100 photos in search of an exhibit

Hairy Eyeball: Uncanniness, courtesy of Daniel Nicoletta, Keira Kotler, "The Candy Store," "Furthermore," and more
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Leigha Mason, Candy Store (detail), 2010
PHOTO COURTESY OF MERIDIAN GALLERY

arts@sfbg.com

HAIRY EYEBALL "Furthermore" implies that one is not quite finished. There is more elaboration to come, or another point entirely will be addressed. It signals that what the speaker may have fully thought through has not yet been fully stated.

"Furthermore" is also the title of Fraenkel Gallery's 30th anniversary show, a wonderful assortment of odd ducks and singular sensations, canonized masters and anonymous geniuses. Or as gallerist Jeffrey Fraenkel puts it in the intro to the exhibit's catalog, these are, "scrappy, tenacious, unrelated photographs that want to become an exhibition."

Fraenkel's anthropomorphic phrasing (they "want to become an exhibition") is appropriate since these pictures have new stories to tell. Many names and images are familiar (Arbus, Lange, Warhol, Levitt), while others, like the heartbreaking anonymous photograph of 1930s starlet Starr Faithful's suicide note, aren't. But none of these photographs are quite finished with what they have to tell us, especially when in proximity to each other.

The pictures are hung in clusters that bring out their thematic or formal affinities while simultaneously enhancing the singular qualities of each individual piece. In one of the first groupings, the scatological mechanics of Morton Schamberg's 1917 Dada readymade God (this study is reputedly the only known photographic print of the piece in existence) are echoed in the tubular forms of Christian Marclay's collage Double Tuba and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson's 1867 albumen print of a pneumatic motor.

Nearby hangs a constellation of feminine self-presentation as masquerade, with Katy Grannan's anonymous, windswept crone (2009); Ethyl Eichelberger in Peter Hujar's elegiac 1983 portrait of the performer in Southern belle drag; and the Deco seductress in Andre Kertesz's Satiric Dancer (1926) emerging as Norn-like sisters from across time and space.

The more abstract groupings are no less evocative, linking up formal experimentations (Mel Bochner's cartographic Surface Dis/tension) to the serendipitous beauty of scientific documentation (the anonymous 1930 cyanotype of a radio transmission sent from the Eiffel Tower). Wonderful stuff.

FURTHERMORE ...

Candy-coating sexual innuendo is an old trick in pop music (see 50 Cent, Madonna, etc.), but the sweets served up by John DeFazio and Leigha Mason at Meridian Gallery seduce precisely because they don't want your loving. DeFazio's baroque reliquaries for cultural figures and Mason's fingernail and hair-laden resin candies are memento mori for youthful fantasies and heroes; roadside tchotchkes picked up from America's death drive.

Keira Kotler's monochromatic paintings, with their soothing shifts in luminosity and tone, are the visual equivalent of a drone: seemingly static planes that slowly reveal their depth and subtlety through prolonged exposure. The color fields in "Stillness," her new show at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, skew more Richter (specifically his 1991 painting Blood Red Mirror, currently hanging at SFMOMA) than Rothko, but their slickness diminishes none of their auratic pull.

Well tickle me proud: it's June. Electric Works is showing its pride with "More Glitter — Less Bitter," a career retrospective of local legend Daniel Nicoletta. If queer life in this city is a cabaret, then Nicoletta has been its unofficial in-house photographer, snapping SF's finest LGBT freaks since he was a 19-year-old employee at Harvey Milk's Castro Street camera store. Sparkle, Danny, sparkle!

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