Visual Art

Beauty, reappraised

Two looks at the serious pleasures of "Yves Saint Laurent: 40 Years of Fashion"
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First look by Matt Sussman:

The deYoung Museum's retrospective of the late, great Yves Saint Laurent's 40-year career designing haute couture comes at an awkward moment for fashion and its fans. With the country facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, "recessionista" is the buzzword du jour and Vogue and its ilk are trading their trend watches for old bromides such as "investment pieces" and "necessary luxuries."Read more »

"Lutz Bacher: ODO"

Oddly engaging and opaque
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PREVIEW A continuous line of images adheres to the spacious walls of Ratio 3. They all seem to be produced on the same roll of sticky-backed paper. Thanks to visual literacy conditioning, we follow them as a narrative. There's a picture of a weird blue guy standing in a forest, dolls, hunky male mannequins, a bearded guy being nailed to a cross, a smiling woman holding a thrift-store sculpture, a Photoshop view of a bottomless Laura Bush standing with her hubby, and other random sights. Read more »

Take the red pill

"Bending the Word/MATRIX 226" and "Martha Colburn's Collage Animations"
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PREVIEW/REVIEW After a foray into the spirit-swindling zines and quilts of Olivia Plender that provide the other highlight of Berkeley Art Museum's latest installment in the MATRIX series, it's best to venture into the exhibition's darkened back room, sink into a beanbag chair, and soak up the kinetic collage animation of Martha Colburn. Read more »

Art star for a day

The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now
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Any retrospective of participatory art is a curatorial gamble that raises a host of questions. How do you encourage engagement? How do you physically display and arrange pieces that depend on the viewer's actions, interactions, or interpretations? And how broadly do you define participation?

SFMOMA curator of media arts Rudolf Frieling has recognized and embraced such risks in organizing the timely survey "The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now." The payoff is an open-ended terrain that is alternately challenging, gimmicky, and surprisingly fun. Critic Lucy R. Read more »

Story of the eye

"Brought to Light" charts science and the modern gaze
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In "Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible," SFMOMA associate curator of photography Corey Keller assembles an exciting encyclopedia of daguerreotypes, photographs, and X-rays to reconstruct and demonstrate the 19th century education of the eye. Read more »

Hot flash gallery

The Milk Issue: Now and then in the photography of Daniel Nicoletta
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It was the summer of 1974, when shy, skinny, cute Daniel Nicoletta first stepped through the doors of Castro Camera into adulthood and history. His parents were snapshot enthusiasts. In his words, he had grown up "surrounded by Instamatic moments." But he was about to enter the time of his life. "I stopped in to determine where I would be developing my Super 8 film," he remembers. "I couldn't get over how friendly the two guys [Harvey Milk and Scott Smith] were. I was 19 years old — I had no idea what cruising was at that point. Read more »

"Bill Jenkins"

The artist's first solo show will pull the floor out from under you
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REVIEW The fewer direct descriptions of Bill Jenkins' show at Jancar Jones Gallery the better. I went into the secret small space having liked Jenkins' contribution to last year's University of California MFA exhibition at Berkeley Art Museum. Jenkins' meditative approach to objects seemed to journey through a door of perception that was opened by Alicia McCarthy in the same show — a door that called lazy voyeurism into question. Yet even with that experience in mind, Jenkins' first solo show in SF pulled the floor out from under me. Read more »

Quiet strength

"The Offering Table: Women Activist Artists from Korea" explores life in a Confucian society
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REVIEW Gray skies, "Silent Night" plucked on kayagum, indoor ice-skating at the candy-financed mall/amusement park Lotteland, negotiating slippery mandoo with slick metal chopsticks, and girls holding hands everywhere you look — those are my wintry memories of 1990s Seoul. Those cozily clasped lasses found strength — and safety from predatory dudes — in sisterhood, and the recurring gesture seemed to speak volumes about the quiet struggles of women in Korea's stringently Confucian society. Read more »

Margaret Tedesco

GOLDIES 2008 winner: An approach that always includes inviting others into the fold
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Walking down the street the other day, Margaret Tedesco was struck by an oddly inspiring slogan on a slick poster for a Las Vegas spa: Live vicariously through no one.

"I saw that and thought, 'This is me,'" she says enthusiastically. "I have my own agenda, and the biggest thrill of all is the surprise I find living it myself."

The indie spirit of that comment may sound a bit self-centered, but Tedesco's approach to that agenda always includes inviting others into the fold. Read more »

Kamau Patton

GOLDIES 2008 winner: Behold the warp of truth, infinite
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At the cacophonous intersection of Sun Ra's wheeling jazz cosmology, P-Funk's psycho-disco logorrhea, Clarence 13X's alpha-beta-culto Five-Percent Nation, the early '90s vainglorious hip-hop of X-Clan, Isis, and Blackwatch, and The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly (1950-64), that sprawling, tinfoil-bedazzled outsider masterpiece by Washington, DC, handyman James Hampton, lies a crazy-ass aesthetic of African American visual and performance culture — the culture of flash. Read more »