All the Tools I’ll Need?
Curator: Karen Brasier
Artists: Andrew Bevington, Karen Brasier, Shirley Hazlett, and Angela Pryor
All the Tools I’ll Need? is a four-person show in the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI).
The gallery is named after Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) who painted the mural on the gallery’s North wall. Titled The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (”Making a Fresco”), the 1931 mural depicts the many individuals who worked on the fresco including workmen, sculptors, architects, painters, advisers and patrons, along with Rivera himself. In this way, the mural challenges the notion of the artist as an individual genius, and reveals the process and tools used to create these monumental works of art.
Although painting on walls has a rich history that goes back to the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, the act of painting a mural still serves as a reference for us to question the place of painting in contemporary art institutional structures. Is the mural part of the architecture? How does it differ from a painting on canvas that might be displayed in this very gallery? In the context of the art school institution, Rivera’s mural reminds us to question convention as it watches over the students at SFAI.
The theme for this show, like Rivera’s mural, came out of our questions posed to historical categories of art and the limitations of medium. Each artist in the show exhibits a critical view of the tools they use and the history they build on. Shirley Hazlett works the line between “painting” and “sculpture” in a mixed-media piece where a two-dimensional “painting” is taken off the wall to occupy three-dimensional space as it is draped over a ladder in the center of the gallery. Karen Brasier presents paintings on substrates such as reclaimed batting taken from discarded furniture that devalue “paint” (the "Art" material) and revalue the domestic detritus that is painted on. Angela Pryor’s paintings and drawings question the subject matter of traditional portraiture, as she uses the established tools and materials of representational painting to portray victims of the sex trade. Andrew Bevington’s photograph, White Noise, depicts an interaction with modern technology as a mysterious, foreign, and potentially dangerous tool.
The four MFA students are also concerned with the reality of putting on a gallery show in the first week of the semester. Arriving into town days ago, we wonder if we have the physical stuff to pull this show together (“Where did I pack my hammer?”). The artists also share the condition of being a student, working towards a terminal degree, wondering: Do I have the skills I need? The tools, ideas, endurance? We ask ourselves this very question and honor this collective angst in our beginning of the semester show: All the Tools I'll Need?