HAIRY EYEBALL: "Negative Space" at Steven Wolf Fine Arts transforms pessimism into something unexpected
In the gallery's rear "lounge" area hang Christine Wong Yap's meticulous, cartoon-like ink drawings on gridded vellum, illustrating various quotes from positive psychological studies on topics such as learned optimism and creativity as applied to the lives of artists. Despite the occasional glint of a glitter pen or iridescent foil rainbow, these selections from the series Positive Signs (2011) come off as more humorously pessimistic when presented together than they did when they originally appeared on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Open Space blog earlier this year as weekly posts.
Wong Yap's charts and diagrams, to some degree, metabolize the very clinical discourses about happiness and creativity that they also satirize, making for a strange cocktail of uppers and downers when viewed alongside the lithographs of posters and texts by Guy Debord and the Situationist International — earlier and more pointedly political examples of what would later be called culture jamming — that hang opposite.
It is easy to imagine, say, Wong Yap depicting "live without dead time," an old Situationist slogan that was scrawled by May '68 protestors on the same Paris streets that Debord had previously cut apart and re-mapped for dreamers and drifters in his famous chart Guide Psychogeographique de Paris (1957, also hanging), as another nugget of motivational wisdom. The Spectacle for the win, folks?
Then again, maybe I'm just being pessimistic, an attitude which "Negative Space" doesn't so much as inundate you with, like the noxious signature scent that wafts out of Abercrombie and Fitch stores, but rather involuntarily triggers, as when a stranger begins to violently cough on a crowded bus. You find yourself shrinking away, but the impulse to cough, too, is irrepressible.
Through Aug. 27
Steven Wolf Fine Arts
2747 19th Street, Ste. A, SF