Lust, Loss, and Other Lay Figures

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Judith Roberts, Untitled, 2006 Photograph © courtesy of the artist and the Meridian Gallery
History Never Let Go, 1997 Plexiglas, Lights And Motors © courtesy of the artist and the Meridian Gallery
Courtship of One, 2005/2008 Photographs © courtesy of the artist and the Meridian Gallery
Lust, Loss, and Other Lay Figures

535 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
March 19th, 2009 - May 2nd, 2009
Opening: March 19th, 2009 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Union Square/Civic Center
Tue-Sat 11-5
Mannequins, Kinetic, photography, modern, sculpture



The work in this exhibition deals with the complexity of memory and how it structures our experiences of loss and love. Especially how this delicate interplay of presence and absence is made visible by our interactions with mannequins, dolls, puppets and other such figures onto which life is projected. The three included artists, Richard Berger, Michael Marnin Jacobs, and Judith Roberts are from the Bay Area, Finland, and Mexico, respectively.

Judith Roberts, photographer, and well-known collector of and authority on Mexican folk art, has been taking portraits of mannequins she finds throughout Mexico, her home for the past 30 years. Her subjects, decades old, have been painted over generations by shopkeepers; as fashions change their surfaces thicken and are distorted, becoming a skin of their individual and cultural histories. Roberts writes: "This is not an act of nihilism on the part of a shop girl being asked to re-do the make-up on these old mannequins but an acceptable female custom in Mexico to use very colorful facial make-up everyday, shaping a culture she is also shaped by."


Richard Berger has been a distinguished member of the San Francisco Art Institute faculty from 1970 to the present where he teaches sculpture history and studio practice. Berger's kinetic sculptures use translucent materials and light to meditate on what is "not" there, and reveal the fundamental urge to project life and wholeness onto these shadow figures. Rotating text and rotary action combine to interrogate notions of purpose, mourning, and desire. Berger's delicately crafted puppet forms create multi-layered experiences formally and metaphorically as they move from object to shadow.

Michael Marnin Jacobs was born in Bogota, Colombia in 1958, moved to San Francisco in 1969 and has lived and taught as an artist in Rovaniemi Finland since 1990. His photographs often take the form of sequences which explore psychological and spiritual relationships to place. They are almost completely devoid of human forms, directing the viewer to its surfaces which become screens for reminiscence and desire. Some of Jacob's recent subject matter include the ruins and wilderness of former concentration camps in Poland, the stark skyscapes of Lapland, and the architecture in rural Spain; all meditations on the relationship of memory to our past and future existence.

In the work of each of these artists, whether literal mannequin, shadow, or billowing fabric, focus is shifted onto the surface. In doing this they foreground the experience of the individual viewers who animates the work with their own memories, histories, and emotions. In this way these art works reveal key aspects of our interactions with each other, ourselves, and our environment.