Los Jaichackers: A collaboration between Eamon Ore-Giron and Julio Cesar Morales

This Thursday SFMOMA’s Now Playing series returns with San Francisco– and Los Angeles–based multimedia art duo Los Jaichackers (Spanglish for hijackers), who have curated a night of experimental music, performance, and lectures. It’s going to be super! Please welcome Eamon Ore-Giron and Julio Cesar Morales:

When Frank Smigiel asked us to curate a night of music and performance at SFMOMA, our first thought was the idea of cover songs, and what they signify in a transcultural context. One of our favorite musical genres and inspirations are “Refritos,” or in English, “Re-fried” music: American pop and rock ‘n’ roll covered in Spanish. So it was with this in mind that we organized our night, Double Grooves and Dirty Menudo. The title takes its cue from the “double groove” — a method of pressing vinyl records in which one side of the record contains two separate grooves, allowing two different albums to be placed or “hidden” on one single side. The track that will be heard depends on where the needle is placed. “Dirty menudo” is a poor man’s version of the famous prerevolutionary Mexican soup, made with whatever parts of the animal are available, a dish also known as the “hangover” cure.

To start the night off we’ve invited history professor and overall cultural misfit Moises Medina up from East L.A. to present a lecture on ideas of transborder appropriation and the subcultures that take form in these contested territories. Moises has a great way of seeing the connections between the U.S. and Mexican underground. From the Tribalero culture that spawned the pointy boots fashion, with some measuring more than 40 inches long, to the pitched-down and screwed musical sedatives of Cumbia Rebajada from Mexico City, Medina will be our intellectual coyote, guiding us through a wilderness of aesthetics and ideas to the other side.

Next up will be the world premier of A Fuego Lento ll (Slow Burn II), Los Jaichakers’ latest video piece, based on Damaso Perez Prado’s rare 1980 Mexican film A Fuego Lento. The film takes place in Perez Prado’s adopted home of Mexico City. The plot revolves around the drug trade; we see it as a premonition of things to come in Mexico.

Perez Prado was the first Latin American artist to “cross over” internationally with a musical style of his own, the mambo. Long before samplers, turntables and computer technology, Perez Prado was experimenting with ideas of the remix. He began mixing Afro-Cuban rhythms with American Swing music and ambient urban sounds, samples of which he would then translate into various instrumentations in his orchestra.

From writer David Goldberg: Prado’s compositions are perhaps best marked by punctuating yells of “Ugh!” which is actually a slurring of the syllables in the phrase “dilo” which means “say it!” or “hit me!” “Dilo!” served as cues for his orchestra to start, end, and pause or shift tempos with a level of precision that allowed Prado to literally “cut and paste” elements of his musical imagination live and in real time … when Prado solidified Mambo in 1949 he also created the blue print for electronic DJ music.

We are taking Prado’s approach to the idea of remixing as a cue in Slow Burn II. With visuals remixed by Morales and a new soundtrack based on Prado’s music produced by Ore-Giron, A Fuego Lento is compressed to 24 minutes with no dialogue, just the pure magic of music and image.

After the film, the live musical elements begin. We’ve recruited the amazing talents of CHUCHA SANTAMARIA (Sofía Córdova and Matt Kirkland), who came up with a wish list of songs to morph and translate into Spanish, from the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, Yoko Ono, Mariah Carey, and Iggy Pop. Together we’ll transform SFMOMA’s atrium into a music studio, exposing the means of production in an approach that will include the audience in participating and witnessing the creation of music in a rehearsal atmosphere. The performance will be recorded live and be included as part of their upcoming album.

Finally, we are bringing some very special guests from Guadalajara: musical tricksters Los Master Plus. We’ve been in love with their music ever since we saw their video for their cover of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” transforming the original message of the song — a girl in emotional turmoil — into a song about “boys in need of girl attention.” Los Master Plus also do Spanish covers of songs by Daft Punk, Kings of Leon, Dr. Dre, Radiohead, and the Bee Gees. Led by hipster vaqueros El Comanche and Larry Mon, they concoct a tongue-in-cheek mix of cumbia and techno music, creating a new genre that expands the notion of contemporary Mexican music.

[audio:https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sfmomaopenspace/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Miami-DF-Mix.mp3]

Miami DF Mix

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CHUCHA SANTAMARIA — Fiebre Tropical

 

 

 

On Sculpture That Embodies: Phyllida Barlow at the New Museum

Phyllida Barlow, _Siege_ (installation view), 2012; Courtesy the artist and the New Museum

On a dull, wet day a few weeks back I wandered into the New Museum on New York’s Bowery. It was a pleasant surprise to see the sign for Siege, a new show by the British sculptor Phyllida Barlow, whose work I had first encountered at the Serpentine Gallery in London some years earlier. Returning to works of art that you love is much like opening the pages of a cherished book, in which a single sentence can evoke the atmosphere and memory of the whole.

Phyllida Barlow, _Siege_ (installation view), 2012; Courtesy the artist and the New Museum

Barlow constructs massive sculptural forms from crude industrial and synthetic materials. The hurried process with which she is known to build these giant structures is evidenced in their rough, bold appearance. They are gloppy and unfinished-looking, ugly and luridly colored; in Siege there are toxic pinks and yellows, and oil-slick blacks. But the scale and rough-hewn form of these pieces, and the variety of different shapes and spaces created in and around them, gives them an absorbing physicality, creating a sort of industrial obstacle course. If the gallery attendants weren’t lurking close by, I’d be tempted to clamber over the red wooden slats, rummage through heaps of brightly colored streamers or squeeze myself into the narrow passages within the maze of towering arches comprised of grayish building blocks that populate the center of the gallery.

I think it may be the infant in me that finds most interest in those sculptures I want to do things to. (One day I will tell you about the things I’d like to do to Erwin Wurm’s and Lara Favaretto’s sculptures.) This urge is interesting in light of James Meyer’s 2004 critique of Olafur Eliasson’s 2003 Weather Project installed in the Turbine Hall of London’s Tate Modern, in which, noting the increasing proliferation of installations vast in scale, he accuses Eliasson’s spectacle of overwhelming viewers to the point of disembodying them. Advocating for a more human dimension he writes, “Barnett Newman described the encounter between the beholder and the work as a phenomenological relation: the painting should cause the viewer to feel present. (‘Not there — here,’ he quipped.)”

So, too, with sculpture, one might argue (and many have); although rarely keeping to a somatic scale, Barlow’s work does indeed evoke the body. By virtue of the sculptor’s somewhat visible process, the weight of her forms and the invitation they extend to explore their edges and contours, viewers may find themselves feeling intensely aware of their bodies in relation to the gallery space and to Barlow’s sculptural forms.

Writers describing Barlow’s work refer to its precarious composition — piles of industrial detritus rise up to the ceiling with parts teetering vertiginously on top. In Siege, an enormous piece of concrete tubing hangs from rubber cables wound around its middle, while a triangular, black, cage-like structure that looks as though it has been dunked in tar is suspended from a wall. But the anxiety this instability induces — and the aggression implied by the exhibition title — is offset by the compositional balance the works establish as a whole. One has the sense that each form might lose some of its force, and topple, if viewed separately from the others. There is levity, too, in Barlow’s heaps of squashed, cement-soaked boxes — intractable-looking forms that have nonetheless been acted upon and compressed.

Phyllida Barlow, _Siege_ (installation view), 2012; Courtesy the artist and the New Museum

Though these sculptures are by no means welcoming — in fact, they look deeply hostile — there is nonetheless something very human in their mass and presence, the result of some transference from maker to object that gives them a magnetic quality. Their presence is cumulative, so that, collectively, the forms hum with life — an impression that left me feeling paradoxically calm and restored. Turning out onto Bowery, the streets were still wet, but not quite so dull.

Hughen/Starkweather: Traverse V

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, Open Space commissioned a number of new posts from artists and writers. Hughen/Starkweather have spent three years investigating the environmental, financial, historical, and political intricacies of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, and their ongoing series of artworks Approach, Transition, Touchdown attempts to reflect the complexities of that monumental structure. Open Space invited them to turn their attention momentarily to the Golden Gate Bridge, and they created five new works for the occasion.

Hughen/Starkweather, Traverse 5, 2012. Click image for larger view.

 

Hughen/Starkweather create collaborative artworks that explore the layers, complexities, and patterns that comprise a specific place. They research a location using current and historic photographs, maps, data, and personal interviews. The resulting artworks map the unique forms derived from the built systems and natural movements of a place. Their work has been included in Cartographic Imagination: Mapping in Contemporary California Art at San Francisco State University, among other exhibitions, and commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission for the Art on Market Street program. They were artists-in-residence at Oxbow (Calif.) in 2010. The artists have been collaborating since 2006, and live and work in San Francisco.

Gabriele Basilico: San Francisco, 2007

Gabriele Basilico, San Francisco, 2007, 2007; digital pigment print; Collection SFMOMA, commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Anonymous Donors’ Challenge Fund; © Gabriele Basilico. Click for a larger view.

Stacy Szymaszek: The Bridge

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, Open Space has commissioned a number of new works from artists and writers. Please welcome poet and artistic director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York Stacy Szymaszek.


THE BRIDGE

Be with me, St. Francis, now —
witness before the charter ends
my midlife specter

Of mixed descent sun and moon aligned
king tides gleam on the mall
all the invisible heart valves pumping
and yawning, look for the swimming
base of a friend, the hand of man
has not spoiled these pictures

I find on this international orange
a scrap of writing, precursor to morning
love of French idiom, not spoken since
I was “Rochelle” with high school sorority

Renounced too much, too stubborn
a lover, exile here, more absolute than
this view of the super moon — too much
waiting for dawn to clear the frontier

Faith not fear that my chevrons will equal
the length of my service, my tendons lock
to correspond with a third body, an unorthodox
montage, a projected life-wish

King tide me witless, hearing it near, Madonna
Mia, paternity boils the water and now
I see still white birds turn into moving ones
from a brick of hash erroneously mailed
to the office, I was saying to myself

 

 

 

                    alimentary
                    St. Francis
                    on a ship
                    gazing toward
                    Umbria
                    the last
                    to rally

 

 

 

Between two worlds I head
to Sausalito, a record of more —
dinner of fresh lamb, a fruit
torte clumsily cut, unlike me
not to have my camera

For series upon series, inmost sob, call
the abyss quits, not as easy for a dog
to find a new person, stray shot
to replicate the aggressive return of
adoration, took root in her heart
a two-fold structure, par excellence

An herb, a pick between salty teeth
night commuters deadlock after
the first dreamy period, a mass
of sameness, the devil adds a deadline
to get within the boundaries of the healthy
lose the calm of lazy thinking, dusty rose
pants, an over-expenditure, I miss her

Perhaps tomorrow’s moon will grant us
El Rio cleared of war, I do it for the fairies
of old, the devil never grants immortality
my vow in infinite suspension
and tension, my indraft spray painted
to compliment my environs, however
Diablo whips my use-value to size

 

 

 

                    500 years
                    recalls me
                    to my love
                    Franciscan
                    encamped at
                    one end and
                    then the
                    other end

 

 

 

Advocate for wind energy, I charter
a well-featured woman outside my rank
but sleep on my own crooked arm, safe in
the headlands from eddying breath, think bike-
lane is birth-lane, my memory of failing
as oar-man beckoned and destroyed by
this canticle of the sun morning

Chain of signifiers, those men who kissed me
then took their lives along an inland sea
there, I’ll read again, an act of commemoration
primal community-scan, a butch parable
theater of the absurd, and its double
if the junk fits, and burns blue, flame it
in a cloud, store the sail, swear
by the Savannah, after noon

Five blisters, five wounds of St. Francis
and some eye disease, imagine fair trade
of stigmata for infection, some truth
to be tortured out, blood as ready-made
a pieced together habit under a vitrine

 

 

 

                    few summits
                    without hermitage
                    past slogans
                    awoke all the arts
                    little city
                    have sympathy
                    this year
                    those whose
                    addresses
                    are never near

 

 

 

Do the dream-work, you’re down someone —
night urges passage, habit of wearing
a blue knit hat at odd temperatures
so you know who the stevedores are
my emotionally relevant cue, in fact
nothing explains my arousal

The soles of this good boot will outlast
new alliance, do you dump a palliative
white powder on my face? I do when there
is no such ingenuity, or touch up crew
take a rubbing of plaques, thought crime
of dropping a satchel of paper ash

Engineer whose passion was
poetry, his passage “the task was done”
Chrysopylae, I have my true
appointment, sweet little place
on Pineapple, acceded to it, shuttling
in the amplitude of time, see it cordoned
and make like shoals of fish —
the purpose, green eye shadow, a crown,
to kiss the ground, one shore beyond desire
                   

                    to merge
                    and
                    with what

 

– Written after the “Ave Maria” section of Hart Crane’s The Bridge,
May 5, 2012

 


Stacy Szymaszek is the author of Emptied of All Ships and Hyperglossia, both published by Litmus Press. She is also the author of the chapbooks Pasolini Poems (Cy Press), Orizaba: A Voyage With Hart Crane (Faux Chaps), and the forthcoming austerity measures (Fewer & Further Press), among many others. She is the artistic director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, and she lives in Brooklyn, about two miles from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Willard E. Worden: Ships on the Bay, Golden Gate

Willard E. Worden, Ships on the Bay, Golden Gate, 1904; gelatin silver print; Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Robert Harshorn Shimshak

Hughen/Starkweather: Traverse IV

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, Open Space commissioned a number of new posts from artists and writers. Hughen/Starkweather have spent three years investigating the environmental, financial, historical, and political intricacies of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, and their ongoing series of artworks Approach, Transition, Touchdown attempts to reflect the complexities of that monumental structure. Open Space invited them to turn their attention momentarily to the Golden Gate Bridge, and they created five new works for the occasion.

Hughen/Starkweather, Traverse 4, 2012. Click image for larger view.

 

 

 

 

 

Hughen/Starkweather create collaborative artworks that explore the layers, complexities, and patterns that comprise a specific place. They research a location using current and historic photographs, maps, data, and personal interviews. The resulting artworks map the unique forms derived from the built systems and natural movements of a place. Their work has been included in Cartographic Imagination: Mapping in Contemporary California Art at San Francisco State University, among other exhibitions, and commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission for the Art on Market Street program. They were artists-in-residence at Oxbow (Calif.) in 2010. The artists have been collaborating since 2006, and live and work in San Francisco.

Iain Baxter: Golden Gate Bridge, from the series Reflected San Francisco Beauty Spots

Iain Baxter (now IAIN BAXTER&), _Golden Gate Bridge_, from the series _Reflected San Francisco Beauty Spots_, 1979; photo-etching and aquatint; Collection SFMOMA, Purchase with the aid of funds from the Ruth and Moses Lasky Fund and the Byron R. Meyer Fund; © Iain Baxter&

Seventies Action: Bridge Cameos

Richard Kamler, An Ecological Closure, 1982; photocollage of temporary installation

Anniversaries serve not only as occasions for community celebration, but as a good excuse to show or commission artists. Take the America 1976 exhibition tour organized by the Department of Interior for the U.S. bicentennial. As SFMOMA was the seventh venue for this predominantly landscape painting show, I imagine it threatened to be a rather boring curatorial prospect. Curators Suzanne Foley and Rolando Castellón each smartly used it, though, as an occasion to produce offsite installations and outdoor events by a handful of Bay Area artists who were working in the environment and largely hadn’t been shown by the museum before. Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock Reynolds’s nonfunctional extensions to the existing exercise parcourse directly related to framing the view of the Bridge and inserting one’s body within it. The SFMOMA series remains an important precedent for our offsite commissions.

In the images below of various performance interventions and sponsored installations, the bridge plays more of a supporting than a starring role, to current and former Bay Area artists: Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock Reynolds, Vince Grippi and Peter Richards, Richard Kamler, Peter d’Agostino, Jill Scott, and Bonnie Ora Sherk.

Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock Reynolds, Three Over Par, 1977, sponsored by SFMOMA

“The work was sited along the Golden Gate Promenade located in the Golden Gate Recreation Area near the Coast Guard Station at the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s popular with strollers, joggers, and photographers. Already built into this landscape was a fitness parcourse with structures labeled for particular exercises (vaulting, chin-ups, etc.) with intervals for jogging between exercise stations. We built three more stations extending west from the furthest official station. These Three Over Par structures were built of the same redwood beam materials as the fitness stations; however, offered no instructions for use.”

Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock Reynolds: Photographs and Documents, 1975–1985

 

 

Vince Grippi and Peter Richards, Sky and Water, Fort Point, September 30, 1978, 1978; sponsored by 80 Langton Street, San Francisco

“We completed a series of experimental light sculptures in the late ’70s that engaged the intersection between water and air. Our interest lay in the relationship between the dynamics of these two liquid forms. Tides, currents, and waves on one side and the movement of the winds and their invisible turbulence on the other. Using chemi-luminescent lights, floating on the surface of the water and/or held aloft by helium balloons, these beacons acted as movement tracers whose personalities reflected the conditions of the night.

The work at Fort Point was designed to respond to an eddy formed by the flow of the incoming tide. We had discovered that at this site, the water actually flowed out through the Golden Gate when the tide was rising and water was coming into the Bay. We used this phenomenon to create a work that was flowing with the water and wind at the beginning of the cycle and then spun around 180 degrees when the eddy formed.”

– email from Peter Richards

 

Richard Kamler, An Ecological Closure, 1982; photocollage of temporary installation

“The pyramid seems appropriate for a number of reasons: 1) the communal aspect involved with their construction (I have long felt that it is within the context of a shared task that a community is formed); 2) it is a symbol of solidity and aspiration that crosses cultural boundaries; 3) the clarity and simplicity of its shape allows all people to relate to it equally; 4) it is a welcoming image for the King Tut exhibit currently touring the U.S. and scheduled for San Francisco next year.”

– Richard Kamler, excerpt from The Moving Pyramid project (1979) proposal statement, SFMOMA Research Library

 

Peter d’Agostino, PASSAGE (announcement card, composite stills), 1974–75, sponsored by the Floating Museum

“The PASSAGES video performance/installations at Fort Point (Dec 1974 and Nov 1975) were composed of live and recorded images and sounds juxtaposing my walks with those of the participants walking through the fort. Video monitors located throughout the corridors temporarily lit the darkened spaces with images of the surrounding landscape and sounds of the ocean hitting the breakers under the Golden Gate Bridge.”

– email from Peter d’Agostino

 

Jill Scott, Strung, 1975

“I climbed up the steel pylons of the Golden Gate Bridge with a male assistant. As climbing the bridge is illegal we had to be careful we were not seen. The assistant then tied me to one of the girders and descended. At sunset, four security guards from the headquarters arrived on top of the bridge as someone had reported seeing a figure tied there. With a megaphone they yelled: “Come down or you will be arrested for attempted suicide.” The assistant them climbed up and cut me out of the string with a knife. It took us two hours to convince the officials that this action was ‘only’ an artwork.”

– Jill Scott, Coded Characters: Media Art by Jill Scott

 

Bonnie Sherk, Sitting Still II, November 1970; photo: Robert Campbell, courtesy SFMOMA Archives and Research Library

“After Sitting Still I in the water I took the idea of the seated human figure to different city environments. I brought a chair with me to street corners in different neighborhoods, including the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bank of America Plaza, and also to different cages at the zoo. At that time I was feeling very much like an object on view, and the pieces were about female isolation and loneliness and were very personal expressions, although they didn’t necessarily appear to be that way. On an obvious level I was exploring how a seated human figure can transform an environment.”

– Bonnie Sherk, interview in High Performance, Fall 1981

 

Zina Al-Shukri: A Portrait

Early draft of my portrait by Zina Al-Shukri.

When our pictures are taken we want to look good. And when we don’t look good, we cringe. I’m thinking of the ubiquitous profile pic on Facebook where the camera is set extremely high and pointing downwards so the person’s eyes look huge, their face thin and elongated with a pointy chin, no problematic neck; if shoulders appear, they’re teeny, like a cartoon character’s. People post such distortions because they want to look good.  And last February, when I sat on Zina Al-Shukri’s couch in her Dogpatch studio as she painted my portrait, I was afraid of having to stare at this image of myself for three or four hours as it slowly emerged in gouache.  What if I looked ugly — would I be able to survive that intense immersion in my own ugliness. What I learned from going through this process with Zina, through seeing my face through her eyes, is that beauty has nothing to do with prettiness or Grecian proportions. Beauty is about planes and angles and their surprising interactions.

I’d take a break from my portrait and stare out the wall of windows in Zina’s studio at an azure sky with dramatic white clouds and a pale nearly full moon. As the day wore on, the blue of the sky gradually darkened and the moon grew brighter and brighter, and Zina kept marveling at the shapes she was seeing in my face. By the time evening arrived it no longer mattered if my image was attractive or not. My face looked alive to me, a pattern of interesting alignments. Zina painted me with two different eyes — one eye is tender, the other stern — a tense contradiction that excited her. She said that a portrait is about a process of vision, that what ends up on paper is a map or sketch of an interaction, and thus both eyes are accurate reflections of her shifting perceptions of me.

Completed portrait. Photo by Zina Al-Shukri.

At a party recently, I was telling artist Kathleen Frumkin and her husband, linguist George Lakoff, about sitting for Zina. “Would you like to see my portrait?” I eagerly asked, and before they could answer I’d whipped out my iPhone, opened a photo of the painting, and thrust it at them, the way people do family snapshots. In the image I look matronly and imposing, like Gertrude Stein. “I didn’t even have to sit still,” I said. “Zina said movement was good.” Kathleen and George oohed and ahhed, and Kathleen said, “It’s a gift to be able to look at a person for that long. We don’t get to look at people, really look, very often.” I can’t quit thinking about Kathleen’s comment. Who do we get to look at, really look at — lovers, pets, children. If we don’t keep our curiosity under control, people give us looks for staring. Riding Muni, I sometimes want to drink in fellow commuters, the way even the most self-contained can wear their vulnerability on their sleeves. I watch a young woman who has a face too mature for her age; she’s one of those people who never looked like a child. I imagine her in a grade school group photo, the miniature adult amidst a bevy of children. She’s attractive, sitting on the edge of her seat talking with two guys in their 20s, cute hip guys I skim over. I remember approaching this guy on Van Ness — this was several years ago — and he locked eyes with me, his gaze so penetrating it was impossible to break. It was like a horror film, the sky darkening and the guy’s eyes glowing like uranium. He didn’t say a word to me, but as I scurried past him, my heart was wildly pounding.

Zina Al-Shukri painting my portrait.

To look, to really look at somebody — my portrait is part of a series Zina is doing of writers. Others she’s completed thus far are Kevin Killian, Cooley Windsor, James Bradley, and Mark Van Proyen. When the portraits are shown, a video of the writer reading his or her work will be projected over each portrait. Zina purposely is keeping the painted mouths a little vague so the projected mouths will show up more clearly. Painting a portrait from life is the narration of a relationship. As I sat cross-legged on her couch, I stared at Zina as much as she stared at me. I saw a tall, stunning dark-haired woman, who was bold and impulsive. I found her charming and confrontational, and a bit scary. She told me her life story as she painted me, occasionally complaining how talking about herself was distracting her from the portrait, like it was my fault she was pouring herself out to me when the process was supposed to be about her taking me in. Much of what she told me — even though we only knew one another from art opening chitchat — I wouldn’t dare to repeat in print, it was that intimate or scandalous — the only realm of interaction I feel truly comfortable in. I may be bad at dinner party repartee, but I’m the type of person to whom straight guys will confess the blowjobs they’ve gotten from other guys — so Zina and I shared that no bullshit here we are, we really are attitude.

Zina at the February 25 opening of her first solo show, at Adobe Books.

Zina said that sometimes it takes a lot of nerve to confront the material we were dealt with in life. She was born in Iraq in 1978. When she was five, she and her mother snuck out of the country, fleeing the Ba-ath Party. “Saddam was killing off each of my family members one by one.” In the States, Zina’s family moved a lot; her parents, both geophysicists, held various academic and research positions in the Midwest and the South. In 2006 Zina relocated to San Francisco, eventually enrolling at CCA, where she met her husband, Justin Carl Hurty, and earned her MFA in painting and drawing in 2009. Zina’s relationship to body and the figure is in response to an intimate relationship to mortality. When she was 15 her 5-year-old brother died of leukemia. He was ill for two years. Zina described in detail his slow, horrific decline. And then there’s her relations in Iraq who were killed or who witnessed other deaths. At a recent family gathering an uncle told of helping an old couple who were caught in a bomb pick up their blown-off fingers. Zina said that once you encounter mortality, it changes your art, for you see the body as meat. Repeatedly she referred to the “meatiness” of the body. In the future she plans to push her art towards more directly addressing the politics of mortality.

Zina videoing me reading my work.

A week later I returned to Zina’s studio, again driving past dilapidated warehouses, chain link fences, and a metal scrap yard to the gravel parking lot behind her building. Zina had been intending to fill in background details, but when I arrived she said to do so would have meant getting rid of the drips that fell onto my shoulders and face. She said she couldn’t bear to lose the drips, that to change anything would be risking adding “untrue elements” to the painting. Throughout the process she was very much concerned with telling the truth in my portrait. During our first meeting I was more reticent than Zina, a bit stiff, due to feeling overwhelmed and burnt out from other commitments, and that’s reflected in the portrait. Zina said she showed my portrait to a friend who said I looked very intense and contained. I’m convinced that if she painted me on my second visit, when we were drinking Malbec and shooting the shit, the portrait would have a totally different energy, more relaxed, open. Digging through portraits of Zina’s friends that were stacked on the floor, I noticed how many of their bodies bled into the background. I wonder if she’d painted me that second visit, if my openness to her would have resulted in a meatiness that burst the confines of its outlines, excitedly reaching out.

Reissues

Several times a year we reissue a suite of articles from the archive, which is rich, deep, and various.

75 Reasons to Live

Organized by Suzanne Stein + Dominic Willsdon

Remember the end of Manhattan, when Woody Allen asks himself what makes life worth living? (“Groucho Marx, Willie Mays… Swedish movies…those incredible apples and pears by Cézanne…”) In celebration of SFMOMA’s 75th anniversary in January 2010, Dominic Willsdon & Suzanne Stein invited 75 people from the Bay Area creative community to give extremely short talks—7.5 minutes or less—on a single collection work they cared about. The talks took place during the museum’s three-day celebratory weekend: two at a time, every half hour, 25 a day (a single to close out each day.)

Proposal for a Museum

Organized by grupa o.k.

In 2013, SFMOMA announced its ambitious expansion project. As a means of reflecting on its then-impending closure, grupa o.k. asked several friends and colleagues to imagine their own proposals for a museum in San Francisco.

Pop-Up Poets

Organized by Samantha Giles + Small Press Traffic

Inspired by The Steins Collect and organized by Samantha Giles of Small Press Traffic and Suzanne Stein, this series of readings honored poet Gertrude Stein and her relationships with the visual artists of her day. Each Thursday evening, a contemporary poet presented a reading, performance, or talk on a single artist or artwork on view.