Visual Art

Hunters and collectors

Two high concept shows take the meta approach to curating
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REVIEW It wasn't so long ago that the term "curated" moved from dusty archive territory to popular lexicon. When did curated databases, boutique merchandise, and Netflix queues become commonplace? In the Bay Area, more than one school offers a master's degree in "curatorial practice" — but who has a concise description of what that really means? The term has become elastic, perhaps because there's too much material — of all sorts — to deal with in contemporary culture. Read more »

No mere ornament

"Birth of Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury"
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REVIEW In Mary and Russel Wright's Guide to Easier Living, first published in 1950, the designers instruct the midcentury housewife to avoid the "deeply carved wooden chair" in favor of a "contour design" to "simplify cleaning." This form-follows-function approach to design reached its height in the mass market in 1950s and '60s, most notably with the introduction of the stacking, molded fiberglass chairs of Charles and Ray Eames — which can still found, en masse, in libraries throughout the University of California system.

Initially fuele Read more »

Eye of the needle

Lauren DiCioccio threads lightly, suggesting a spirit left behind
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REVIEW During the fall of 2004, I interviewed Bruce Conner, who had no shortage of viewpoints regarding contemporary art. "Many people," he said, "will develop a style of painting or subject matter or content that appears to be very innovative, and their next solo exhibition will be made up of 20 paintings that are all the same, aside from tiny variations."

Lauren DiCioccio offers a remedy for just such a malaise. Read more »

"Summer Reading"

Visual art inspired by literary classics
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REVIEW I wish I were Jorge Luis Borges. The Argentine man of letters was top among those writers, such as Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood, and Ali Smith, whose nonfiction is even more potent, surreal, and addictive than their fiction. Borges once remarked on a translation of William Beckford's Vathek: "The original is unfaithful to the translation." I'd say the same about "Summer Reading" at Hosfelt Gallery. Taking as their inspiration a range of literary classics, from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (1814) to Philip K. Read more »

Exposer

Ana Teresa Fernández confronts the manual in "Tela Araña Tela"
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REVIEW Some early Bay Area figurative painting, wrote Peter Selz in 2002, encountered "the human figure by means of the physicality and the gestural performance of abstract expressionism." More explicit figures later emerged from this abstract cauldron. Ana Teresa Fernández, however, would rather start with the explicit body and work backward. Fernández, who grew up in Mexico, isn't a figurative painter, performance artist, videographer, feminist, or Latina artist — although she assumes all of these roles from time to time. Read more »

Manufacturing Frida

To see 'Frida Kahlo' at the SF MOMA is to know her?
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REVIEW Though overshadowed during her lifetime by her famous muralist husband Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo is one of many examples of driven artists who achieved their icon status posthumously. And, like other historical figures with life stories loaded with tragedy, Kahlo underwent her share of suffering, which makes for great book sales and dramatic film plots. Read more »

"Conflux Vignettes"

Brian Lucas, Daniel Glendening, and Julie Oppermann spark up Mama Buzz Cafe
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REVIEW Being unpatriotic, I spent the Fourth of July observing indoor fireworks at the opening of the group show, "Conflux Vignettes," at Mama Buzz Café's Buzz Gallery. I was lured in by poet-painter Brian Lucas, whose 2006 book, Light House (Meeting Eyes Bindery), is out of print but obtainable secondhand. Like his longer poems, which accumulate as aphoristic remarks, Lucas' abstractions accrue in obsessively worked increments. Read more »

"3"

Predatory birds, variously shaped atomic bomb clouds, lambs, and a wide-eyed man
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REVIEW For "3," artist Chris Duncan gathers a trio whose work explores pattern-making — either through the mark itself (Kyle Ranson's decorated figures and Derrick Snodgrass' prismatic constellations) or ordering select bits of visual information (Ernesto Burgos' wall collage).

Bay Area artist Snodgrass' Easter egg–colorful watercolors on paper from 2000 are refracted architectural shapes dotted with sunspots. Between then and now, Snodgrass loosened his grip and minimized his palette. Read more »

Biennialmania

Bay Area Now: For regional survey exhibitions, it's location, location, location
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Biennials, triennials, and whatever other rotation of years, are place-based exhibitions. They obviously happen somewhere, and the place dictates the context. The "Whitney Biennial 2008," for example, focused on "American art," an increasingly ambiguous term — in recent years the show has included growing numbers of artists with hyphenated identities. Read more »

You're going to myth me

Bay Area Now: Ala Ebtekar rises above while tapping into persian and personal mythologies
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You don't need to pick up all the subtleties of Berkeley-born Iranian American artist Ala Ebtekar's work to appreciate the resonant beauty of, for instance, The Ascension II (2007), and its angelic, part-griffin, semi-human, quasi-Homa messenger drawn from Persian mythology, winging across reams of Farsi as assorted readers' delicate notes intricately lace the printed manuscript. Read more »