Archive for June, 2009

One on One: Dominic Willsdon on Jasper Johns

06.29.2009  |  By
Filed under: One on One

My Aunt Gladys once, when she read a thing in a magazine, wrote me a letter, saying she was so proud of me, because she had worked so hard to instill some respect for the American flag in her students, and she was glad the mark had been left on me.

―Jasper Johns to Emile de Antonio.

I’m next up with one of our weekly One-on-One curator talks, ... More

Behind the Curtain

06.26.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

An adventure awaits anyone who makes it up to Mission 17, the innovative Mission Street gallery dedicated to conceptual and installation art (2111 Mission Street, Suite 401–at 17th).  I don’t know, sometimes does it seem to you that exhibitions in San Francisco come in only two varieties? Either they’re dumb and lithe and beautiful, like Michael Phelps, or they’re too darn hard to understand.  “The Man Behind the Curtain” (through July 11) has a theoretical platform, but it’s springy and imaginative. I wound up staying on and on much longer than I had planned, caught in an undercurrent of political intrigue and moral outrage, but also just stunned like a balloon had hit me in some pleasure center.

Curator Laura Mott has used the straightforwardness of the gallery space to her advantage.

Its sharp corners and defined spaces aren’t modernist, exactly, they’re harsh and unyielding, and she uses them to show their analogues to democracy both here and abroad. Dem... More

RIP King of Pop

06.25.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Jeff Koons‘s porcelain sculpture, always of great curiosity to the crowds when it’s up in the galleries, and one of my favorites, of Michael Jackson and Bubbles. You already know the news about the King of Pop. About the sculpture, more here. We’ll miss you, Michael. No 1980s living room would have been the same without you.

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Dispatch from Alabama #2: Build It and (Maybe) They Will Come

06.25.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

“F–k Greensboro, f–k these people. They’re never going to change.”

This is what one of my fellow Project M advisors said to me during one of the Saturday critiques, and while I celebrated in my previous post the overflowing idealism that I and others have experienced here in Hale County, I could sympathize with this an... More

A Queer Time and Place

06.25.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

June is National GLBTQ PRIDE month and my next couple of posts will respond to art events sponsored by the National Queer Arts Festival.  Despite being late in the month, I hope these posts generate some discussion about the notion of queer arts and PRIDE month, more generally.

Last week I joined a sold-out, yet intimate gathering of people at The Garage for the film screening, Across Queer Time. Curated by artist, Jason Hanasik, Across Queer Time was part of the 12th Annual National Queer Arts Festival and featured thirteen artists including Rudy Lemcke, Curt McDowell, Marc Adelman, Tammy Rae Carland, Jesse Finely Reed, Barbara Hammer, Kristina Willemse, Tina Takemoto, Jennifer Parker, Cheryl Dunye, Julian Vargas, Margaret Tedesco, and Killer Banshee. Hanasik introduced the films describing them as oscillating around tension—fantasy, the world in which we wish we existed, and nightmare (which is, perhaps, part of our reality, as well).  Indeed, the films cascaded through themes of... More

Designing for Ability at NIAD

06.24.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Richmond’s National Institute of Art and Disabilities has a show on this month that bears consideration in the context of this week’s discussion about the Rural Studio. NIAD was founded at about the same time (and by many of the same people) as its better-known cousins, Creative Growth in Oakland and Creativity Explored in San Francisco. Situated in downtown Richmond, the East Bay’s forgotten city, NIAD serves a population of mentally and physically disabled artists with particularly acute material and therapeutic needs. Very much in the Rural Studio spirit, two recent graduates from CCA‘s MA Design program have applied their skills to the benefit of this disadvantaged community in their own backyard. Several key aspects of the Rural Studio project also apply here: approaching design as a philanthropic act, relying on inexpensive and readily available materials, and encouraging students to realize pragmatic projects within an academic context.

Collage Stamp –... More

One on One: Alison Gass on Kiki Smith

06.24.2009  |  By
Filed under: One on One

[Alongside our weekly in-gallery curator "One on One" talks, we post regular ‘one on one' bits from curators, staff, and public, on a particular work or exhibition they're interested in. Follow the series here. Today's post is from assistant curator of painting and sculpture Ali Gass. Thanks Ali!]

Kiki Smith’s Lilith crouches and hangs in a precarious position of emotional and physical tension. The sculpture is a life-like figure of a woman. (Indeed, Smith’s mode of making the work heightens this naturalism, as she cast an actual huma... More

Sherrie Levine, In and Against Collage

06.23.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Until the end of June, SFMOMA has installed in their second-floor galleries a selection of several works by Sherrie Levine. Janet Bishop wrote a couple paragraphs on La Fortune (After Man Ray) (1990) earlier this month. But the works that snagged me were a curious series of collages from 1979 on the south wall.Titled Fashion Collage, each work consists of a single cutout magazine image, just a few inches tall – smaller than the image on your computer screen – isolated in a 24×18 inch white matte. Each depicts one fashion model struttin... More

No Place Like Home: Design and Architecture in post-Katrina New Orleans

06.23.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

I am very eager to respond to Eric Heiman’s observations and experience so far at Project M and The Rural Studio which he discussed in his June 20th post “Dispatch from Alabama #1: Cynics Need Not Apply.” The issues of housing, the ownership of space, and the role that artists play within sustainable and community based projects are all very dear to my heart.

There is an endless amount of housing issues in the Bay Area from foreclosures, to redevelopment, to tenants rights violations—issues I have become more familiar with recently through my work with the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee. However after reading Eric’s post my thoughts immediately turned to the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, specifically Brad Pitt’s project called the Make It Right Foundation (MIR). This comes as no surprise as I spent the past two years researching and writing about housing politics and the concept of home in New Orleans through my gradu... More

“Andmoreagain”

06.21.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Few years back, curator Margaret Tedesco named a show she organized at Queens Nails Annex “OverUnderSidewaysDown,” after the old Yardbirds hit, and this time around at her own gallery she dips back into those spooky psychedelic 60s days with “Andmoreagain,” the current show at [2nd floor projects], the unique space she has carved out of her own apartment to show new work. Do you know Arthur Lee, Bryan Maclean, the band called Love that, like Tedesco, stepped out of the bubbling pop stew of LA? “Andmoreagain” is the third track on their third album, Forever Changes, and it’s the ultimate song about the succubus or sociopath, “Andmoreagain,” a supernatural creature who manges to get you to fall in love with you by mimicking your human responses. “You can see you in her eyes/ Then you feel your heart beating/ [Pause]/ Thrum-pum-pum-pum.”

Tedesco’s tiny apartment gets cleared out every time she thinks of a show, the furniture from one sunny room and most of a ha... More

Dispatch from Alabama #1: Cynics Need Not Apply

06.20.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Listening to a drawl-infected conversation about the manufacture of assault rifles on the plane from Denver to Birmingham yesterday, I was reminded that San Francisco, filled to the brim with cultivating distractions and multi-cultural mélange, is the exception not the rule in our country. The arts flourish in our urban centers and those of us dra... More

Before I leave town…

06.18.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Tomorrow I leave for the 100-degree (plus humidity!) heat of Hale County, Alabama to advise the young creatives at Project M who are busy trying to come up with a design project that will have a positive impact on the world. They’ll be toiling alongside the inspiring Rural Studio architecture students who are designing and building amazing structures for the rural poor in the area. I’ll be posting to this blog while I’m there so check back over the next few days to see how we’re faring in the blazing Southeast heat.

But before I go, here are a few things I’ve seen over the last month that are of note. I encourage you to add your own thoughts about them (or related topics) in the comments section of this post.

-I was lucky enough to catch Davy Rothbart, the creator of Found magazine, at the Intersection for the Arts this past Monday. His merry “Denim and Diamonds Tour” crew includes his brother, Peter, and the twin sister music duo, the Watson T... More

Sleek, Shiny and New

06.18.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Much like Helvetica, his endearing 2007 ode to the ubiquitous typeface of the same name, Gary Hustwit’s new documentary, Objectified, is a well-made, highly entertaining foray into the world of design. This time Hurstwit has his sights on the most precious consumer products and their creators. All the heavy hitters are featured, including Jon... More

‘Police, police, thank you’

06.16.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

I wanted quickly to follow up on a few past posts.

Artist Torreya Commings responded to ‘On Graduate Exhibitions.’ Having finished her MFA at CCA in May, she said of her experience of the grad exhibition, “It’s a very strange situation… not exactly a “show,” not exactly a “test,” still colored by the liminal status of “student” but with rumors of “making it” or being “picked up” flying around. I’m glad it’s over with, mostly.” In ‘A day is as long as a year,’ I wrote a bit about Jia Zhangke’s great film ‘The World.’ The New Yorker posted on their website clips from a few of the director’s films, including Platform, Unknown Pleasures, and Still Life, to accompany a profile in early May by Evan Osnos. It’s a tidy summary of what’s good about Jia’s work, if you need one.

Modern Art Notes posted a two part interview with Tim Clark... More

Collection Rotation: Timothy Buckwalter

06.15.2009  |  By
Filed under: Projects/Series

Our regular feature, Collection Rotation!  Every month I invite a local guest to organize a mini-exhibition or grouping from our collection works online. This month’s guest DJ? Timothy Buckwalter, painter, writer, critic, crank. I think that’s okay to say, Tim? As always, fine guest blogging, just below. Images link to collection pages. xo, SS

Feeling Yourself Disintegrate

LINER NOTES:  In 1992, shortly after moving to San Francisco, I stumbled into SFMOMA, just in time to view the Richard Prince retrospective. It was love at firs... More

On Benefit Auctions

06.12.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

I attended the Headlands Center for the Arts‘ annual benefit auction on Wednesday night, at the Herbst International Exhibition Hall in the Presidio. The event featured works by 86 artists, ranging from big names like Shepard Fairey and Clare Rojas, to emerging local talents like Leah Rosenberg and Michael Hall. The auction is Headlands’ big fundraiser for the year, so naturally it is a big focus of the organization’s attention and efforts. Benefit auction season is officially upon us, with Southern Exposure‘s just last week and Intersection for the Arts‘ happening tomorrow. All this has me wondering what the impact of so many auctions might be on these small and mid-sized arts organizations.

The benefit auction has taken on so much importance because the funding model for most smaller arts non-profits in the Bay Area is heavily dependent on philanthropic foundation gifts, which are scarce since endowments have taken a hit of 40% or more since the recessi... More

Odessa Steps

06.12.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Last month I got to play an iconic figure of cinema when the San Francisco-based artist Kota Ezawa recruited me, and dozens of others, for a forthcoming project. He was planning, he said, to recreate the famous “Odessa Steps” sequence of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1921 silent film Battleship Potemkin. I would play the old lady who gets her glasses broken.

Would I do it? Hell yeah! I have worked with Kota many times and always had a ball. He is one of the most imaginative and perceptive artists around. I trust his instincts more than I do my own, so even if I don’t understand why he wants what he wants, I generally fall in. And I embarrass him by telling him is he is my culture hero—a variation on the “science hero” of the Alan Moore comic books—or as they say in his native Germany, he is my “held.” When he confided years back that he planned on making a full length animation of the infamous “sex tape” of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, in which I would ... More

The Gay Bar versus the Academy

06.09.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Despite recently receiving my masters in Visual and Critical Studies I have always had a love/hate relationship with critical theory.  Within my graduate program there is a running joke that critical theory is “like a stain you can’t get out.” My biggest frustration is the disconnect I feel between what is discussed and generated within the sterile walls of the academy and the communities that exist beyond those walls who are often the subjects of the theories produced and studied.  Over the past two years, as I was buried in theory and thesis writing, I found myself often questioning the relevance of philosophical texts for those who exist within activist circles, public services, and that which is often described as “on the ground.”

My frustration with the inaccessibility of critical theory hit home after reading a portion of the text, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex by philosopher, Judith Butler in a course entitled Critical Race Ar... More

“Call for Art Historical Knowledge”

06.08.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

This post was co-written with curator Joseph Del Pesco.

On May 22, Artforum and e-flux announced to their Art & Education mailing list the launch of the Art & Education Papers archive,  “a free online platform for the publication and exchange of texts on modern and contemporary art.” They continue, “At a time when the distribution of many forms of knowledge remains confined to small conferences, private seminars, or specialized academic journals, we believe that the broad distribution and exchange of ideas is key to increasing dialogue in all aspects of art production, criticism, and history.” The notice concludes with a call for papers: “either new or already existing (published or unpublished, recent or older) scholarly articles from around the world…Texts may be culled from conference papers, seminar papers, dissertation chapters, etc… All submissions will be considered for publication on the website.”

To say this is an interesting development would be an un... More

Interview: Rosana Castrillo Díaz & Janet Bishop

06.08.2009  |  By
Filed under: Conversations

For the opening of SFMOMA’s new Rooftop Garden, Bay Area artist Rosana Castrillo Díaz was commissioned to create a mural painting on the bridge leading to the new outdoor space. Rosana was a recipient of the 2004 SECA Art Award &, if you’re a local reader, you might remember the wall drawing she created on the museum’s third-... More

Neo Benshi

06.07.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Last week I went to ATA (Artists Television Access, 992 Valencia Street at 21st) to see a program of films and poetry headlined by two old friends Gary Sullivan and Nada Gordon. Gary is a poet and prose writer credited with the invention of flarf, a much talked about movement to reduce the lyric, epiphanic element of poetry and replace it with materials found by chance on the internet—google searches and the like. Nada Gordon is also a member of the Flarf Collective and has written many books of poetry and other sorts of writing. She is the youngest person to appear in the anthology of US poets theater work that David Brazil and I have been editing for Kenning Editions. The program last week was heavy on “neo-benshi,” right now the dominant nexus where poetry meets film—rather like Godzilla “meeting” Mothra, or Frankenstein “meeting” Abbott and Costello, there’s an element of the gladiatorial about it.

I first heard about the role of the benshi in Japanese and Ko... More

Limits of Poetry

06.07.2009  |  By
Filed under: Back Page

The latest in the regularly rotating Minna Alley sign series. I know I could be less lazy and do some actual footsoldiering reconnaissance, given that this is only downstairs—but who’s responsible for these? Is this person affiliated with Catharine Clark? [Appearance of the signs predates Baer/Ridgway]….

[Update: Anthony Discenza is the artist. Thanks Joseph del Pesco]

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Chilling in San Jose

06.05.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

This evening, visual and live arts take over the streets of downtown San Jose. For the second year, ZERO1 is presenting the SubZERO street festival in partnership with venues along the South First Arts District corridor. SubZERO will include a combination of media and machine arts, street fair booths, games and live performances on two stages. This lively evening is a precursor to the upcoming third 01SJ Biennial, in September 2010.

Each of the participating venues has programmed its own activities for the evening. They include a Day of the Dead art car and a 24-hour open mic at MACLA, guerrilla-style yarn attacks and interactive animation at Anno Domini, a Rejection Dunk Tank and a one-woman Hot Dog-Eating Contest at the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art, and sculpture and interpretive dance on the subject of trash in our waters at the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum. Works/San Jose and ZERO1 are also presenting a variety of interactive art projects taking place in real and vi... More

The Garden as Protest

06.03.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Last month I attended a lecture sponsored by the Townsend Center for Humanities at UC Berkeley by local author, Rebecca Solnit entitled “If Gardens are the Answer, What is the Question?” Solnit, whose work ranges in topics from San Francisco geographies, to the history of walking, to landscape, gender, and art, addressed the recent popularity of gardens as educational tools and community resources in schools, rehabilitation centers, churches, and of course, the lawn of the Obama’s White House. Solnit considered the garden as an answer to the corporate farming industry, to American’s alienation from food, and to the development of safe, urban neighborhoods.

Robyn Waxman, a Graduate Design student from the Calfornia College of the Arts (CCA) confronted similar questions as she embarked on her thesis project this past fall.  Waxman questioned her role as a designer and activist in today’s socio-political climate. The answer to these questions came in the for... More

One on One: Janet Bishop on Sherrie Levine

06.03.2009  |  By
Filed under: One on One

[Alongside our weekly in-gallery curator "One on One" talks, we post regular ‘one on one' bits from curators, staff, and public, on a particular work or exhibition they're interested in. Follow the series here. Today's post is from curator of painting and sculpture Janet Bishop.]

On the 2nd floor right now we have a gallery devoted to the work of She... More