Posts archive: May 2003

For the first time Yale’s MFA photography program had their thesis exhibit in New York. The show, which was about half of what was shown in New Haven, felt flat and predictable. Most of the work fit into the so-called “Yale style” of rigorously composed color pictures. There were some strong images, and the lack of Gregory Crewdson-esque theatrics was a nice surprise. However, for what is supposed to be the best photo program in the country the show was surprisingly dull.

Up in Chelsea, the stylish haircut crowd swarmed to Mer Danluck’s solo show at Andrew Kreps Gallery. The work is a group of paintings, sculpture, video and a sort of geodesic structure. It’s very of-the-moment in that adolescent/rock style that is so popular these days. Like much of this work though, it’s pretty forgettable.

- Asha Schechter [Friday, May 30th, 2003]

Last weekend I participated in the fourth of a monthly series of events titled “go create resistance.” This month we resisted the constriction of our public space. Afternoon excursions through Hamburg addressed principles of inclusion and exclusion which define private and public space nowadays (to the tune of gentrification, racism, security concerns, commercialization, globalization). Performance-oriented evening acts included Urbane Panik, who choreographed ballet moves in its Lab for Public and Private Security, and danced afterwards with participants in Hamburg’s Central Station in protest of increasing surveillance and policing of public spaces. The Hamburg ShortFilm Agency presented the late show, A Wall is a Screen, a selection of short films projected on buildings in Hamburg’s downtown district. Radio Group Ligna, the Independent Media Center, and a handful of volunteer bike couriers were also on hand to help raise questions about and scavenge for public space in Hamburg.

—Jessica Goodson

- Jeannine McDonald [Thursday, May 29th, 2003]

West Coast visual artists, whose work demonstrates high artistic merit for 20 years or more, are invited to apply for the 4th biennial Flintridge Foundation Awards. Five mature artists from California and five from Oregon/Washington will be selected by separate regional panels to receive unrestricted grants of $25,000 each. Applicants must work in the visual arts disciplines (fine arts, crafts, performance and media work based in the visual arts traditions) and have lived at least nine months per year in California, Oregon or Washington for the past three years. The Awards are intended to encourage artists who do not have current national renown.

- Meredith Tromble [Wednesday, May 28th, 2003]

If you missed the fashion show by Mr. Jonathan of San Francisco at ">Blackbird Space, you might consider keeping a lookout for more of his runway work. Showcased in the evening after the “Boutique” sale of useable art curated by Stephanie Syjuco and Rebecca Miller, the show highlighted the styles of Climax, a design label from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Artificial fabrics in an assaultive array of acid acrylic/Quianna colors swathed models of all shapes & sizes, advancing in waves of carefully choreographed combinations. Like great painting, the experience was deliciously varied and mesmerizingly repetitive; an exhilarating catharsis as years of my fashionista conditioning were seriously disturbed. (Mr. Jonathan looked suspiciously like Jonathan Fogel of a.o.v. gallery.)

- Cheryl Meeker [Sunday, May 25th, 2003]

So what’s the word on the new DIA: Beacon, the world’s largest museum of contemporary art, after its first week in action? “Stunning synchronicity,” says the Baltimore Sun. “Big,” says the LA Times. Stretcher readers: anyone care to comment? Mail us at

- Meredith Tromble [Saturday, May 24th, 2003]

More reasons to make time for the San Francisco Art Institute MFA show this weekend: Ian Treasure’s suspended flock of motorized scissors, clacking away like lo-tech cy-birds; Lisa Rinn’s suspended flock of jellyfish, Explosion; Pablo D’Antoni’s highly concentrated paintings of a fantastic puppet theater; Michelle Mansour’s blistered abstractions; Josephine Taylor’s delicate, creepy ink drawings; and Hee Jung Kim’s crumpled paper grotto. Open 12 -6 pm, through Sunday at the Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason.

- Meredith Tromble [Saturday, May 24th, 2003]

The evidence in a case filed in Belgium charging Tommy Franks and the US military with war crimes shows with graphic clarity your tax dollars hard at work.

- Ed Osborn [Thursday, May 22nd, 2003]

Read what Glen Helfand has to say about Bay Area MFA show action.

- Ella Delaney [Thursday, May 22nd, 2003]

Posting live from the Bay to Breakers race denouement, one wonders: Where is Roland Barthes when you need him to deconstruct a mass spectacle for you. There were more Huns than I have ever seen in my life. The conquering hoards wore the furry hats with the big horns, and drove a huge Nordic cardboard ship, complete with one barbarian wearing the US colonial flag. Other more Dadaist impulses ran rampant as usual, including lots of alligators on the backs of runners, and the requisite zillions of Elvi. We had our own personal spectacle as my husband stood up to a group ridiculing the French- as they ran the race backwards impersonating the French army. Our local garage band finished their set with an incendiary and somehow uncanny version of “This May be the Last Time.” My favorite signs: “Tastes Great!” and “Pave the Bay!”

- Cheryl Meeker [Sunday, May 18th, 2003]

says author Douglas Rushkoff, speaking about the social impact of blogging. What happens when personal publishing gets a little too personal? Read more in Dating A Blogger (New York Times free registration required).

- David Lawrence [Saturday, May 17th, 2003]

In a 51-49 vote late last night, the Senate approved an elitist tax cut of $350 billion through 2013. In addition, the stock dividend tax will be cut in half, making the burden of the military industrial complex fall even more heavily on the poor and the dwindling middle class. VP Dick Cheney cast the tie-breaking vote. Try to look past the new big terror story to find this in your newspaper or newsite.

- Cheryl Meeker [Friday, May 16th, 2003]

Jon Mikel Euba’s solo exhibition, K.Y.D. KILL’EM ALL, at Fundació Antoni Tàpies features three screens of dead or paralyzed bodies in and around a car abandoned in the woods. Unidentified hands roll one body for cash, but other than that only sign of life visible in the shaky, handheld shots is a cat curled in the lap of one of the bodies. The narrative never opens or resolves, but the site of the scene in the hills surrounding Bilbao references the ongoing conflicts in the Basque Country and anchors the considerable tension in the piece to a living history that has produced numerous scenes such as this.

On a different note, an informal survey of local record stores shows that Barcelona appears to have the highest per-capita count of Leo Sayer and Night Ranger recordings anywhere on the planet. It probably has something to do with an alarming flyer I found there bearing announcements for upcoming concerts by Camel, Thin Lizzy, Dokken, and Faster Pussycat. There are certainly worse places for aging rock stars to wash up, but still the thought of Barcelona becoming the Marin County of Europe is a bit unsettling.

- Ed Osborn [Friday, May 16th, 2003]

Maxwell Anderson, the director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, has">resigned, citing disappointment over the Board’s decision to abandon plans for a new building designed by Rem Koolhaas.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, May 15th, 2003]

Two life-size bronze sculptures of great cats by Los Angeles artist Gwynn Murrill, Cougar III (pictured) and Tiger 2, now prowl the entry plaza of the San Francisco Zoo. A new interactive environmental installation at the Zoo, Split Mound, by Southern California artists Barbara McCarren and Jud Fine, was also dedicated as part of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s “Sculpture in the City” program. Other public sculptures to be dedicated in 2003 include work at Union Square, San Francisco International Airport, Moscone Center West, Fillmore Street Bridge at Geary Boulevard, and the Embarcadero.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, May 15th, 2003]

Y’all saw the Abraham Lincoln Top Gun Photo Op with Bush? If you want to be even more unnerved, take a quick look at Triumph of the Will. The whole spectacle was taken straight from the Leni Riefenstahl school of propaganda filmmaking. You had the great leader descending from the sky like a Wagnarian deity, you had the overly long walk to the podium to create max tension and awe…its all there. If Bush wants to stop being compared to Hitler he should stop acting like the fellow, n’est pas?

- Dale Hoyt [Friday, May 9th, 2003]

Steve Dietz, the highly-respected new media curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, is among the employees whose positions have been cut as the Walker retrenches due to financial difficulties.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, May 8th, 2003]

will be held at 6:00 tomorrow evening, Thursday, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission San Francisco. Among the appreciations of Ella that have been shared following her untimely death was this one from Leah Levy, independent curator and trustee of Jay DeFeo’s estate: “We were just beginning the restoration of DeFeo’s painting The Rose, which because of its fragility had been walled up in a seminar room at SFAI for decades, when Ella became President of the school. Even though she came from the East Coast, where DeFeo was not well known, she immediately understood the importance of the project. She was open, enthusiastic, and threw herself into helping us through the very complicated process of rescuing The Rose. We couldn’t have done it without her.”

For more remembrances of Ella, see San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times.

- Meredith Tromble [Wednesday, May 7th, 2003]

Every so often an optimist asserts that LA is now the center of the art world. Here’s Louise Roug making the case.

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, May 6th, 2003]

Don’t miss the Mills MFA Exhibition, up through May 25 at the Mills Museum. This is not student work; overall the art is confident and mature, with more bite than bark. One of many highlights: Rosana Castrillo Diaz’s barely-there, shivering net of white paper tape.

- Meredith Tromble [Monday, May 5th, 2003]

in the neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Prenzlauerberg. Attempts to thwart the inevitable chaos in the former neighborhood by having a day-long street festival continue into the evening hours came undone at around 8pm when a group of (punks? anarchists? opportunists? let’s just call them rock-throwers and car-smashers) rock-throwers and car-smashers started throwing rocks and smashing cars on Mariannenstrasse. By 8:30, with the police having moved in, the cars were on fire and any hope of continuing the official festivities was gone.

With a friend I moved closer to the action to see what was going on firsthand. From where we were it seemed as if the police were only trying to move people away from the burning cars, not engage in any direct confrontation. The standoff was punctuated by quick waves of panic that moved through the crowd when one or more people near the front would bolt a few steps back. Eventually we made our way to the park at Mariannenplatz where part of the street festival was taking place. When we got there bands were still playing, but it was only a few minutes before the organizers gave the order to strike the stages.

My studio at Künstlerhaus Bethanien is in a large building that sits in the middle of this park. Every year the park turns into confrontation zone and as a result it is quite easy to plan my work and riot-viewing schedules. It also means that I can duck into the studio building if the action gets a little too close for comfort. This year it didn’t take long for the battles to move the two blocks from where they started to the park in front of the building. As the stage crews hastily bundled everything they could into the entrance hall of the building we stood outside near the main doorway and watched as fires were lit and put out, police moved in groups one way and another, and various black-clad rock-throwers and car-smashers ran in all directions through the park and along the adjacent streets. We didn’t want to get caught in the action, but we didn’t want to be too far away from it either. Actually for a while we didn’t have much of a choice as police had surrounded the entire park before identifying the areas of densest activity. I couldn’t decide whether being an adrenaline-soaked violence voyeur was any worse than being any other kind of voyeur, but at that moment it didn’t much matter since the nervousness of the crowd and uncertainty of the whole situation was by itself quite addictive.

When things threatened to get a little too hot we went inside to try and join some people we had seen watching from the roof of the building. In the time that I’ve been at Bethanien I had never been up on the roof, but there was obviously a way. After searching around the upper floors for fifteen minutes we encountered a man I had not before seen in the building. A brief inquiry if he knew the way to the roof revealed that he was with the police and they were not too keen on having any unknown visitors up there with them. He didn’t say so, but it was pretty obvious that he had been looking for us as well. Suitably warned off, we went back downstairs and found that the center of the action had moved about a block away, and several burning cars could be seen at one intersection. (Note to the motorists of Kreuzberg: this happens in the same place on the same day at almost exactly the same time every year. Why do you still leave your cars parked here on May Day? Are you hoping for insurance money? Or do you move them only to have substitutes parked there by agents for Haliburton and Telekom? I don’t even want to think about that scenario.)

By 10pm it seemed that the situation had eased up a bit and we made our departure by an advised route around the back of the building. Even so, I was a little reluctant to leave, as I thought I had had just the slightest taste of the sensations that Bill Buford described from his experiences in the middle of English soccer riots:

“Violence is one of the most intensely lived experiences and… one of the most intense pleasures… I felt, as the group passed over its metaphorical cliff, that I had literally become weightless… what was it like for me? An experience of absolute completeness.”

By 11pm it was all over and by this morning everything was cleaned up, with only a few smashed windows and fire scars on the streets left to show for another May Day festival gone bad. The thrown rocks were busily being pounded back into the pavement from which they were dug up yesterday: the rebuilt ground a sea of ammunition being readied for next year. And there will be a next year. Stages full of miserable bands and an endless supply of bratwurst won’t do a thing to combat the urge for a handful of people to temporarily breach the social order to bring on the fleeting weightlessness of adrenaline and danger.

It’s no different than as a kid asking your parents to get you Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em Robots. They wouldn’t want to because it was clear that the toy would break after about ten seconds of use. They were right, of course, but what they never understood was that it is a really great ten seconds. So every year, as long as there is a chance, a few people brave or foolhardy enough to do so will try to stretch that ten seconds into a few delirious hours no matter the consequences. And every year when people ask why this happens, there will be the always-inadequate answer: because it’s possible.

- Ed Osborn [Friday, May 2nd, 2003]

The Guggenheim Museum announced plans for new museum in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. Although the Guggenheim’s plans for a new Frank Gehry building in New York are on hold due to the glum American economy, the new project will proceed with financing from the city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio is betting $130 million that the new Guggenheim will bring some sparkle to the city’s tattered waterfront district.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, May 1st, 2003]

Stretcher was saddened to learn arts administrator Ella King Torrey has died, almost a year to the day following her resignation as President of the San Francisco Art Institute in 2002. Early reports attribute the cause of death to suicide. Torrey, who ran the Artists Fellowship Program of the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia before coming to California in 1995, was also a serious collector of folk art and the co-author of several scholarly articles on quilts.

- David Lawrence [Thursday, May 1st, 2003]

From the editors