Glen Helfand

Suburban stasis

Dead-end streets are fertile ground for the makers of Colma: The Musical
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Colma is not Daly City. Apparently I'm the only San Franciscan who's failed to comprehend the pronounced distinctions between these neighboring municipalities, outside the selection of merch at their respective Target stores. Daly City has Serramonte Center and the rows of houses made famous by Malvina Reynolds's anthem to architectural sameness, "Little Boxes" (the song that opens Showtime's fabulous stoned-in-suburbia sitcom, Weeds). Read more »

No hidin' SECA

Searching for thematic threads at the biennial exhibition
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REVIEW Each SECA Art Award exhibition, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's biennial and only official nod to Bay Area artists, is cause to revisit the curious, contested idea of place in contemporary art. Read more »

Scruff trade

Berkeley Art Museum's marvelous Bruce Nauman show locates inspirations in the hood
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Forty years ago Bruce Nauman made a squat, unpainted block of plaster sculpture titled A Cast of the Space under My Chair. This single work, one of dozens in the Berkeley Art Museum's absorbing exhibition "A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s," is said to have provided enough inspiration to fuel the career of British artist Rachel Whiteread, who famously cast the interior of a condemned Victorian house. Nauman's sculpture, here seen as cast exhibition copy, could easily be overlooked. Read more »

Looking up

Sales and salvation were art world keywords in 2006
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In late 2006 several major art-market events — record-breaking auctions and 14 Miami Beach art fairs — provided a bracing contrast to a slew of exhibitions concerned with the immaterial, experiential, mystical, and social. These instances clearly illustrate the exciting, age-old tensions between the thrill of commerce and the quest for artistic integrity.
In November a Christie's sale of impressionist and modern art yielded nearly half a billion dollars. Read more »

Fits and housing starts

"Suburban Escape" plumbs the art of California sprawl
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REVIEW There's a new multistory condo complex rising on a sliver of SoMa between the freeway and the Caltrain tracks. It's on one of those heretofore undesirable plots that stood vacant for decades, holding their own as a weedy buffer zone between transportation and industry. I wonder if the contractors are using a new high-tech glass that, in the space of a faux bay window, will neutralize the din of traffic. Who'd want to live there?
San Francisco is an urban area, don't you know. Read more »

Goldies Visual Art winner Tim Sullivan

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In his most recent San Francisco exhibition, at the cozy Little Tree Gallery in the Mission, Tim Sullivan managed to reanimate the late blond bombshell Jayne Mansfield. Mind you, he did it with a low-tech visual effect — a full-color glossy of the actress attached to a flat-screen monitor, a shifting blue sky visible through little almond-shaped slits in the eyes of the photograph. But the mixture of sublime pop (the elaborate media construct of Mansfield) with an almost metaphysical art reference is a key movement in Sullivan's appealing photography, video, and sculpture. Read more »

Mr. Big Stuff

Matthew Barney lives large through his sprawling, spectacular art. Do we follow?
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America is unquestionably the land of the large. We well realize that gigantic things generate a sense of awe — along with danger — as it currently applies to presidential hubris and supersized snacks. Read more »

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DO NEW MEDIA move more quickly? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's media arts curator, Benjamin Weil, will officially resign Sept. 3. Starting at the museum in 1999 at the zenith of the dot-com boom, Weil was responsible for commissioning well-regarded pieces by Christian Marclay and Pipilotti Rist, whose work is on view until August. He also reinstated the film program and presented numerous sound projects at the museum. Read more »