Visual Art

Miami plays itself

Art Basel, part two: Faux-favelas and real degradation
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ESSAY On opening night of Art Basel, N. Miami Avenue was a sort of Potemkin museum, every storefront packed with art, free wine and cheese, and the usually sleepy street clogged with taxis and limos. Ordinarily no one walks in muggy Miami, but tonight the cracked and littered sidewalks were deep with art patrons dressed in their Midtown Manhattan finery, looking out of place, as if passengers on a private jet that had made an emergency landing on a tropical Caribbean island. Wynwood is an area hard-hit by foreclosures. Up and down N. Read more »

Clouds and mirrors

A trip through the mirage of Art Basel into the scarred face of Miami

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Carl Fisher turned a mosquito-plagued, malarial sandbar into Miami Beach, "The Sun and Fun Capital of The World," in less than a decade — dredging up sea bottom to build the island paradise, an all-American Las Vegas-by-the- Sea, where Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason partied and Richard Nixon received two Republican nominations for president. Art Deco hotels lined the beach, bold as Cadillacs, defiant in the path of hurricanes, their confident Modern lines projecting postwar American power. Read more »

Art, work, and artwork

Artist-run groups move beyond doodling for dollars in a screwed-up economy
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VISUAL ART The global financial crisis continues to impoverish and displace those within reach of its residual tremors. Yet in the art realm, there have been signs of hope. Recent fairs — Frieze Art Fair in October and Art Basel Miami Beach earlier this month — brought reports of strong sales and optimism within the distressed economy. So why are artists everywhere worried about their futures, and more critically, panicking about their present tenses? The squeeze has to do with the work in artwork. Read more »

Glitchy kisses

A trio of Toban Nichols shows overtaxes, the good way
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marke@sfbg.com

VISUAL ART "I'm interested in the destruction of everything. I was the kid who screwed up all his toys," Toban Nichols (www.tobannichols.com) says over the phone from his studio in Los Angeles. The longtime San Francisco resident and multimedia artist is still unpacking from his recent move to the capital of schmooze, but he's been frantically yo-yoing up to the Bay to attend three concurrent gallery openings, a "trilogy of terror," of his work here. "It's been very weird, to put it mildly. I moved to L.A. Read more »

Crosses and losses

"Amish Abstractions" ponders whether the "simple" life is different from the life of (Bridget) Riley
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

VISUAL ART "Amish Abstractions," the de Young Museum's exhibition of 48 quilts made primarily by anonymous Amish girls and women, gains its conceptual interest from the unusual pairing of the words Amish and abstraction.

The collectors of these quilts were initially drawn to them by their similarity to works by 20th century abstract artists. While the attendant monograph asserts this juxtaposition several times, within the show itself you only get a disclaimer by curator Robert Shaw. Read more »

Sprinting toward Babylon

Conrad Ruiz paints the speed-record horror and hilarity of contemporary life
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VISUAL ART I remember the first time I heard about Conrad Ruiz. I was standing by the fire on the patio of the Eagle, a spot that for me is a site of great tidings. A pair of talented San Francisco artists told me with enthusiasm about this young painter whose large-scale works depicted things like a man riding the nose of a killer whale as it burst forth from a pool, or a coach getting a golden shower of Gatorade from his triumphant team. According to their accounts, Ruiz magnified and entwined the absurdity and ecstasy of his subject matter. Read more »

Attention cultural mutants

Past, present, and future through the transcendent audio and video dregs of Jacob Ciocci
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arts@sfbg.com

"Jacob Ciocci is," as Wikipedia attests, "an American [Pittsburgh] visual artist, performance artist and musician ... he is one of the three remaining founding members of Paper Rad, an artist collective ... He also performs and tours regularly ... in the band 'Extreme Animals'..." Ciocci's work, especially with his recent video collection release, 2 Blessed 2B Stressed (Audio Dregs), is almost entirely not his own. His videos recycle pop cultural detritus as fast and furiously as his band freaks beats. Read more »

Media res

From white dust to blank page, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha ain't your Yoko Ono
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arts@sfbg.com

VISUAL ART/LIT Teresa Hak Kyung Cha isn't the most famous female representative of conceptual art and the marriage between text and film. But this visual artist and prose lyricist — born in 1951, killed in 1982 — found new zones between film language and the written word. Her body of work, now a hallmark for lesser-known Asian and feminist artists, roughly spans from 1972 to 1981. Read more »

This is it

Candice Breitz gets to the media heart of pop songs and mom with "On View"
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arts@sfbg.com

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 »

Encapsuutf8g pulses

Jacqueline Gordon inverts the look and sound of utopia
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I happened upon the opening of "Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine," a sound installation by Jacqueline Gordon at Queen's Nails Projects that has inspired noisy throngs both inside and outside the gallery's small walls. The work relays miked sound from the sidewalk and street outside QNP, ricocheting it through the gallery's innards via four white constructions of paneled vinyl and protruding, point-less (but sharp with meaning) pyramids. Read more »