People generally love to hate these kinds of shows. The periodic survey, named everything from biennial to triennial to quadrennial, often includes the word “Now” somewhere in the title (as this one does), but they're generally more contentious than beloved. There’s always something about these shows that reveal both the strengths and the weaknesses of a place and the art being made there (whether it's the Whitney Museum and its environs or Venice with its glut of national pavilions).
This year’s incarnation of the Bay Area Now triennial brings together just eighteen artists and collectives—a smaller selection than in years past. But despite its shorter roster, BAN6, this sixth edition of the local art round-up, includes everything from photography, painting, and video to works whose processes might be described (by me) as rock 'n’ roll quilting, woodwork pile-making, hair-balling, or typewriter piano-playing, all reminding us that the “installation” seems to be the prevalent motif being battered around the Bay, just like everywhere else.
Like other shows that I’ve seen at the YBCA, the installation of BAN6 felt haphazard and slightly confusing. Tammy Rae Carland’s set of beautiful photographs, objects, and text pieces were both highlighted and hindered with their sporadic placement over both floors of the show; I actually asked a gallery guide if Sean McFarland’s gorgeously lush photographs on the lower level were supposed to be lit so low (she assured me they were, but somehow it seemed accidental). Upstairs, Mauricio Ancalmo’s Dualing Pianos, 2011, looked perfect, not to mention fascinating, placed in its own room, even if it wasn’t, in seemingly typical YBCA fashion, actually working. And I almost bypassed Chris Fraser’s delicate light installation altogether, which would have been a real shame (I’m a sucker for Light and Space minimalism, from which Fraser clearly draws).
Richard T. Walker, Still from the speed and eagerness of meaning, 3 channel HD installation, 2011. Courtesy the artist.
I enjoyed Richard T. Walker’s three-channel video, the speed and eagerness of meaning, 2011, or, as I would like to re-name it “thin hipster in the desert with instruments contemplating stuff.” It was beautiful and earnest in a Bon Iver-esque music video kind of way. Chris Sollars presented a characteristically witty and self-reflective installation centering on the removal of his once-long hair, and Brion Nuda-Rosch provided us an equally characteristic simple and inscrutable environment made up of found objects and architectural elements. I enjoyed these, too. BAN6 aims to read the pulse of the current art scene of the Bay Area, and it does it by showing you some works that you’ve definitely seen elsewhere, alongside some others that give you that nagging feeling that you knew them in high school. Despite the familiarity of much of the show and the oddness of its installation, BAN6 includes some nice works in what I would characterize, overall, as a nice exhibition. Translation: it’s not a showcase that is going to change your life. But for someone who does not frequent San Francisco’s contemporary galleries, it does seem successful (however haphazardly) at being what it aims to be—a relatively straightforward survey of Bay Area art of the moment. —Liz Glass
Top Image: Tammy Rae Carland, I'm Dying Up Here, #4 (upside down), 2010, Color photograph, 30 x 40 Inches. Courtesy the artist and Silverman Gallery.