems to mention when discussing what it's about.  (However, for me, that is priority number one).  

Jonathan installed a few walls within the show which were intended, I'm sure, to complement and bounce off the geometric work.
 Ratio 3 is an odd place to see artwork.  While Libby and I felt pretty at ease in Eleanor Harwood, at Ratio 3 the vibe comes off as very unfriendly.  It wasn't the quiet receptionist, a guy I know from my undergrad days, but more so from the very fibers of the space.  It seems to whisper, "Don't come in don't have any money and you could't possibly understand what we are trying to show here".  That's just the feeling I get, anyway.

The work was referencing elements of the man-made everywhere
Sculpture, too

Beautiful, complicated screenprints

Compared to the show (linked above) that I saw the year before of Runcio's work at The Popular Workshop, I felt there was a lot of color missing.  In the past, one of my favorite things about his work was his way of mixing jewel tones together to create luxurious, feminine combinations within the masculinity of architecture and geometry.  Still, it was a nice show.  Too bad there's not a little more of that friendly, hippy San Francisco feeling of the Mission within gallerist, Chris Perez's, stuffy space.

"More Paintings", Club Paint (Keith Boadwee, Erin Allen, and Isaac Gray), Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco, February 24- April 7, 2012

I recently remarked on Facebook that art was starting to appear to be of only two categories, "Too Smart to Look Good", and "Bad on Purpose".  Afterwards my friends called me out on my increasingly snarky attitude and ensuing social alienation.  While I was directly referencing this show of the art trio, Club Paint, in the latter group, I really don't think they would mind hearing me saying that.  Keith Boadwee, the older, dapper CCA professor and his art ingenues, CCA alumni Allen and Gray, seem to be doing just that- painting badly on purpose.  Is it really a secret?  Given the bad-boy subject matter of sexual positions, stick figures giving birth, and dinosaurs in their recent show of paintings at Steven Wolf, I am pretty sure that the theme of 'bad' fits all around.  

If the cake fits... Club Paint bad boys on a special cake for the reception.  Allen is the punk, Gray is the Mormon, and Boadwee is old enough to be the dad.
There's the ringleader himself, Boadwee, flanked by CCA students Max Esplin and Leora Lutz.
Steven Wolf was packed with CCA and SFAI brethren.  PS I love Stevn Wolf, himself.  He is the funniest, most sarcastic gallerist I have ever met.  Also, the space itself is huge and stunning.
Each painting is a collaboration between all three painters.
What I found surprising about the show was actually the level of quality within the 'bad' work.  Being a painter, I could recognize complex moments in each piece of texture, color combinations, and lovely resting points.  I'm sure it's what they are going for within their messy, seemingly naive paintings.  They are poking the eye of a kind of art which demands to be taken seriously.  The paintings and the painters are not sophisticated, and yet somehow they are.  

Look at my buddy Mark Benson, taking it all so seriously.

Well, yet another survey of what's out here in the Bay Area, or was until last month.  Take it or leave it for the abstract expressionism of NY or the whatever LA is these days.