Reconciling America: Miraculous Encounters with the Mundane

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Reconciling America: Miraculous Encounters with the Mundane

401 Van Ness Ave. (at McAllister)
San Francisco, CA 94102
January 18th, 2008 - March 9th, 2008

Union Square/Civic Center
Tue-Sat 11-6

Reconciling America: Miraculous Encounters with the Mundane, features works by twelve artists at both our flagship gallery at 401 Van Ness and at our window installation site at 155 Grove Street.

The American archetype is rooted somewhere in anthems, slogans and amendments – yet under this big blanket where do the lives of average Americans fit in? Americans are born into the world and rush to grow up - all the while attempting to make sense of their lives through direct encounters and an ever-expanding glut of mediated experiences of the world. In our quest to understand and to be understood, new technologies have made it easier to record observations and create personal histories. This is evident in the countless home movies, scrapbooks, blogs and personal web pages created by average Americans. Alternatively, the history of art practice is deeply rooted in creating individual systems for understanding and documenting.  Reconciling America reflects the varied strategies each selected artist employs when confronting their surroundings. Exhibited works range from painting to video to installation and actively demonstrate how the artists grapple with, or attempt to reconcile their relationships with America.

Established local filmmaker Lynn Marie Kirby’s documentary 34/400 (Standardized) Screen Tests features video portraits of adolescent boys and Jennifer Durban’s audio work, I Met my Dad on Friendster each frame and archive two fleeting yet pivotal transitions in life. While the passages reflected in these works are about intimate relationships to others, Richard Haley’s work is preoccupied with his relationship to nature, which is demonstrated in a panic-inducing video featuring the artist attempting to sink his handmade boat in time with the setting sun.

Dina Danish, a current CCA graduate student from Cairo, presents All My Life I Had to Fit Cheese on Toast; a video work that demonstrates a desire to understand what being an American means and how it is filtered and then translated through her personal experiences. Paul Mullins and Julia Page, both now residents of metropolitan areas, occupy their work with images of rural, or small town life. Mullins paints details that remain prominent in his memories of his youth in West Virginia, and Page pulls images from rural town newspapers that depict a new tradition of celebrating a child’s first hunting kill. Context and personal histories help us understand that what is indeed mundane in one location may read as sensational or quaint in another.

In order to understand contemporary identities and public perceptions the following artists look at the methods in which they are constructed. In her documentary video series featuring Bay Area residents, Ellen Lake focuses on the personalities and idiosyncratic behaviors of people who define themselves in relation to their obsessive collections – ranging from female action figures to rubber band balls to french fries. Local conceptual artist Brendan Lott examines the global implications of an identity created on the Internet. His project links Lime Wire images of American teenagers with master painters in China. JD Beltran documents her son Sebastien Bachar and how he interacts with the architecture of his world. Sebastian too uses the descriptive language of photography to document his four year old perspective.