"Written on Spiders"

Berlin's Starship collective lands on all eights
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Skitterin' for art

REVIEW From this side of the planet, as many in the American art world see it, Berlin is currently the art world's utopia. Things are happening there: experimentation and funding can be had, as well as cheap studios, alternative-gallery spaces, and thriving collectives galore. But this scene didn't just fall from the sky like a space virus and infect the German capital in the past few years. It's been brewing for some time. One collective, known as a hub that links dozens of contemporary German artists, is Starship. In 1998 it began publishing a self-titled alternative-art magazine with conceptually-themed issues, including images and writing generated by its community. San Francisco gallerist Jessica Silverman befriended Starship founding members Ariane Müller, Martin Ebner, and Hans-Christian Dany five years ago, and Silverman Gallery's inaugural exhibition in its former Dogpatch location showcased their work.

The collective's current show at Silverman is a mixed-media gathering that includes drawings, text, sculpture, back issues of Starship's magazine, and a selection from the group's poster series titled The Like of it now happens, which focuses on the subjects of excess and sustainability. Judith Hopf's Singing Frogs — a photo collage of frogs with frogs in their throats — and Klaus Weber's Ultra Moth provide weirdly funny, surreal social commentary in the tradition of propaganda posters. Because the group chose to not plaster its work around San Francisco — a city not known to embrace guerilla art kindly — they created a faux "outside" for them to exist in. Visitors entering Silverman are confronted by a large, silver, barred cube, like an astral reproduction of the gallery space. Sit on the space's floor and thumb through the relatively recent Starship issue, The year we went nowhere (2005), and it feels like browsing a travel guide: you might get a sense of these Berliners' flourishing art boom.

WRITTEN ON SPIDERS Through June 14. Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Silverman Gallery, 804 Sutter, SF. (415) 255-9508, www.silverman-gallery.com

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