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. Democracies for example don’t encourage luxury in their voting booths. They’re spare, even severe, for if they were pleasant people would want to stay in there longer and, what’s worse, more people would want to vote.