Posts: Bay Area

It's been a little over a month since the annual art fairs all returned to San Francisco on a single weekend. This year there were just two art fairs instead of three: ArtPadSF was once again at the Phoenix Hotel, and an expanded artMRKT took over the Fort Mason exhibition center. Consolidating to two fairs at once seems more reasonable. Not only is it less overwhelming for attendees, but the shakeout has left a strong dichotomy between the two. artMRKT is an international art fair in San Francisco, while ArtPadSF is a "San Francisco Art Fair."  The latter is very intimately tied to the character of the city and specifically to the surrounding neighborhood, with the exhibitors in hotel rooms around the central pool, surrounded by the buildings of San Francisco's Downtown/Tenderloin neighborhood.  

One of the implied themes of ArtPadSF was art at all levels of the event, from the city setting, to the architecture and vibe of the Phoenix Hotel, the exhibitors' use of the hotel rooms, and finally to the works of art themselves.  At the city level, a video installation by Andrew Benson entitled Shine Bright Plastic Diamonds projected on the wall of a nearby building, putting the art back into the surrounding neighborhood. The pool acted a centerpiece for performances, such as the Tsunami Synchro synchronized swimming team.

The hotel rooms can be challenging spaces for exhibiting art, but some galleries were quite creative in their presentations. Notably, McLoughlin Gallery turned the centerpiece of Cristobal Valecillos' recent solo exhibition American Family into a custom entrance to their hotel room. Visitors walked through the entryway, constructed entirely of cardboard, to enter the interior of the room which featured Valecillos' portraits.


Overall, ArtPadSF tends to have a higher concentration of quirkier and edgier works on display each year. Longtime presenters Marx & Zavattero introduced mix-media pieces by David Hevel that were fun and unusual in their textual coarseness for an art fair.


Non-standard materials seemed to be a focus in much of the art on display.   It is not every day that one encounters artwork made entirely from trailer rubble, but this is precisely the source of Elizabeth Dorbad's pieces presented by Unspeakable Projects.


On the other end of the scale for source material and finished product, artist Andrea Patrachi repurposed old cameras to make robots in a quirky display presented by Mirus Gallery.


There were also works beyond the traditional physical materials and dimensions, such as a variety of pieces for video and multimedia. One of Oakland's more experimental galleries, Krowswork, made strong use of their space combining projected video and physical media at different angles to create a single immersive experience.  Their presentation included subtle video and sculptural works by Mark Baugh-Sasaki and striking performance videos by Monet Clark.


Source materials even brought in the conceptual, as in Hughen/Starkweather's pieces based on data from architectural plans of the Bay Bridge, presented by Electric Works. Their work featuring architectural precision and analytical elements, but also more organic and liquidy elements that give the art an unexpected sense of warmth.

In keeping with the San-Francisco-centric nature of the exhibitions at ArtPadSF, Electric Works also includes a wall of amusing drawings by local luminary Dave Eggers featuring animals and snarky captions.  Eggers' drawings are an "analog" version of the popular captioned internet photos, but with darker and more subtle humor.


Although a majority of the exhibitors were local, there were still a few galleries from elsewhere.  Beta pictoris gallery / Maus Contemporary came from Birmingham, Alabama, and presented an eclectic mix of two-dimensional and three-dimensional works.  Susanna Starr's aptly named Magenta / Orange  was among the more visually captivating in its simplicity, but also a bit perplexing in its uneven texture and shape, which invites speculation on what it is and how it was made.


The setting and tone for artMRKT were a stark contrast to ArtPadSF which took place at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, a large exhibition hall along the bay. Light and airy, the space provided a blank canvas for the exhibitors and artworks.  


It all seemed quite conventional.  This is not to say that there wasn't unusual or compelling work to be found.  Michelle Pred's trio of red conceptual pieces from Nancy Hoffman gallery stuck out for its combined composition.  


A fun exhibitor that has been at artMRKT for a couple of years is New-Orleans based Red Truck Gallery.  The art they display is difficult to categorize, but tends to fall into a mix of styles that blend traditional craft, found objects and contemporary urban sensibilities.  Their exhibition was larger this year and featured more artists, including graffiti-inspired pieces by Laura Ortiz Vega and glass-encased objects by Jason D'Aqiuno.


The space at the larger fair also opened up opportunities to consider larger works. Joanie Lermercier's "Light Sculpture" pieces from New-York-based Muriel Guepin Gallery featured arrangements of large rectangular prisms (or cuboids) on a human scale along with light projection.  Her pieces also included prints and video.

artMRKT’s international scope meant a broader geographic sampling of galleries than at ArtPadSF. In addition to several exhibitors from New York and Los Angeles, other cities and galleries were represented including Zemack Contemporary Art from Tel Aviv, Israel. Zemack presented Israeli artists in its exhibit, including Angelika Sher.

Closer to home, there were more Oakland galleries present at artMRKT, including Mercury 20 and Chandra Cerrito Contemporary. Mercury 20 featured works from member artists, including Charlie Milgrim.  Chandra Cerrito featured some larger-scale works, including the captivating Ghost in the Machine by Randy Colosky.  Familiar San Francisco galleries such as Stephen Wirtz and Jack Fischer, were also at the fair for the first time.


It was interesting to see that several local galleries that were at ArtPadSF last year, including Mercury 20 and Swarm, moved to artMRKT this year.  It seemed to be a deliberate move to feature Oakland Art Murmur participants as a group at artMRKT, though ArtPadSF officially had this listed in their program as well (but only two galleries were in attendance).

Despite the consolidation, two fairs and over 100 galleries is still an overwhelming amount of art for anyone to take in during one weekend. Now in year three, have Bay Area art fairs established themselves as a viable platform for art-lovers looking to discover new art, as well as galleries attempting to connect with new collectors? Record crowds and decent sales suggest that ArtPad and artMRKT may have finally found their legs. This year's change to fewer fairs, each with distinct focus seems successful. We'll have a better idea if this is a lasting formula when they come around again in 2014.

Below are more photos from both art fairs.

[Photos courtesy of Maw Shein Win, David Lawrence, and Amar Chaudhary]


Narco Venus (Angie) detail (2011), Carolyn Castaño, Walter Maciel Gallery 


Cloud Jars, Rodney Ewing, photos on mason jars filled with water.


Retna New Image Art Gallery.


Blackout 2 (Fruit with Burning Cigarette) (2013), Tim Sullivan, Steven Wolf Fine Arts


Burning House (July, sunset) (2011), Carrie Schneider, moniquemeloche gallery

St. Petersburg, Matthew Picton, durular, enamel paint and pins.  Toomey Turell gallery. 


Wild Grass (2013), Kirk Maxon, Eleanor Harwood Gallery


Richard Bassett, Needpoint pillows.  Jack Fisher Gallery


Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, Chester Arnold, Oil on Linen (78 x 94 inches).  Catherine Clark Gallery.


Float (Orange), Keith W. Bentley, repurposed resin figure, plastic floats, paint, plaster, and steel.

Animalia Chordata, Gabriel Garcia-Columbo, multi-media and videos of 4 and 6 minute loops.  Muriel Guepin Gallery.

Transformation Spectrum (2013), Miya Ando, K Imperial Fine Art

paintings by William Harsh, Vessel Gallery

Bottom 2, Bottom 3 (2012), Adam Parker Smith, Evergold Gallery

Rose Meridian (2011), Cordy Ryman Eli Ridgway Gallery

Obscenity - a version for brotherhood (2010-2013), Taro Hattori, presented by Swarm Gallery

Amar writes regularly about art and music in the Bay Area and blogs at

- Amar Chaudhary [Sunday, July 7th, 2013]

The SOMArts Cultural Center sold over a thousand advance tickets for Saturday evening's Night Light event, a "multimedia garden party" curated by Justin Hoover (with support from Paul Baker and Ryan Wylie of the Free Form Film Festival and Dorothy Santos). That seems remarkable to a viewer who recalls when a South of Market show of new video and performance art might draw an audience of twelve. It seems even more remarkable considering the logistics of such a large and technologically demanding project. The museum-scale, tech-heavy exhibition was too expensive for the Center, whose budget barely rates as shoestring, to keep running for more than an evening. Highlights for those lucky enough to score tickets included the garden walk installation of inventive video feedback works, curated by Free Form; a live collage of film loops by Anna Geyer, and a video painting by Naomie Kremer. 

Image: still from Garden of Forking Paths, Pete Belkin and Philip Benn, 2012, video projection on bamboo 

- Meredith Tromble [Sunday, April 28th, 2013]

Snoop Dogg and Hologram Tupac ain't got nothing on Anne McGuire's awesome performance with her video self this afternoon at SFMOMA. Anne + VideoAnne seamlessly bantered, harmonized and traded leads as they went though a selection of McGuire's greatest hits and classic covers.

Long-time collaborator Wobbly provided musical accompaniment, delighting the packed house with his sonic mutations. All part of the ongoing live performance series happening this summer and fall in conjunction with SFMOMA's Stage Presence exhibition. There's one more matinee show with Anne McGuire tomorrow afternoon, then next week Cliff Hengst takes the stage.

See the SFMOMA website for the full performance schedule. Tickets are free with museum admission, but space is limited so get your tickets early to make sure you get seats.

STAGE PRESENCE - Theatricality in Art and Media
Performance Series
SFMOMA, various dates and times, ongoing through Oct 4, 2012
Free with museum admission

- David Lawrence [Saturday, August 4th, 2012]

It's been about a month since three major art fairs descended on San Francisco all in a single weekend. Bay Area art lovers were overloaded with the grand scale of the San Francisco Fine Art Fair at Fort Mason, the densely packed rows of ArtMRKT at the Concourse, and the quirky poolside hotel rooms of ArtPadSF. Now looking back with the perspective of a few weeks, it was ArtPadSF that stood out most as distinctive and tied to its host city.

ArtPadSF took place at the Phoenix Hotel, a retro motor lodge that feels like it was transplanted from 1960s Southern California into the middle of San Francisco's Tenderloin district, an oasis with a pool and tropical decor wedged among the neighborhood's crowded buildings.

Rather than treating this location as simply a coincidence or a novelty, ArtPadSF fully embraced it. Indeed, during the opening speeches, a major theme was "Art and the Urban Environment". There are many ways to reflect the urban environment: architecture, geometry, street art, music, lifestyle. Many of the artworks on display fit one or more of these aspects. Additionally, there was an effort to connect the show with the surrounding urban community through partnerships with the city and local organizations.

Each participating gallery or organization occupied a hotel room, turning it into an exhibition space. For the most part, this meant emptying the room of its furniture and using it as a small gallery. But many of the participants found inventive ways to make use of the hotel room's features, including closets and the bathrooms.

Perhaps the most original (and conceptual) use of the space was the special project presented by James Mitchell Perley and Elaine Lima. This site-specific piece turned the hotel room into a…hotel room, with the artists filling it with their own furniture and decor selections. But this hotel room was augmented with cameras and video. The interior featured acted scenes portraying the sexual innuendo associated with "hotel rooms" in stark realism. But the true voyeuristic aspect is found on the video screens inside the room, showing visitors interacting with the visuals inside. The piece is a tribute to George Kuchar who passed away last year and was featured in a posthumous retrospective at the San Francisco Art Institute, where Perley and Lima are MFA students.

Galleries that participated in multiple art fairs selected specific artists and works that fit with the urban vibe. For example, the McLoughlin Gallery, which was also at Fort Mason, featured work by ESK (aka Evan Wilson) that takes elements of graffiti and street art and projects them into three dimensions. His mixed-media assemblages use translucent plexiglass panels to make his urban-inspired imagery pop out from the flat surface. He also gives a sense of beauty to imagery and texture often associated with urban decay.

Another direct interpretation of the urban landscape could be found in William Swanson's pieces at Marx & Zavattero. His large and colorful acrylic panels fuse futuristic architecture with the straight lines and geometric shapes of International style and industrial construction sites with natural elements. Despite the bleakness and conflict implied in Swanson's artist statement, these images had a hopeful quality.

Top - <i>Model Community</i>, (2012) Bottom - <i>Alpine Encroachment</i>, (2012) William Swanson 14x20 inch acrylic on panels

Some of the exhibitors geared their offerings towards the cultural rather than the architectural or visual aspects of the urban landscape. Denver-based Carmen Wiedenhoeft presented works by photography Richard Peterson who photographed San Francisco's early punk scene. Here we see images of Bruce Conner, Patti Smith, the Ramones and others.

Zackary Drucker's photographs and video pieces, presented by Los-Angeles-based Luis de Jesus Gallery explored gender and self-identity, and in particular the artist's own transgender identity. Her pieces ranged from pretty to quite provocative. And there is a sense of humor in her work, particularly the self-portrait doormat casually placed at the entrance to the room.

Oliver DiCicco’s kinetic sound sculpture was graceful and architectural in appearance, and its sound and motion was quite captivating. The controls set magnets into motion and generated low rumbly vibrations that grew in volume and intensity over time. This was a piece that required some patience to fully appreciate, but it was worth the wait.

Longtime denizens of the mid-Market neighborhood, the Luggage Store Gallery, were on hand, with samples from their STREETOPIA show along with pieces from previous exhibitions. The Black Rock Art Foundation, who are also based in the same neighborhood, returned this year with photography from Burning Man as well as sculptural and installation works.

Several of our friends from across the bay were represented as well. Mercury 20, an artist-run collective gallery in Oakland's Telegraph Avenue corridor featured works by several of its member artists, including this sculpture by Leah Markos.

Throughout the event, I was pleased to see works like this that would challenge more traditional collectors. Perley and Lima's hotel-room installation was perhaps the most conceptual and challenging for a collection, but there were other exhibitors that did not shy away from showing more conceptual pieces, such as Rose Eken's "Enter Night" at Unspeakable Projects and Willie Cole's assemblages of women's shoes presented by Beta Pictoris from Birmingham, Alabama.

My hope is that these more conceptual works can be part of the "art fair" function of the art fair, pieces seriously considered by collectors who can care for them and share them. Other galleries that did not directly feature art routed in the urban landscape nonetheless presented selections that reflected aspects of it. Toomey Tourell featured several artists including Brian Dettmer whose intricate pieces carved from books suggested complex building from another world or time. This was in sharp contrast to Elizabeth Sher's colored abstract rectangles, which suggested curving modern landscapes. At first glance, the colors dominate the pieces, but then on review and curving shapes come to the forefront.

So what is the purpose of attending an event like ArtPadSF? At its core, it is still an art fair, a business function that provides participating galleries with opportunities for exposure and sales. For visitors, it provides the experience of a large amount of art in a concentrated space. ArtPadSF was smaller than the other fairs, and its scale, inclusion of edgier artwork, poolside setting and urban theme made it a unique experience. However, this is not to say that there was not interesting and different art to see at the larger fairs as well. In the following section, we explore some of the sights of the San Francisco Fine Art Fair and ArtMRKT through images.

[Photos courtesy of Maw Shein Win, David Lawrence, and Amar Chaudhary]


Fear Culture 2, (2011) Michele Pred, 66” x 90”, Airport confiscated items, glass, resin and plexi

Untitled (Sorry) - detail, (2007), Mark Fox, Ink, watercolor, acrylic, marker, gouache, graphite pencil, color pencil, ballpoint pen, crayon, on paper, linen tape, and metal pin, 64x77x 2 inches 

Trophy (2007), Scott Hove, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Polyurethane Foam, 18"x15"x16"

Jeremiah Jenkins occupies ArtMRKT

Nightwatch, Yossi Govrin; Hemp, Cement, Antique Chandelier, 85" x 15" x 15".  Timothy Yarger Fine Art, Beverly Hills, CA.

Mirror Collage #1, (2011) Chul Hyun Ahn, Plywood, florescent lights, frosted glass, mirrors, 25 1/2 x 31 1/2, x 5 1/2

Bryan Cunningham. Red Truck Gallery, New Orleans, LA.

Map of Astrophysics and Cosmology I Want to Hold and be Held by One (2011), Thomas Macker, Type-C Print, 24" x 30".  gallery km, Santa Monica, CA.

Jason Kirk of Axiom Contemporary in front of work by Ricardo Pelaez

Wendi Norris, co-owner of Frey Norris Gallery in front of work by Jagannath Panda

SF Fine Arts Fair

Installation View, SF Fine Arts Fair

Installation View, SF Fine Arts Fair

Charlie Milgrim standing in front of her recent work, Twin Towers

Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Farnaz Shadravan, engraving on porcelain bathtubs

Amar writes regularly about art and music in the Bay Area and blogs at


- Amar Chaudhary [Tuesday, June 26th, 2012]

You have just one more day to see SmARTspace: At the Intersection of Art and Technology, the exhibition conceived by and honoring artist/educator Steven Wilson. Wilson, the author of Information Arts and Art + Science Now!, began planning the exhibition, with work by Jim Campbell, Maggie Orth, Alan Rath, and Gail Wight, before his premature death from bone cancer in January, 2010. Beloved for his generous advocacy for hundreds of artists involved with new technologies, and for his own work, Wilson created a gem of show that deftly suggests the breadth of the field he helped to create. Through Thursday, March 15 at the San Francisco State University Fine Art Gallery.

Image: Installation view, work by Gail Wight (front) and Jim Campbell (back).

- Meredith Tromble [Wednesday, March 14th, 2012]

J.D. Beltran has been appointed by Mayor Ed Lee as the President of the San Francisco Arts Commission, and was sworn in yesterday, March 1, 2012, at City Hall.  Beltran has served on the Arts Commission since 2009, and also served as its Interim Director from July 2011-January 2012.  She has been appointed for a four-year term.

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, March 2nd, 2012]

From the editors