Archive for March, 2010

Greenberg : Baumbach
March 31, 2010

Alright, I was on the fence about writing on Noah Baumbach’s new film, Greenberg, but I twisted my own arm.  Not because I didn’t like it (I loved it), but because I don’t want to give anyone expectations prior to viewing.  I went in the theater completely blind to the synopsis, which is what I prefer and suggest you do with directors I love.  The only info I was privy to prior was that Ben Stiller played a part, and this I only knew because my viewing companion was none other than my gay boyfriend, He Who Has Large Crush on Stiller.

Ben Stiller in Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, 2010

Should I warm you up on how I feel about Baumbach’s work?  I think yes.  First, he won me over completely with The Squid and the Whale. It is mostly autobiographical regarding a family during and after divorce, is written extremely well, and includes stellar performances by Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels.  Then there is Baumbach’s first film, Kicking and Screaming, full of witty dialogue on a subject I know all to well – the disorientation one feels after graduating from college.  And let’s not forget Margot at the Wedding, where we are witness to crazy family dynamics.  Noah Baumbach is in a close race with writer/director Nicole Holofcener in winning the title of my favorite character writer.  It’s a serious race as both capitalize on subtleties in their characters that are key not only to the humor in their films, but also to the way their audiences relate to their work.  And now, on to the film…

Though I thought that Greenberg started out a little slow, it fulfilled my Baumbach expectiations thoroughly.  The film masters social awkwardness as Stiller’s character battles the difficulty of his extreme misanthropic disposition while visiting the very social city of Los Angeles.  My companion and I both walked out of the film finding ourselves relating all too well with Stiller’s character, though we are both far from attaining his level of annoyances.  Many times we found ourselves laughing out loud at his extreme distaste for social experiences and social niceties.  However, if I continue to write I fear I will reveal too much, so in an effort not to spoil your personal viewing experience I will say no more about the film.  Just know that Greenberg is yet another one of Bambauch’s successes in his string of darkly humorous films, and I will continue my journey in life as one of many loyal fans.

The Urban Unseen
March 26, 2010

Last week friends and I ventured over to the Thatcher Gallery, located in an otherwise dead space at USF’s Gleeson Library…  if it weren’t for the art.  The current exhibition, The Urban Unseen, comes down  April 25th, so you have plenty of time to make your way over for a viewing, unless, of course, you are a master procrastinator.  In that case, I can’t help you.  I can only steer you in the direction, I can’t give you the gas to go.  The Urban Unseen, a mix of photography, drawings, video and architecture.

Moshe Quinn, The Urban Unseen

The videos were really not worth my time and the architectural elements  piqued my interest a little.  The photography by Moshe Quinn, however, and the drawings by Paul Madonna were very much worth our viewing efforts.

Quinn’s photographs were, for the most part, black and white and peering skyward through the seemingly invisible and unused spaces that are so commonly found in between buildings of San Francisco.  The photographs are well made, the gradation of light, the silver, and detail abounds.  More importantly, though, they invoke a conceptual way of looking at space.  The photographs create palpability for the unpabable; a presence to the unpresent.  In real time circumstances the space is visual white noise to us, in Quinn’s photography the space becomes object and the objects, i.e. the buildings, take on the role of visual white noise.

The drawings of Paul Madonna, most known for his All Over Coffee work, accompanies the photographs quite successfully.  There was only one instance that I thought differently, but since it was debated a little between me and my fellow viewing companions, I ought not to dwell.  Madonna’s drawings are imperfect in the most perfect way —  perspective isn’t the focus, architectural lines skew here and there, and the line he draws with wavers —  leaving a final product that is unquestionably accurate.  He draws the same types of unseen architectural spaces, from a pedestrian’s perspective.  His wavering lines capture San Francisco architecture perfectly; the distinct buildings that give the city the character it is famous for are just as waverly in person.  He is able to capture decades of architectural settling and tectonic shifting, what is truly San Francisco’s urban unseen.

Paul Madonna, image from All Over Coffee

Depth of Surface
March 26, 2010

Yesterday was the closing day for the SFSU Fine Arts Gallery show titled Depth of Surface.  I was pleasantly refreshed with the memory of the exhibition when I stumbled upon a video on Facebook made by SFSU Creative Arts students.  You can see that video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nQtE0J1wfs&feature=player_embedded.

Julie Chang, Example of Scrolls

Mad props to Mark Johnson, Sharon Bliss and Victor De La Rosa for this show.  My absolute favorite pieces were the hanging scrolls by artist Julie Chang. Chang’s scrolls, if you have never had the pleasure of encountering one yet, are absolutely worth seeking out on your next art venture.  I am head over heels for these babies!  They hang high from the ceiling and are printed on both sides.  Each side has a different design involving images extracted from our current culture — such as six shooters, the thank you from a chinese take out bag or the silhouettes of oil pumps — and recontextualized in patterns that far surpass the expectations of the consumerist masses.  The extracted images are either quickly recognized or incorporated so well as design that one must unlock them from the whole as if it were a puzzle.  Oh what I would give right now to own such a piece.

Though all of the work in the show is worthy of praise, I can only highlight a few at the moment, especially since I saw it way back on opening day.  My mind is a bit foggy on details.  Apologies, apologies.  However, I encourage you, reader, to meander through all the artists’ links provided at the end of this post.

I can’t not mention the whimsical installation titled Interstellar Media Stars by Ernest Jolly —  pinwheels with a glow from behind.  The first my attention was brought to this piece occurred when a slight breeze touched my skin…

Ernest Jolly, Interstellar Media Stars, 2009

…accompanied by a soundtrack of subtle tit-tit-tit-tit-tits.  A rotating fan, hidden from our view, passed behind the pinwheels, giving each a turn of spinning delight as the glow from behind sucked me in like a moth to a flame.

Once I pull my foggy memory away from whimsical delight, I fondly head over to Anthony Ryan‘s installation consisting of  prints of circular patterns with correlating wood blocks; an insight into Ryan’s exploration of Milton Bradley’s early childhood learning and the patterns of agricultural crop watering circles.  The aspect of this piece that most resonates with me is the crop circles, having grown up in the mountains outside of Bakersfield — just a hop, skip and a jump away from agricultural heartland.  If your mind is drawing a blank, imagine yourself in the window seat of a passenger airplane, eyes glassing over the circles spotting the expansive terrain below….

The other artists involved, and worth checking out, are Victor De La Rosa, Jennifer Ferre, Dustin Fosnot, Taraneh Hemami, Andrea Higgins, Mung Lar Lam, Katie Lewis, Victoria May, Ali Naschke-Messing, Francesca Pastine, Jeremy Chase Sanders, Lisa Solomon, Jina Valentine.

LIMN Art Gallery, Leaving Space
March 24, 2010

Sad to report that after thirteen years, LIMN Art Gallery is leaving its landmark building…   LIMN Art Gallery is having one last group show at 292 Townsend
March 26th from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

Heavenly City, by Yang Yongliang: Untitled 5

I personally have never shown at LIMN, but the artist that I work for, Stephen Galloway, is represented by the gallery and has had two solo shows at the San Francisco space and has shown at their former Seattle location.  The significance of LIMN is beyond just my connection through Stephen, it is one of the first spaces to introduce contemporary Chinese art to the United States.  It certainly has opened my eyes to the genre, there is some great work coming out of that country.  The gallery is directed by Christine Duval.

Though the art gallery is leaving its current wonderful space, it will return to its original format in early May; LIMN company and the art gallery will reopen under the same roof on the second floor of the main building at 290 Townsend.  LIMN will offer over 9000 square feet of exhibition space and will continue to support locals and international artists by introducing and promoting their work not only to San Francisco but also to a broader audience.

Cream from the Top…
March 24, 2010

Clare Szdlowski, Grain Mills, 2009

Happy to report that I, along with friend Holly Williams, attended the Cream from the Top exhibition and artist talk with Kenneth Baker this past Saturday.  It is my personal opinion that Clare Szydlowski’s work, gum bichromate photographs of large abandoned grain mills, is the most exciting work of the show.  I suppose I am biased having graduated with her from SFSU…  nah.  The work is stunning, especially hung on a long curved wall as one enters the main space.   Her grain mills are ghosts of our past; empty vessels that have become visual white noise to those who live near them, but whose presence has been revived in these prints.

The work of Esther Traugot was just as captivating.  A graduate of Mills College, Esther crochets coozies, or skins will you, around objects of nature:  seeds, pods and large branches.  Such tedious and intricate work creates a sense of preciousness in these everyday items we easily overlook and under appreciate in these modern times.

Other artists in the exhibition include Torreya Cummings, California College of the Arts; Alicia Escott, California College of the Arts; Crystal Haueter, University of California, Davis; Klea McKenna, California College of the Arts; Josh Short, University of California, Davis; and Annie Vought, Mills College.