Posts archive: January 2004

Michael Schwager, who curated the Richmond Art Center for a number of years before taking his current position as curator at Sonoma State University, is succeeding long-time curator Richard Reisman as the head select man at the di Rosa Preserve. Schwager will continue as a professor and gallery director at Sonoma State.

- Meredith Tromble [Saturday, January 31st, 2004]

Ned Kahn has been selected as project artist for a plan to beautify part of San Diego’s Embarcadero, an agency with the wonderful name of North Embarcadero Visionary Plan Joint Powers Authority announced today.

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, January 30th, 2004]

at the Rena Bransten Gallery has had me contemplating nuances of desire for weeks, looking for the words to say just why I liked them so much. Then Bill Berkson’s new book, The Sweet Singer of Modernism arrived in the mail. In 1997 he wrote,”[Nagle’s] sculptures’ metaphorical appeal as ritual objects carries, beside their hyper-precise regional inflections, a screwball tinge no celebrant can ignore.” Yeah, like that. What he said. Go see the show—and go get the book. Qua Books, 2003, hot off the press at your finer book stores.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, January 29th, 2004]

British sculptor Rachel Whiteread has been named the 2004 McBean Distinguished Lecturer, the San Francisco Art Institute announced today. Whiteread will be in San Francisco to speak April 29.

- Meredith Tromble [Wednesday, January 28th, 2004]

This week is your last chance to see Ben Wood’s evocative projections onto the interior dome of the Basilica church at Mission Dolores. Wood is a British-born artist who finds magic in places that are hidden in plain sight from many San Franciscans due to their familiarity. His site specific projects recreate historic images and superimpose video and still images onto architectural structures. Mission Dolores is on 16th Street between Church and Dolores; the projections are on view Monday to Saturday; 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday; 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. through February 7.

- Meredith Tromble [Tuesday, January 27th, 2004]

Amidst the latest trends in both Chelsea and Williamsburg, including the bubbly corpuscular, the potted plant/craftwork, and the personal scenario/ interior tableaus, I found some great work that stopped me in my tracks:

Franz Gertsch’s dazzling monumental paintings dating from 1977-79 of Patti Smith doing a sound check as photographed in Cologne in 1977; Having only been allowed a glimpse of these being installed in Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne, I was grateful to have them in front of me in all their perfectly executed offhand provisionality at ">Gagosian, Chelsea. The older these paintings get, the newer they feel.

Jennifer Steinkamp’s life sized video projections of artificially animated trees at ">Lehmann Maupin: Leaves and branches swirling in a lifelike eddy of wind that robotically reverses & loops through again with a digital clone of the same movement. I thought I could hear the wind rustling the leaves in the video, but it was just the traffic on the street outside the gallery.

And finally, the most haunting pieces of all: Liselot van der Heijden’s succinct video projections at the Williamsburg gallery Schroeder Romero. A downed zebra in daytime TV closeup takes it’s last breath (or are they breaths?) facing directly into the camera. I wanted to look away, but felt a responsibility to watch. The other video piece frames another tight close-up of carrion birds ravenously devouring their prey while subtitles appear in a cycle: “this is not political”, and “this is not about oil”, and repeating more rarely: “a vulture is not an eagle.” I stood still contemplating these pieces and thought that in the past I wouldn’t have had patience with this level of exploitive drama in an art piece, but now marked the difference I feel about the relative realism and appropriate rationality of the relevance of these pieces to our current world economic and political situation. Leaving me even more impressed, the gallerist told me that the quotes were lifted from press briefings by ex-press secretary Ari Fleischer.

- Cheryl Meeker [Monday, January 26th, 2004]

from the New York Times. (You may need to complete a free registration to view his story.) If you’re deeply into the subject, you can compare his views with those of Stretcher’s own Laura Wolfram.

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, January 23rd, 2004]

First Wally Hedrick, then Lois Anderson, and now painter Sam Tchakalian have passed into history. Tchakalian, who taught at the San Francisco Art Institute for nearly four decades, died yesterday of complications of leukemia and diabetes.

Tchakalian’s strong personality shines through this remembrance from the Web site of Pete Hubbard, who was his student in the early 1970s: “One anecdote showing Sam’s influence on me: Part of the teaching technique at SFAI was what was called a ‘periodic critique.’ All the students in a class would put up their work and the instructor would go through them and basically eviscerate them. I had what I thought was the greatest painting ever. It was large (over 5 feet high), and I had been working on it for weeks, constantly every day. One of my friends was late for this assignment and didn’t have a painting ready for the critique so he, quick like a bunny, whipped up a little paint sketch of a duck on a piece of sketch paper. We went into the studio and put our pieces up against the wall next to each other. When Sam got to our pieces he laughed because he knew what had just gone down. The sketch was quick and fresh and my painting was heavy and labored and that was the first thing Sam saw. He said, pointing to my labor of love, ‘That fucking duck just kicked that piece of shit right out the window!’ This experience very effectively drove home for me the point that I had to radically loosen up!”

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, January 23rd, 2004]

If you’re headed towards 280 or Pac Bell Park, a short jog over to 5th Street will take you back 200 years, courtesy of BayBoards. Visual artists Elise Brewster and Susan Schwartzenberg joined landscape ecologist and historian Robin Grossinger to create this self-guided tour of billboards and bus shelter posters, which presents two centuries of changing landscape in seven blocks.

There are BayBoards in the East Bay, too. On Highway 580 East near the Bayview exit, a full-size billboard presents a rediscovered 1861 photograph by Carleton Watkins, that matches the driver’s view almost precisely. This “re-view” shows the familiar features of Albany Hill and the Bay, but with dramatic marshlands and wildflower-covered meadows. A second board follows up on this visual story, highlighting the easily-overlooked remnant ecosystems still present in the view. In West Oakland, at 12th and Peralta, a street-level billboard explores the history of the oak forest that reached from the BayBoards site across town to Lake Merritt, giving Oakland its name.

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, January 22nd, 2004]

Today is your last chance to visit the San Francisco International Art Exposition at Fort Mason. Kenneth Baker summed up a few good reasons to make the trip in his San Francisco Chronicle report, but he missed one of the odder offerings: Addison Associates’ display of two related suites of drawings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, visualizing emotions in best abstract, Theosophy-inspired, quasi-Kandinsky style. No, they’re not fantastic drawings, but they open a revealing window into the Kahlo/Rivera relationship, which one would have thought had been scrutinized until there was nothing new under the sheets.

- Meredith Tromble [Monday, January 19th, 2004]

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s architecture photos are all worth seeing, but the centerpiece on view at Fraenkel Gallery is breathtaking: a large, blurry portrait of the WTC towers, taken in 1997. Back then, he had the chance to arrange the shot just so and wait for his long exposure to capture the soul of the building. You can’t help but think he saw what the rest of us were missing while the towers still stood.

- Tucker Nichols [Wednesday, January 14th, 2004]

Get out of your head for a minute and drop into Harrell Fletcher’s world at New Langton Arts. Happiness Follows Us Like A Shadow gives us a refreshing sampling of work by an artist who is consumed by how other people live. A free newspaper of only good news, called And The Sun Shines For You Today, is alone worth the visit. No information on subscription rates.

For more on Fletcher’s unmatched curiosity, dig into his web project, Learning To Love You More, or visit another show of his currently at Jack Hanley.

- Tucker Nichols [Wednesday, January 14th, 2004]

Jeremy Blake’s “Winchester” trilogy at Madrid’s Reina Sofia makes the San Jose house of mystery seem as distant as any Hollywood concoction. But the Rorschach-like abstractions that accompany the more recognizable images don’t take advantage of that distance, they just wrap it in a seductive veneer that makes for eye candy par excellence but leaves a void that no amount of curatorial text can fill. Just a block away at the Godoy pet store a more meaningful juxtaposition is played out between an enormous collection of oversized spiders, beetles, and scorpions (all pinned and labeled), and, less than a meter away, a small group of puppies of kittens and puppies awaiting purchase. This economic display of pending doom says far more about the uncertainties that the quest for greenbacks can lead us into than abstracted pictures of a violent history ever will.

Back in Berlin, Rem Koolhas’ “CONTENT’s” at the Neue National Galerie is an overview of his projects since 1995. Timed to coincide with the opening of his new Dutch Embassy, the show is chaotic, entertaining, and aggressively packed with information. Ideas, sketches, diagrams, and in-progress models are favored over more finished forms of documentation. While the apparent squatting of this assemblage in the ultra-sleek Mies van der Rohe-designed museum has offended not a few visitors, its placement effectively shows the aftereffects of the modernist heritage in urban design and metropolitan social order. One small monitor plays a documentary of Koolhas at work in his offices, on building sites and in lecture halls. Given his relentless energy and exacting direction of everyone around him it seems amazing that he can put up with the slow process of architectural design and construction at all. Luckily for us it allows him enough time to generate a body of commentary as rich as the one shown here.

- Ed Osborn [Monday, January 12th, 2004]

and ecstasy are explored in the photography of Anna Maltz at Lizabeth Oliveria, at 49 Geary, Suite 411. The work documents her knitted suits that transform the wearer into Superman, Mermaids and naked people. In a word, the show’s a hoot.

- Dale Hoyt [Friday, January 9th, 2004]

If you want to see a dense, warm exhibition in one small place, try the new group show REBUS, at Gallery Paule Anglim. Enough work is highlighted from 11 artists that one really gets a bit of context for each body of work. Including pieces by artists Leo Bersamina, Carter, Ala Ebtekar, John de Fazio, Leah Modigliani, Eamon Ore-Giron, RIGO ‘04, Michelle Rollman and J.otto Siebold, there’s a fair spectrum of interesting figuration. The new installation by Barry McGee in collaboration with Josh Lazcano takes the work in satisfying directions.

- Cheryl Meeker [Friday, January 9th, 2004]

Roberta Smith provides a nice rundown of art in the subway for newbies like me.

- Ella Delaney [Friday, January 2nd, 2004]

From the editors