Visual Art

"Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946-2004"

The first large-scale retrospective of the late photographer's work
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REVIEW I saw my deceased grandfather before I saw Groucho Marx. In Richard Avedon's 1972 photograph of the aging comedian, Marx's push-broom mustache, here a baleen of gray bristles, is the only obvious identifying feature in what otherwise looks to be a portrait of an elderly Jewish man. Marx's eyes — like Marilyn Monroe's in Avedon's famous 1957 portrait of the star seeming to want out of her skin — avoid the camera, looking off glassily toward something in the distance. Read more »

We walk with a zombie

Nights and days of the dead economy and culture -- in art, movies, books, and song
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PHENOM In our heads, in our heads: zombies, zombies, zombies.

Don't blame me for taking a bite out of your brain and inserting an annoying tune in its place — once again, not long after the last onslaught of undead trends, our culture is totally zombie mad.

The phrase "zombie bank" is multiplying at a disturbing rate within economic circles. In music, the group Zombi — hailing from the zombie capitol Pittsburgh — is reviving the analogue electronics of George A. Read more »

Doug Biggert: "Hitchhikers and Other Work"

A special homecoming for a lifelong artist who was never a careerist
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PREVIEW So. I find out about this show "Doug Biggert: Hitchhikers and Other Work," and it sounds and looks amazing. It's all generated from a discovery that two friends of Biggert's made in 2002: namely, that he'd taken a photograph of nearly every hitchhiker he'd ever given a ride to. Read more »

Kinda Kink.com

Ratio 3's "Safe Word" reaches out to a neighbor
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johnny@sfbg.com

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood — won't you be my neighbor? That classic American question is all trussed up and ready to go thanks to "Safe Word," a new exhibition at Chris Perez's gallery Ratio 3 that peeks inside a nearby Mission District space: San Francisco's lively new gargantuan factory of BDSM imagery, Kink.com.

An all-too-rare site-specific appraisal of urban landscape and activity is intrinsic to this show. Read more »

"Bernd & Hilla Becher: A Survey - 1972-2006"

Simultaneously operating within a system and outside a system
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REVIEW The problem, or perhaps the benefit, of a survey of photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher in an environment like the Fraenkel Gallery is the institutional quality the space projects onto the work. Read more »

"Intricacies of Phantom Content" and Trickle-down: Yours for the Mining

Diamonds are certainly Hilary Pecis' and Elyse Mallouk's best friends
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REVIEW Diamonds are certainly Hilary Pecis' and Elyse Mallouk's best friends. But even though the sparklers in their complimentary exhibits at Triple Base Gallery let off a familiar, enticing shine, do they reveal new facets?

Like antlers, rainbows, and feathers, gemstones and crystal-inspired geometric forms have bobbed to the surface as a motif of the zeitgeist, as seen both on gallery walls and the loud prints and new rave colors that adorn the merchandise at Urban Outfitters (not to mention Lady Gaga's day-to-day wardrobe). I don't fault Pecis' art for its timing. Read more »

"2012: Super-Bato Saves the World"

Fully-functional, gaudy, lusty, but also mystically calm slot machines in the style of souped-up Camaros
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REVIEW Energy must not be conserved in Enrique Chagoya's universe. From his earlier pieces on paper through his show-stopping work on linen at the turn of the century (Le Cannibale Moderniste, 1999; Aparición Sublime, 2000; Pocahontas Gets a New Passport (More Art Faster), 2000), the experimental printmaker's mock-specificity and hidden sensitivity — both aspects of a brilliant pictorial stubbornness — leave the whole body buzzing. This is art that gathers energy from its viewers as much as its subjects. Read more »

Recession, renewal

Larry Rinder transforms the Berkeley Art Museum's secret treasures into a "Galaxy"
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johnny@sfbg.com

REVIEW When it comes to the negative impact that economic recession has upon the art world, there are as many problems as missing dollars. Yet among contemporary artists, such times tend to skew various views back toward those whose work isn't epically expensive to begin with, a development that can be welcome. Moreover, careful budgeting can inspire reflection rather than a mad dash to acquire the newest, most expensive, and trendiest work.

At least two significant survey shows in 2009 follow this impulse in search of revelation. Read more »

"Leave the Capital"

A multiartist endeavor, ranging from overt to oblique, addressing the economy and matters of rough trade
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PREVIEW What is it with Bay Area group art shows named after album and song titles by the Fall? Last month brought "I Am Kurious Orange," an exhibition and performance at David Cunningham Projects that slightly twisted the name of 1988 album by mush-mouth Mark E. Smith's band. Read more »

Looking at 'Looking In'

The making and unmaking of Robert Frank's The Americans
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More on SFBG.com:
>>Johnny Ray Huston's take on the epic SFMOMA Robert Frank retrospective

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"All original art looks ugly at first," Clement Greenberg wrote in defense of modern art. Implicit in Greenberg's statement is the sense that time would eventually vindicate what was seen as anathema to prevailing tastes. Read more »