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San Francisco Gallery going


A small item in yesterday’s Inquirer caused me to sit up a little straighter. It told about an underground utility explosion in San Francisco’s Crocker Galleria area that sent one woman to the hospital in critical condition and blew out a bunch of windows when a PG&E transformer burst, a manhole cover popped, and a fire started. See SF Chronicle story for more.

I mention this because Crocker Galleria is where Anna Conti and I had lunch before gallery-going back on Aug. 2. And Post St., site of the blast, (see map) is where Newmark Gallery is, one block up from the Galleria. Newmark is where Conti’s paintings are featured in a group exhibit.

The world is small and so are we and coincidences abound. Did I mention Conti has a painting of a blue PG&E truck looking anything but sweet and innocent? You can see that in a previous post and here’s the link to the studio visit I did with Conti.

And here’s Newmark Gallerist Mark Wladika‘s blog post about the explosion on his brand new blog. He’s ok, the gallery’s ok, no other injuries reported and the SF mayor is yelling at PG&E and investigating.

So with that preamble, today I’m putting up some pictures and some commentary about the Conti-Fallon gallery-trek Aug. 2. I’m so following edge I’m embarrassed. But I do want to share some pictures of great stuff we saw.

Conti posted about this a while ago, two nice posts here and here. And here’s her post on the Newmark show’s opening.

And while we’re linking, here’s a post Conti put up with two fabulous pictures: 1. of a bag of Libby’s and my art I took out there as a little present for her; and 2. a group of antique Cracker Jack toys. Conti compares the Fallon and Rosof goody bag treats to the CJ toys. Love it!

Social Insecurity at Catharine Clark
Our first stop after Newmark was at Catharine Clark Gallery, a venue Libby and I first became aware of at the NY Scope Fair. See post. We were smitten by Chester Arnold‘s symbolic narrative paintings of men acting out what looked like mythic boxing matches in a prison.

Arnold had paintings in this group show, “Social Insecurity” but for some reason I didn’t take pictures. If memory serves, Conti said she’s met Arnold and that he’s a nice guy.

Sandow Birk has this great interactive miniature in the show. It’s from a suite of work based on Dante’s Inferno. The piece is made in collaboration with Elyse Pignolet. (see bigger) I love this litle mini environment which shows an airport waiting room in the gate area. It has a tiny delicate lever under the left side allowing a viewer to move the policemens’ arms up and down in a threatening way. Everybody’s so pot-bellied and schlumpy it reminded me a little of R. Crumb.
Birk has been working with Dante for some time. He’s got several books that appear to be graphic novels of dante’s stories. As we leafed through one that was behind the counter Conti pointed out that Birk had located all the scenes in Northern California, which is a great idea. Birk also has some serious leather-bound books in a back space. My gallery list says it’s his Dante’s Purgatorio and Paradiso each illustrated with around 70 hand-drawn lithographs. And located nearby almost as if it’s guarding the books is what must be a sculpture by Al Farrow who has another, similarly dark and goth, sculpture in the show. See bigger.

Next to Birk’s work is a three-shelf installation by Packard Jennings, also interactive. (see bigger here) Comprised of, from left to right, a book, a roll of stickers and a scissor, the piece riffs on the Gideon bible and invites the viewer to clip off a sticker and carry it with them until they are in a hotel room at which time they are invited to place the sticker inside the bible in the room. Here’s what the sticker says:

This Bible contains material on creationism. Creationism is a parable, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material was written by normal men almost two thousand years ago and should be approached with an open mind and critically considered.

I love interactive pieces, free give-aways and souvenirs, as you know, and so I was excited to cut my sticker from the roll and carry it off. Actually it fits nicely into my snap bag in my purse. This is the place where I keep my home away from home (comb, band-aid, chapstick etc). But it’s become the perfect place for my Gates relic (square of the orange cloth used for the Christo/Jeanne Claude project.); my three Tim Hawkinson signatures, likewise souvenir give-aways from that his retrospective at the Whitney, and now the Jennings bible sticker. Not quite a boite en valise, it’s my mini-travelling exhibit. (see bigger)

Andy Diaz Hope‘s photo “Sugar Daddys” is virtuosic and has Fred Tomaselli chops (beauty is life is drugs is life). The photo shows a gelcap installation in which a previous photo is sliced up and put piece by piece inside the tubes and arranged into what I have to assume is an approximation of some original source photo.

Julie Heffernan, represented by a great “Self Portrait as Netherworld,” (see bigger) also has a painting hanging over the desk in the office, Self Portrait as Hostile Takeover.” That piece was the very one that Amy Lipton brought in to Abington for her curatorial debut show last winter. Excellent Philly/SF connection.


Travis Somerville‘s Civil War era portraits (Sherman, Grant and John Brown) updated with weird contemporary references — e.g. swastika and pigtails are lovely drawings and great in their details. (see bigger) Here’s John Brown with pigtails for example. The mostly black and white work has subtle color thrown in — blue eyes and pink bows on JB’s pigtails. Messing with icons is an entirely good thing and this guy can draw, so I’ll be on the lookout for more from him.

Ray Beldner‘s “Gelt Suit v. 2 (After Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit)” speaks for itself. It’s made of sewn American currency. Yoram Wolberger‘s “Toy Soldier No. 3 (crawling soldier)” is a toy blowup that’s nice but not unexpected.

It’s a big exhibit including two video works in separate video project rooms — two curtained-off spaces with a bench inside to sit on and view in comfort. What a great idea!! The videos, by Christoph Draiger and by Julia Page were not compelling enough to hold my interest, and the one by Page, shot from a cellphone, with the clips randomly sequenced, nicely techno-savvy, has disappointing content. Others in the show are: Mike Rollins, leonardogillesfleur, Masami Teraoka, Al Farrow, Reuben Lorch-Miller, Scott Greene (with a great people falling down a staircase painting that evoked twisting DNA strands — I’m so sorry I don’t have a picture) and Walter Robinson with a wood and epoxy map of the red state/blue state phenomenon done up as a great big iced cookie.
In sum, the show is excellent. It’s up til Aug. 27, so run on in if you can. And Conti, who knows much about many of the Bay-area artists featured, provided color commentary for me that was the best. We had a fabulous time nosing up to things, standing back, thinking aloud together and just generally sharing our enthusiasms.

In the interest of moving on, I’m going to stop here and get to Joan Brown, Viola Frey, Will Yackulic and Raphael Soyer in the next post.