SOEX’s Alchemy Show

April 28, 2010 - One Response

I meant to post about Southern Exposure‘s show earlier, but alas, I had to jet out of town and wasn’t able to get this done prior to its closing.  This show is the second I have seen at SOEX’s new space, the first show I hadn’t noticed my biggest pet peeve about the space:  too sunny.  That’s right, the light is too nice in this space, any work on the walls that are framed with glass have such extreme reflections that it is hard to view the work.  Aside from this flaw, the space is really nice.  My suggestion is window coverings or investing in anti-glare glass for framed work, maybe my advice will be heeded…

The show that just closed on April 24th was titled Alchemy, and my viewing partner and I had a long conversation about whether or not the show worked as a whole.  In a nutshell he said yes, I said no.  I find it too easy to slap the word alchemy on a show in which nothing really works together, it was far too disjointed. That being said, the highlight of the show was a piece titled Grizzly Peak at Summit, 2008, by John Chiara.

Grizzly Peak at Summit, 2008, John Chiara

Chiara uses a customized camera obscura that he built in a flatbed trailer in order to create his large-scale cibachrome prints.  The process reminds me a little of the way Jo Babcock works, who has converted everything from a mint tin to a VW bus into pinhole cameras.  The results the two photographers get are very different, however.  Chiara’s cibachromes have a nostalgic feel for me, this is completely a personal response to the landscapes that were on display at SOEX.  They remind me of the mural-sized wallpaper of a forest in the kitchen of the first house I grew up in, wallpaper that has contributed to my own execution of photography.  There is a second layer of reminiscing involved here, which is the cibachrome paper itself, as it brings me to a place of old photo albums…  and the edges of the paper, torn and unpredictable, as if once thrown away.

The Seven Wanderers, 2009, Christopher Sicat

The most peaceful aspect of the show was Christopher Sicat‘s The Seven Wanderers, 2009.  At first I thought these were cast pieces, but the small grouping is composed of actual Redwood treetops that are coated in graphite.  This piece and Chiara’s were the only two elements in the exhibit that made sense thematically.  Having placed them under the skylight was brilliant, as the trees gave a sense they were growing and the light really highlighted the sheen that the graphite created.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the back space of the gallery.  I am not sure if SOEX considers this a second gallery space or what, but the way it was set up for this show made it hard to separate it from the other works previously mentioned.  The first time I visited SOEX’s new space this area was made into a second room for viewing a video piece.  This time the only thing distinguishing it as its own room was the color of the wall, a neutral gray.  Viewing partner and I were perplexed for quite a long time before we came to the understanding that it was a second exhibit.  This second exhibit was an installation by Alison Pebworth titled America, Beautiful Possibility, 2007.  More information can be found here on the show, as there are events, publications and a public art project involved with the installation.  I found the paintings and the clothing to be rendered and sewn superbly, and there is a wonderful essay in the exhibition catalog written by the beautiful Rebecca Solnit to accompany.

America, Beautiful Possibility, 2007, Alison Pebworth

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Snow Cake!

April 27, 2010 - Leave a Response

A little gem of a film written by Angela Pell, directed by Marc Evans, starring Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver.  Carrie-Anne Moss also appears.  Rickman plays Alex, an ex-con newly released from prison, who starts the film out driving north with a young female hitchhiker.  After a tragic car accident he seeks the young hitchhiker’s mother, Linda, a high functioning autistic woman played by Weaver.   Linda is not easy to get along with but has a way of keeping Alex around to fulfill miscellaneous chores around the house.  A friendship ensues between the seemingly odd pair.

Sigourney Weaver in Snow Cake, 2006

Snow Cake was released in 2006 and is one of my new favorite films.  Firstly, Sigourney Weaver can do no wrong in my opinion as she always brings her all in portraying her characters.  Paired up with Rickman, one of the best character actors on-screen, a pleasantly awkward chemistry occurs as the tension between their two characters ebbs and flows.  Highly recommended by yours truly.

Interiors

April 26, 2010 - Leave a Response

Big thanks to Netflix for pointing me in the direction of the film Interiors, which is generally plugged as Woody Allen’s first dramatic film.  During my viewing I couldn’t help but wonder why I had never heard of it, and why my friends never mention it.  In perspective, it was released the year I was born, 1978, so it isn’t so out of the ordinary that my peers and I haven’t seen it…  however, Interiors was released in between Annie Hall and Manhattan, films I watch at least once a year as I love them dearly. Color me perplexed.

Woody Allen's Interiors, 1978

I am unsure as to where I would place Interiors in my top 5 Woody Allen list, but it has earned itself a slot.  The film cast includes Diane Keaton and Geraldine Page.  Keaton is one of three grown daughters, Page is the unstable mother whose sanity went on a coffee break years ago never to return.  The complex family dynamics are captivating, but I couldn’t help but ask myself why Mr. Allen overwhelmingly writes his characters as affluent writers and artists who are highly self-centered.  I am guessing it is due to his early entrance into the business, but I still question his choices to do so as he has proven he doesn’t need to, such as with Small Time Crooks.  Regardless of the affluence of the characters in Interiors, I still highly recommend to his fans to take a look at it if you haven’t already done so.

The Bodies Are Back – Last Day!

April 15, 2010 - Leave a Response

Friday, April 16th, 2010, is the last day to see…

Margaret Harrison, Captain America 2, 1997, watercolor and graphite on paper

The Bodies Are Back, by Margaret Harrison at Intersection for the Arts.  Harrison, a British artist who helped pioneer feminist art, revisited early themes of her work, an exploration of the human body as an object of sexuality, consumption and gaze.  The back story of this show begins in 1971, the year of her first solo show.  The work was deemed too controversial and the show was shut down by the London police the day after it opened.  This uproar/setback caused Harrison to abandon this body of work.  This exhibition at Intersection of the Arts is a paring of the old work with new work revisiting the theme of her controversial first solo show.

Margaret Harrison, Take One Lemon, 1971, watecolor and graphite on paper

The exhibition was up to par with my expectations, and my expectations were high for this show.  My favorite pieces were the original pieces from her 1971 solo show, including but not limited to Take One Lemon, Mrs. Softie, and all three Good Enough to Eat drawings (highly sexualized/fetishized women as the meat in sandwiches).  What I like most about these pieces, aside from my drawing, watercolor and litho fetishes, is the explicit sexuality coupled with strong pop iconic imagery as a means to challenge her viewers perceptions of women, sexuality and advertising.

Margaret Harrison, Good Enough to Eat, 1971, watercolor, guache, and graphite on board

Though this post is a little late in the game, I urge you to make it to the final day of this exhibition if you are able to.

Margaret Harrison, Mrs. Softie, 1971, watercolor and graphite on paper


Greenberg : Baumbach

March 31, 2010 - 2 Responses

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 - Leave a Response

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 - Leave a Response

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 - Leave a Response

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 - 2 Responses

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.