Glen Helfand

This is it

Candice Breitz gets to the media heart of pop songs and mom with "On View"
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VISUAL ART In its opening week, the posthumous Michael Jackson film This Is It topped the international box office. It's a testament to the enduring ardor of his fans. But one day in the not-so-distant future, the film will likely be core material in a media studies program. Perhaps even a Michael Jackson studies program.

In 2005, Candice Breitz, a Berlin-based, South African-born artist whose works of photography and video installation address the psychosocial power of pop, created King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson). Read more »

Dead heat

Old is new again as conservatism defines museums' summer survival strategies
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

TREND Summer's not over, but it might not be too soon to identify Michael Jackson's passing as the touchstone cultural event of season. Icons and paradigms have been crumbling at a remarkable clip: California narrowly avoided a financial abyss, stalwart businesses folded, major pop and art figures died. New Langton Arts, a venerable San Francisco alternative gallery, may not survive the season.

Art museums are inherently rigid institutions. Read more »

Not being boring

John Baldessari keeps the faith — with buoyant color — at the Legion of Honor
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There are reasons why John Baldessari has always seemed a little like god. For one, the L.A.-based artist resembles popular visions of the man upstairs. He's a formidably tall fellow — 6 feet, 7 inches — with white hair and beard, and he exudes an unflappably calm, wise demeanor, characteristics that figure in his role as an influential professor for almost three decades at Calarts and UCLA. Read more »

Don't look back

Art in 2008 recedes like nobody's business, and it might be time to come home
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Twelve months ago, as I sat down to write a year-end appraisal of 2007, I was still in awe of "© Murakami," the Takashi Murakami show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. It brilliantly captured the crass apex of global capitalism, mostly through celebrity-studded receptions and the appropriated — call it sculptural — form of a Louis Vuitton boutique. What a difference a year makes. 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 »

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 »

Xbox activism

Gas Zappers taps into gaming, photomontage, and acid-y color schemes for politicized play
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REVIEW The day after the last 2008 presidential debate, the stock market rollercoastered, however tenuously, to a high point, and oil prices plummeted. One would think those would be hopeful omens — on NPR, a woman interviewed on the street claimed lower gas prices were akin to a miracle. Yet the current ability to get the news the moment it happens — where would we be without e-alerts regarding daily Wall Street dramas? — has conditioned us to believe tomorrow might offer a radically different story. Read more »

Sino the times

Fall Arts Preview: Bay Area museums and galleries home in on Asia
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If the world-class flash of the Beijing Olympics isn't enough of an example of China's rising international cultural power, we'll have continued reminders at Bay Area museums and galleries in the coming months. It's perhaps a tipping point: Pace Beijing, a big outlet for a major western gallery, just opened, signaling a market vetting of art currently being made in China. Read more »

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 »

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 »