ARTICLES_2_files/2000.World Sculpture News.pdf - Lewis deSoto

ARTICLES_2_files/2000.World Sculpture News.pdf - Lewis deSoto

ARTICLES_2_files/2000.World Sculpture News.pdf - Lewis deSoto


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AMY BERK > WRITINGS > ESSAYS > SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA SCULPTURE11/21/02 6:39 PMamyberk.comamyberk2000@yahoo.comreviews interviews essays poemsprojectsoriginally published in World Sculpture News Winter 2000Forever on the MoveSan Francisco Bay Area Overviewexhibitionswritingscv/pressbio/statementby Amy BerkBay Area institutions are finally doing their part to support local artists, providing a sampling of the powerhouse sculptural and installation work thatgets made in San Francisco and its environs, work that is often overlooked by the major institutions and the international scene. This attention to BayArea artists is a trickle down effect that the new SFMOMA, inaugurated in 1995, and to a lesser extent the opening of the Center for the Arts in 1991,has had on the status of the local art community. In addition to this heightened visibility, increasing affluence and power generated by the dot.comrevolution centered in San Francisco and its southern neighbor Silicon Valley has focused more and more attention on the Bay.Opening just days apart, two exciting and provocative group exhibitions showcase many of the visual and conceptual ideas that artists living in theBay Area are currently investigating. Museum Pieces: Bay Area Artists Consider the de Young takes place at the soon to be demolished M.H. deYoung Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park. Across town, Bay Area Now 2, the long awaited sequel to the successful Bay Area Now held in thesummer of 1997, occurs at the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens in the heart of downtown San Francisco.The first Bay Area Now received such an enthusiastic response from audiences, artists, critics and curators that it is now planned as a triennialfestival celebrating the literary, film/video and performing arts as well as the visual. Like the first, Bay Area Now 2 was curated by Center for the ArtsChief Curator Renny Pritikin, Visual Arts Curator Rene de Guzman and Associate Visual Arts Curator Arnold Kemp. Bay Area Now 2 bills itself as aninclusive survey of the Bay Area that "elevates artistic production" in the region. An inclusive regional survey with such lofty aims is virtuallyimpossible to successfully accomplish, and many segments of the art world will inevitably be excluded. The concept of the exhibition also raises thequestion of the significance of regional survey shows in an increasingly global arena.Nevertheless, Bay Area Now 2 does provide as good an excuse as any to organize a cross-generational, multi-disciplinary dynamic grouping of someof the outstanding Bay Area artists both emerging and well known. There is no theme per se beyond this, but connections and motifs emerge asartists respond to their surroundings and the social, political and cultural climate of the time in which we live. There are many exciting, innovative andfunny pieces in this show that cause you to stop, consider and reconsider some of the notions you may have about San Francisco. Many of the thirtyartists selected for this exhibition consciously or not so consciously address ideas that can be seen from an outsider's perspective as stereotypes ofthe Bay Area, an area filled with turn-of-the-millennium anxiety, rising real estate prices and information highway overload.Tony Labat's "Big Peace II" (1999) standing just outside the Center for the Arts, welcomes you to Bay Area Now 2, as well as to San Francisco, thehometown of the flower-power peace and love movement. Center for the Arts is located in downtown San Francisco where many visitors pass on theirway to conventions, shopping and hotels. This 12 foot tall off-center steel peace sign piece was originally designed for installation in Golden GatePark, which many consider to be the birthplace of the hippie movement. Controversy ensued as local residents expressed concern about the presentday hippies that now hang out there. In the end, the San Francisco Art Commission forestalled the installation, most likely permanently, of thismonument to the movements of the 60s, in the place where it all started.Once inside the building, what was once the Center for the Arts store has morphed into a multimedia Internet and zine reading café. Both the highestand the lowest current forms of communication media are accessible here. High-end high-tech computer images merge with the lowest – do it yourselfzines necessitating only paper, a pen and a Xerox machine. This high/low aesthetic, quite popular in San Francisco, permeates the entire exhibition.In the galleries, many of the artists play with other Bay Area archetypes such as new-age movements, Silicon Valley commercialization andoutrageous real estate prices. "Metatherapy" (1999) by Neil Grimmer (with Maria Mortati) combines a few of these issues into one. He creates abusiness, Metatherapy.com, which offers New Age personal therapy over the Internet. If you register, every hour you will receive a mantra in avibrating page. Using pagers, computers, glass and steel to produce little codes for life at the touch of a button, Grimmer combines body andmachine, incorporating the high tech and the spiritual with art and commerce. New-ageism is also punctured by Lewis deSoto in his huge 25’ longrecumbent blow-up doll "Paranirvana (self-portrait)" (1999). Inspired by the recent death of his father, deSoto inflates and deflates serious subjectmatter, filling a Reclining Buddha figure with air and inserting his own face for the Buddha's. He both points to our power and responsibility for our ownspirituality as well as pokes fun at that conceit.Bursting the high-tech silicon bubble currently enveloping the Bay Area like its famous fog, Erika Olsen Hannes uses the crawlspace under the stairsto present her special brand of feminist and feminine-pink kitsch. "Ciudad Ateuqirne" (1999), is Hannes's latest version of organized chaos: a scatterenvironment of dime store goodies and cast off circuit boards residing on a complex terrain of spray painted pink foam and green Astroturf. Trained ashttp://www.amyberk.com/essays_world_sculpture.htmPage 1 of 3

AMY BERK > WRITINGS > ESSAYS > SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA SCULPTURE11/21/02 6:39 PMThis unexpected and surprising treat, like Porges’s, takes viewers outside of the galleries devoted to this show and into other areas of the museumwhere interesting, usually unseen histories are disclosed and made accessible to a wider audience.A visual highlight of this show is Rebeca Bollinger’s " The Collection (descending)", (1999). Her installation uses the entire collection of the de Young ina stunning and hypnotic video projection filling an entire wall of a darkened room. 65,000 images of the Fine Art Museum’s collection are turned intotiny squares of digital matter, creating row upon row of mesmerizing patterns. You can see the entire collection march by in 15 minutes in a frenzieddisplay of pomp and circumstance.Utilizing the environs surrounding the de Young in beautiful, unusual and thought provoking ways are collaborative art team Fletcher + Rubin; ChrisJohanson; and Rigo ’99. In "Pool of Enchantment" (1999), Fletcher + Rubin investigate the pool that sits outside the front entrance of the museumbeckoning visitors to throw a coin, or often a used cup, into its brackish waters. Three gallery walls are filled with large video projections of slowmoving poetic pans of what lurks inside the murky pool, enveloping you in a dirty Giverny and pointedly touching upon what we deem beautiful. Thefountain acts as a constructed environment for our collective hopes and dreams, perhaps like the works inside the museum itself.Chris Johanson used Golden Gate Park as inspiration for his acrylic on wood installation craftily constructed out of scrap wood pieces. Denizens ofthe park appear in the fabulously titled "The Art for the People the Animals and Plants in no Hierarchy of Importance Order, the Museum is in There, InThat Order in No Hierarchy of the Order". Hacky-sac players, the famed Golden Gate Park buffalo and drummers along with some of the trees thatmake up the backdrop for this museum-in-a-park appear here.Another unexpected and provocative transformation of the museum itself is Rigo ‘99’s " Tate Wiki Kuwa Museum" (1999). Rigo turns the entire deYoung into an alternative venue, a fictitious museum dedicated to showing the work of imprisoned American Indian leader Leonard Peltier, who manypeople believe is unjustly incarcerated. Rigo paints an outside section of the building turquoise blue and hangs two banners announcing a display ofthe paintings of Mr. Peltier, while his signature striped signage style embellish the structural supports that prop up the earthquake damaged de Young.Inside the building, Rigo fills a hallway with Peltier’s paintings, ending with a replica of a jail cell. The name of the new museum means "total freedom,"and this non-traditional sculptural installation brings attention to the work that is left out of museums, in turn bringing into question the work thatmuseums do display, and the nature of being free --unusual themes for a fine art museum to tackle.Also of note is Meg Mack’s Bay Area fun(ky) floor piece built out of a collection of vintage art supplies and a romantic vision of the artist/painter."Runway," a sculpture about painting topped with misshapen canvases references the traditional view that a museum is built out of paintings andpaintings are built from art supplies. A snaky paintbrush is wrapped around one of the easels alluding to the possibilities of the pitfalls of the Gardenof Eden vision of the life of an artist. Mail Order Brides, a collaborative trio, contributed "Home is Where the Art Is" (1999), a humorous installation thatbrings their special brand of down-home domesticity and research with subservient stereotypes into the normally staid museum. Another artist dealingwith issues of inclusion and exclusion (like Rigo ’99) is Stephanie Anne Johnson, who enlivens a banal slide show of various pieces of the collectionwith the inclusion of a quirky circular image of the viewer, putting us on display alongside the artifacts.It is human nature to want to catalogue and name (as many of the works in Museum Pieces demonstrate). As people struggle to find the connectionsbetween the work in these two shows, the question of whether or not there is a Bay Area aesthetic emerges and re-emerges. And if there is one, whatdoes it look like.Not only do these two shows not provide specific answers to those questions; in fact, the variety of work on display demonstrates the impossibility ofeven asking those questions as our world becomes more and more globalized, So, that being said, although there is no particular Bay Area aesthetic,the Bay Area continues to deliver on its reputation as an incubator of innovation and eccentricity, a place where independent vision and visual powercan co-exist and where dissection and discussion of pertinent cultural issues keeps happening. Maybe now, with these two exhibitions serving toenergize and enlarge audiences, potentially jump-starting international careers for many of these artists, talented artists will be able to remain in theBay Area without being regionalized, and ride out the anxiety-fraught fin-de-siecle here, sailing into the next millennium in the sex-filled never-neverland of the peace and lovable, live/workable Bay Area, and thrive.http://www.amyberk.com/essays_world_sculpture.htmPage 3 of 3

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