Friday, December 29, 2006

San Francisco Sightings — December 2006

YBCA’s exhibit “Oakland: East Side Story” (closing 12/31/06) included some interesting work. My favorite was Ben Riesman’s video (photo above). The camera follows the artist, wearing a grocery bag over his head, as he leaves his apartment, circulates through his building, and exits into the surrounding neighborhood, eventually arriving at a cemetary. I have rarely seen anything that so closely resembled a dream. The video camera evidently is mounted on a wheeled contraption strapped behind him (you can’t see it, but you hear the wheels rattling). As the video progresses, the absurdity becomes tinged with other feelings. It’s a memorable work.

YBCA also has a show of Mexican vernacular graphics (through 3/4/07). One highlight is a selection of one-sheet study aids for schoolchildren. There are graphics for adults too (image above).

At Crown Point Press (through 12/30/06), there was a series of landscape photograveurs by John Chiara, based on photographs he has taken in San Francisco with a giant pinhole camera of his own devising. I particularly like one of the prints (image above).

At CCA Wattis (through 2/24/07), there is an incoherent but fitfully interesting show called “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.” Shaun O’Dell’s installation is rewarding, and disabled artist William Scott contributes some vibrant drawings. The high point was a documentary video by Solmaz Shahbazi about the city of Tehran (photo above). The image quality is sub-optimal, but the artist creates a fascinating exploration of modernization in a country that feels cut off. (Unfortunately, in viewing this video you are NOT cut off from the noise originating in another part of the exhibit.)

In a just-closed show at Little Tree Gallery, Casey Logan played with scientific topics that fascinate him: gravity, black holes, tensegrity, etc. The show felt a bit tentative—like a warm-up for something bigger—but it was engaging nonetheless. One object (photo above) was a crate with multiple “up” directions and war planes trapped inside—perhaps a metaphor for the Iraq War.

At Eleanor Harwood Gallery, in a show curated by Christine Shields (closing 1/1/07), one eye-popper was Jason Mecier’s junk portrait of actress Susan Tyrrell, whose life story has outperformed any telenovela. (The first photo above is taken from the artist's website; the second is a detail that I shot.) Mecier pursues an outsider-artist esthetic with uneven but sometimes fascinating results. Another standout was a small, quiet “memory drawing” by Colter Jacobsen, in which the artist has made a graphite drawing of a photo and then drawn it a second time from memory. The diptych is titled “L’s Goddaughter.” Other notable works in the show were two creepy photos by Donal Mosher, some napkin drawings by Amy Rathbone, and a car drawing by Veronica de Jesus (photo directly below). De Jesus has done some delightful storytelling work in this lace-like drawing style, and I keep hoping a smart children’s book publisher will do a project with her.

At Adobe Books there was a crowded group show organied by the gallery’s new curatorial team. The show included an installment in Kyle Knobel’s ongoing project with security envelopes (photo directly above).

At the Jack Hanley Gallery, there was a festive opening for Superflex’s show “Free Beer and Counter-Game Strategies.” The beer was actually $3.00 (photo above). Well, maybe that covered only the first few sips, the rest being free. The beer was no doubt a good prep for the game stations, where participants could grab wooden mallets and smash potatoes as they were dropped through the chutes (photo below). I don’t know if the potato-smashing continues, though the closing date is 1/20/07.

At The LAB, there was an interesting but poorly installed exhibit, "Listening: Living Art from Japan and San Francisco." The problem here: massive noise bleed. It was hard to focus on anything. Joshua Churchill’s contribution, a sound and light installation in the ceiling, was lost in the cacophany while ironically contributing to it. I’m sure there is a moral there (without faulting Churchill). One of the highlights of this show was the video by Yoshinori Niwa, described in a postscript to an earlier post. Another interesting video showed artist Takashi Horisake covering himself in liquid latex during a slow, serious performance that mimicked Butoh. But the latex skins, once congealed and removed, look comic (photo below). Finally there was a video by Chris Sollars in which six or seven artists, including Sollars, donned kimono made of newspapers and paraded as a group through a commercial area of Tokyo. I was reminded of the 1960 photo of Masunobu Yoshimura standing on a street in Tokyo, wrapped in a collage of paper posters advertising a Neo-Data exhibition. The new images were tame in comparison with that earlier work, and with other projects by Sollars.

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