The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) opens its doors at 8 pm Friday, February 4 for the debut of a new contemporary art series called the Oakland Standard. Admission is free. Tag Team Talks with Mary Roach, Walter Kitundu, Novella Carpenter, Jerome Waag, Tammy Rae Carland, and Wajahat Ali start at 8 pm, Turf Feinz will perform at 9:30, leading into DJ Mia Moretti’s California dance party at 10:00.

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, January 28th, 2011]

The New York Times reports that yesterday that, in a surprise move, crews with bulldozers tore down the newly-constructed Shanghai studio of internationally-known artist Ai Weiwei. The government has been escalating persecution of Ai following his statements in support of imprisoned Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Ai, who was once regarded as the public figure who proved the Chinese government’s increasing openness to free speech, was reported as saying he must now regard the studio as a performance piece.

- Meredith Tromble [Wednesday, January 12th, 2011]

It is with bittersweet nostalgia that I reminisce about the first wave of culture wars unleashed by the exact same usual and deplorable suspects 22 years ago on the likes of Mapplethorpe (whose body was still warm), Frank Moore (whose physical state as a CP quadriplegic was never entered into the congressional record although his name was), Karen Finley, Annie Sprinkle, et al; and any institution that dared show them. Now a combination of Republicans flexing their newly endowed muscle and administrative cowardice has revived those horrid times with the yanking of a video and threatens to go even further in decimating free speech and public art funding in America.

Many institutions around the Bay Area have shown excerpts from the cause célèbre work and latest target of the Conservative Movement’s contempt and wrath A Fire in My Belly by the late David Wojnarowicz. SFMOMA will be screening the full 13-minute version of the video - shot on Super 8 film in 1986/87 - on January 4th, to be followed by a discussion including Rudy Lemcke (artist), SFMOMA curators Rudolf Frieling and Dominic Willsdon and others.

The piece is a thoughtful and pained meditation on manhood, sickness and being an American in a xenophobic foreign land, an unnamed Mexican boarder town. Bristling sensitivity to myth and pop culture is the main character. All of Wojnarowicz’s themes: death, nihilism, mysticism, sexual tension are represented in graphic simplicity though detached but keen photography and ingenious montage. And not a genuinely shocking or disturbing moment to be found. Just heartbreaking poetics.

Oh, to be able to ask one of these defenders of Christianity whether they would rather their child see ants on a plastic Jesus or the much lauded snuff film The Passion of The Christ?

Here we go again.

January 4th, Phyllis Wattis Theater
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. 
Free and open to the public

- Dale Hoyt [Tuesday, December 28th, 2010]

State-run and curated by Fan Di’An, Li Lei, Gao Shiming (for the first time, all Chinese nationals), the 2010 Shanghai Biennale’s theme is “Rehearsal.”  Much of the work makes transparent the art of exhibition/performance and the creative process.  At the Shanghai Art Museum, there are 52 individual artists and artists’ groups/collectives from about 21 countries, the largest group (19) predictably, from China, 18 from Europe, and 10 from other Asian countries.  The remaining are from Australia, Cuba, and the United States (surprisingly only from the East Coast given the West Coast’s proximity and Shanghai’s sister city status with San Francisco).  In the short time I was there, the stand-outs for me were sculptures by Mu Boyan, particularly from his Fat series (reminiscent of Lisa Yuskavage, but taken to an entirely different level), the paintings by Liu Xiaodong, along with supplemental materials of how they were created, and the painting installations, a unique way of presenting painted canvases, attempting to capture how media images absorb us, by MadeIn (CEO: Xu Zhen).

The Shanghai Biennale closes January 23, 2011 at the Shanghai Art Museum in People’s Park and includes off-site venues (at 128 West Nanjing Road and 79 & 107 South Suzhou Road) for Place – Time – Play: India-China Contemporary Art Exhibition.

- Allegra Fortunati [Wednesday, December 1st, 2010]

Big fun this evening at the preview opening for Stephanie Syjuco’s Shadowshop. Filled with goodies from hundreds of bay area artists, Syjuco’s pop-up shop in the SFMOMA fifth floor gallery offers affordable access to a wide inventory of local creative products with 100 percent of the sales going directly back to the artists. Support local artists and get an early start on your holiday shopping! Shadowshop is presented in conjunction with the SFMOMA exhibition “The More Things Change” and is open to the public November 20, 2010 thru May 1, 2011 during regular museum hours. (above - Stephanie Syjuco shows Todd+Audrey+Owen Hido’s prints to a prospective customer.)

The crowd gathers to check out the wares.

Liz Hickok’s gelatinous landmarks.

- David Lawrence [Friday, November 19th, 2010]


“Artists supporting artists” is the motto Squeak Carnwath and Viola Frey chose for the Artist Legacy Foundation when they started it in 2000. At Frey’s death, her estate passed to the Foundation to jump-start no-strings-attached awards to painters or sculptors selected by their peers. Yesterday the fourth annual award went to sculptor John Outterbridge, who was chosen by a jury comprised of sculptor Mildred Howard, critic Barbara MacAdam, and sculptor and writer Robert Taplin from a pool of ten artists nominated by five anonymous invitees. The work pictured above, Ragged Bar Code, exemplifies the agile use of found objects for which Outterbridge is known.  The artist’s soft voice could barely be heard as he spoke to the crowd of his colleagues gathered for the occasion in Carnwath’s Oakland loft, but his words rode a tide of good feeling that was audible enough.

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, October 12th, 2010]

From the editors