It’s hard to clear one’s head of all the preconceived notions and packaged analyses about an artist before going to meet their work for the first time. I made the mistake of reading other reviews before seeing Garry Winogrand’s photographs at SFMOMA (where I’m counting the days until it shutters for redevelopment, and I’ll be left a few old friends shy). One included a particularly barfy comparison of his New York period in the 1960s to the popular television program Mad Men. On the first pass, they... [more]
After going to this show, I spent the next two days holed up reading Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia.
In around 1200 pages, West details her journey with her husband to Yugoslavia after World War One. Indistinguishable between fiction and non-fiction, she tells stories of past and present lives and experiences, bridging the distance between the reader and the experience. The story opens on a train:
I could not have gone on to justify my certainty that this trai... [more]
Although “meta” is often misused as dismissive shorthand for the self-referential, it is, in its most fruitful sense, a tool for critical distance. Will Brown’s second exhibition was a history of black monochrome painting that included requisite, museum-quality copy and literature, but the paintings themselves were merely signified by chalk outlines on black gallery walls. The shapes creeped over moldings and ceiling space, overlapping in ways that made it clear that even if the proprietors of the m... [more]
If the New York Public Library’s circulating picture library were constructed according to the popular tastes of the denizens of Instagram, then there would only be three folders:
—> (subcategory) macaroons
Dogs / Cats
—> (subcategory) “duck face”
The NYPL’s library—a mere 1.2 million mainly photographic images culled from books, magazines, adverts, and grouped according to some 12,000 subject headings—seems quaint compared to the amount of visual information an online search... [more]
It’s like looking into your parents' liquor cabinet, all mysterious bottles, unknown quantities and unbounded possibilities. Happy new year? I’ll still drink it. Post-party, what good fortune: to find a single cigarette, golden filtered, stashed on a ledge. Adult books, interiors, pleasures.
Displaced from their habitual twilights, Matthew Brannon relocates the murky signifiers of cosmopolitan debauchery to the spare matte tableau of letterpressed sheets and precise sculptures. Everything is taken in isolat... [more]
Occupying the center, bellies hold babies, beer, guts (literal and proverbial), and intestines. They are a measure of our earthly life yet seem to take on a life of their own: ballooning, billowing, expanding, bloating, giving new shape to our bodies at any given time. In the work of Dorothea Tanning, the stomach is beautiful, sexual, and enchanting.
Wandering around the exhibition of Tanning’s work at Gallery Wendi Norris, I came to a halt in front of Traffic Sign, 1970. But then, that seemed an intention... [more]
Art critics are never quite shilled in the same way as critics for other avenues of culture. Yes, our reviews likely get listed on CVs and not read, adding some vague imprimatur to an artist's career that might help move some product, but we're never exploited in quite the same way, as say, the movie critic, whose thoughtful well-composed reviews (okay not always) get diced into a few words to grace a promotional poster. Oh, if only some art critic (someone from October would be nice, or Texte Zur Ku... [more]
“We’re going to see some recent work by an inspiring feminist artist who is known for performing radical pieces about sexuality and gender and another female artist who I think is a lesbian cowboy,” I told my date. I prefer to see shows alone, and definitely not during openings, so I can retrace my steps and mutter to myself as much as I like. But this week, I deemed Gallery Paule Anglim a decent date destination. I’m not sure if I hoped the content would titillate or I could suss out a vision... [more]
Steven Vasquez Lopez - 2nd Place, ArtSlant Prize 2012
Executed with laborious precision, it takes Steven Vasquez Lopez months to complete a painting. Replete with mesmerizing, detailed juxtapositions of line and color, layers of pattern and texture in his work reveal figureless landscapes, perhaps a view from poolside in Palm Beach where he spends a good portion of the year or the interior of his living room in the Bay Area. The tension between banal and chimerical in Lopez’s work reflects his hi... [more]
Yes, thanks to the Philistines of Cyberspace the word CURATOR is being stretched to the very limits of semantic significance, but rather than join the chorus of affronted cultural elites pointing fingers at every blogger or boutique-owner who dares to don that hallowed mantle, I thought it might be more productive to speak with two persons right here in the Bay Area who hold inarguable rights to the title yet work in vastly different contexts. Even when confined to the concerns of the art world,... [more]
Nom de Guerre by Gianni Limone Barry McGee at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
August 24th, 2012 - December 9th, 2012
A short and incomplete list of pseudonyms employed by Barry McGee:
Ray Fong Lydia Fong Bernon Vernon P.KinRay VirgilTwistTwisterTwistyTwisto
A pseudonym is a way to stay hidden in public. Across racy novels, political tracts, city walls, a pseudonym is a public declaration that manages to stay secretive. A fake name presumes some reason for hiding, some illicit activity: the novel passes risque into pornographic, the political tract verboten samizdat, the city wall graffitied with a blushing spl... [more]
I like that Fraenkel Gallery doesn’t present the pairing of the two artists featured in their latest exhibition with an overwrought thesis. Burchfield / Meatyard is its own kind of poetry. The painter and the photographer do have a “shared sensibility” of nature that’s maybe summed up by a shared preference for peace and quiet, a place to go and think about looking. Burchfield said that an artist “must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there.” I dig deep to try and reconcile this quo... [more]
I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it.
—Andy Warhol on why he chose to paint soup cans
If these musings prove nothing more than the paranoid ramblings of someone who finds poetry in grocery lists and weeps at the sight of octogenarians in matching hats, then so be it, but... something is off about this soup. There are consumer choices enough without worrying if one’s groceries are accurately reflecting some elevated cultural sens... [more]
The end of summer is a strange moment. The energy of back-to-school jitters permeates everything. Fashion releases its flimsiest glossies in preparation for the cinder-block September issues. Galleries shutter, giving their artists and proprietors a chance to check in with the Midwest and assure their families that they’re getting enough to eat and thus return to September a few pounds thicker for the fall previews. New York and Paris turn into sweaty metropolitan ghost-towns, those with means... [more]
Next to a taxidermy rat lying on the floor of the gallery is David Shrigley’s animation, Switch, 2007. Projected onto the wall in roughly a single square foot. In it, a finger, composed simply with black lines in the artist's emblematically elemental linework, pushes a light switch repeatedly, on-off, on-off, on-off. Click-click, click-click. Each time “off” comes into the rotation, the projection disappears, it clicks off. After a series of on-off’s the finger pulls back for a second. Will it go... [more]
There's at once more and less than meets the eye. On the face of it, an atmospheric wash darkens from plasma to clotted blood. In between, the colors roil with a complexity suggesting vastness, calling to mind the Romantic sublime and a few of its heirs, from J. M. W. Turner's paintings of the night sky and Alfred Stieglitz's photographs of clouds to Mark Rothko's brooding color fields.
Underneath, however, Trevor Paglen's The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas), 2010, is pure Enlightenment. Electromagnet... [more]