Art

Hasan Elahi's surveillance protest art

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Hasan Elahi seems awfully jocular for a guy who is under constant surveillance. We're standing in a room lined with 64 monitors, on which flash photos of his personal life from over the past seven years. “There's gas stations, all the beds I've slept in,” the artist narrates as the slideshows progress. Rutgers, Brooklyn, Santa Fe, Philly, an unidentified toilet. “All the toilets I've ever done anything in,” he grins, checking to see if we get the joke.

Nowadays, Elahi is the one instigating his own surveillance. But the Bangladeshi American, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, was once detained at the Detroit airport by INS, who then turned him over to the FBI for six months of “interviews” regarding his international travel habits. His project of comprehensive self-documentation, now on display for an exhibition at the Intersection of the Arts (and opens today, Weds/2), grew out of this “terrifying” experience. Read more »

Bug artist under glass

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Kevin Clarke is riffling through drawers, tossing around their various contents and muttering to himself, “I can’t believe I can’t find the lingerie.”

On every surface of his Richmond home, which doubles as his studio, the instruments of his trade are scattered: pins, needles, razorblades and film. But this isn’t some sort of dungeon, and Clarke’s job isn’t to indulge clients’ fetishistic fantasies. His trade is insect art, and the lingerie is for his beetles.

Clarke is a trained conservation biologist who now spends his days boiling butterflies and spreading insect wings, creating whimsical dioramas and gorgeous butterfly wing necklaces he bills as “museum quality insect art.” This year marks the first that his company, Bug Under Glass, has been his sole source of income, but Clarke’s fascination with all things creepy-crawly started long ago. Read more »

Artistic boot camp looking for recruits

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With an average body mass index of 24.8 (measured in 2008), SF rates as the second skinniest city in the United States. Work it out people – all those bikes, parks, and beaches paying off, or at least putting us out ahead in America's race against obesity. But next to nearly every one of our yoga studios and muscle gyms is an art gallery. It's fair to say that art appreciation is as ingrained in San Francisco culture as athletic mastery – but where does one go to buff up one's rock hard appreciation of digital art film and radical myth iconography? Enter Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' new program, “YBCA: YOU”, currently accepting applications (this means you) for a free program that'll have you doing heavy lifting of the city's creative offerings in no time. Read more »

Deconstructing Cinderella, deconstructing La Llorona

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They say you shouldn't judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Ana Teresa Fernandez, the featured artist in Galería de la Raza’s upcoming video exhibition “La Llarona Unfabled,” (opening Sat/12) has obliged in regards to that feminist foil, Cinderella. For her video installation, Fernandez spent hours standing wearing a melting pair of “glass slippers” made of ice on a dirty West Oakland street. The experience, she feels, left her more than qualified to criticize the social constructs embodied by fairy tale's scullery maid-cum-princess.

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Arthur Szyk: beauty in fairy tale... and Stalin

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Nowadays, being up on the news can actually make us stupider (more stupid, damn!), but when cartoonist Arthur Szyk was sketching his dense, fantastically detailed news caricatures, politics were still in need of explication – and all the more better if it was beautiful to boot. How else can one explain why one of the most whimsical artists of the 1930s and '40s became best known for his sketches of Hitler and Stalin playing poker?

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Scott Hammel's street treats

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One of the beauties of living in weirdo town is that the streets can always surprise you. The other day, I went out for a mushroom taco and came back with a bag of sparkly fabric from an artist collective's yard sale on lower Divisadero. I'm sure something attractive will happen with that bag, but after subsequently stumbling into Scott Hammel's toy art show in Mini Bar (through Jan. 30), I can't help but wonder: what would have happened if my plastic sack was instead a full trash bag of plastic kids toys, cigarette butts, and the odd syringe?

Besides the possibility of contagion, of course. But real talk, even in the heady first days of a blood-borne pathogen, I still wouldn't have come up with stuff this cool. Hammel's art looks like the productions of an adult Sid from Toy Story, if Sid had gotten fabulous and started doing LSD. Read more »

Mike Giant meditates

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When you're meeting up with a skateboarding design-graf-tattoo art giant, you prep a certain kind of question – 'how do you post your art on your website without getting arrested' comes to mind. But when I hung with Bay legend Mike Giant this week while he put the final touches on the pieces for his upcoming fine art show at Guerrero Gallery (opens Sat/11), I found myself ditching my notes for another line of inquiry. 

Which followed this line, roughly: where do I find some of what he's smoking? Read more »

Radical diplomacy: an interview with Guillermo Gómez-Peña

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“It welcomes hipsters, but advocates for a more intelligent hipsterism.”

Performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña is sitting in his unexpectedly luxurious Outer Mission live-work space, surrounded by walls of fake masonry, stacks of props for his work, and velvet paintings of lucha libre wrestlers, police officers, and John Wayne that have accumulated in the 16 years that Gómez-Peña has rent-controlled the place. In anticipation of his upcoming performance at Galeria de la Raza's 40th anniversary gala (Sun/21), we're trying to figure out a few minor details about life in 21st century America. Read more »

SF local artist's purpose within reach

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“I wanted to teach people, tell them how to do it. I always dream about taking back the city through art.” Reynaldo Cayetano Jr. is showing me his photographic prints in a Lower Haight coffee shop. He's explaining to me how a guy who grew up in San Francisco came to be on the brink of his third art show in San Francisco (Purpose: Beyond Reach, coming up on Sat/20 at Rancho Parnassus).

Is it weird that this trajectory needs explaining? Common sense says that growing up in a world-class art city would give you a leg up on an career amidst darkrooms and gallery openings. But that's not the case in cities, really. Local kids get the boot for all kinds of reasons in today's 21st century – especially creative types who aren't ready to divest their days to the rat race necessary to stay and live in our great urban spaces. Read more »

Open Studios spotlight: Calixto Robles

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Because Open Studios is about more than just the free wine and occasional sushi board score. Really! The annual organized voyeurism of creative space in the city will showcase artists' studios in different neighborhoods each weekend this month. In gleeful anticipation, we visited screen-printer and long time Mission visual artist Calixto Robles, who is helping to throw open the doors to his Life Art Studios (151 Potrero, SF) this weekend. Read more »