We each have our routines—in our daily lives, and in our art consumption as well. We may bounce around on the hipster-lined streets of Oakland’s Art Murmur on first Fridays, fighting the crowds at Johansson Projects, trading endless text messages with friends we lost in the crowd. We may lurk on 16th Street drinking beers outside of Adobe Books during openings in the Back Room Gallery, pushing our way through for only minutes to try to glimpse actual works of art behind clusters of art-loving San Franciscans. Up and down elevators at 49 Geary; trips to SFMOMA on free days; and on and on.
On occasion, we are presented with the opportunity to step off our beaten paths, out of the white boxes of the galleries, out of the grand expanses of the museums. Recently a small house in the Marina, address 3020 Laguna Street, offered the chance to experience art in a non-traditional way. The house is more than the setting for the exhibition: in this case, it also serves as raw material. The century-old house, slated to be demolished, became both the site and the stuff of artworks developed on-site by nine Bay Area artists, including Chris Fraser, Andy Vogt, and Jeremiah Barber.
Andy Vogt, Drawn Out (Family Room), 2012, Mixed media installation. Courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery, San Francisco.
In Andy Vogt’s Drawn Out (Family Room), all works 2012, a section of the wood flooring has been sliced out and transformed into a sloping ramp that both mirrors and leads the large vertical window in the front corner of the room, looking out. Though I was assured that the floor and ramp were structurally sound—the artist reinforced the floor from beneath after transforming it—this room made me feel very conscious of my own presence. I felt a precarious relationship to the floor, which extended through the rest of the house by virtue of this work as an introduction. The most Gordon Matta-Clark-esque of the works in the show, Vogt’s piece definitely set the tone for 3020 Laguna, engendering a kind of “careful respect” that seems appropriate for this exhibition-as-wake.
Chris Fraser’s work In Outline (Dining Room) was by far the most striking. Visible from the front of the house, Fraser’s piece completely transforms the front room, with its characteristically San Franciscan bay windows, into a rapture of light and dark. Demolishing and then re-creating almost one entire side of the room, replacing windows and walls with slats borrowed from the skeleton of the house, Fraser created a space that places us, weirdly, neither inside nor out. The shifting light—natural during the day, and cast by passing cars and street lights at night—engulfs the rest of the space in angled lines and patterns.
Visiting 3020 Laguna Street with one of the curators, David Kasprzak, I expected to find a certain energy of chaotic destruction in the house, but was surprised by how calm it really seemed (of course it helped to be one of only two inside at the time). The interventions into the body of the house seemed restrained, even respectful; and, to personify the site in a way, the house seemed to accept the works as part of itself. If 3020 Laguna Street in Exitum marks the death of a house, it is a death that seems neither unexpected nor, in the glory of this last stretch, unwelcome.
(Image top right: Chris Fraser, In Outline (interior detail), 2012, Mixe media installation. Courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery, San Francisco)