Visual Art

Doug Biggert: "Hitchhikers and Other Work"

A special homecoming for a lifelong artist who was never a careerist
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PREVIEW So. I find out about this show "Doug Biggert: Hitchhikers and Other Work," and it sounds and looks amazing. It's all generated from a discovery that two friends of Biggert's made in 2002: namely, that he'd taken a photograph of nearly every hitchhiker he'd ever given a ride to. Read more »

Kinda Kink.com

Ratio 3's "Safe Word" reaches out to a neighbor
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johnny@sfbg.com

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood — won't you be my neighbor? That classic American question is all trussed up and ready to go thanks to "Safe Word," a new exhibition at Chris Perez's gallery Ratio 3 that peeks inside a nearby Mission District space: San Francisco's lively new gargantuan factory of BDSM imagery, Kink.com.

An all-too-rare site-specific appraisal of urban landscape and activity is intrinsic to this show. Read more »

"Bernd & Hilla Becher: A Survey - 1972-2006"

Simultaneously operating within a system and outside a system
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REVIEW The problem, or perhaps the benefit, of a survey of photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher in an environment like the Fraenkel Gallery is the institutional quality the space projects onto the work. Read more »

"Intricacies of Phantom Content" and Trickle-down: Yours for the Mining

Diamonds are certainly Hilary Pecis' and Elyse Mallouk's best friends
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REVIEW Diamonds are certainly Hilary Pecis' and Elyse Mallouk's best friends. But even though the sparklers in their complimentary exhibits at Triple Base Gallery let off a familiar, enticing shine, do they reveal new facets?

Like antlers, rainbows, and feathers, gemstones and crystal-inspired geometric forms have bobbed to the surface as a motif of the zeitgeist, as seen both on gallery walls and the loud prints and new rave colors that adorn the merchandise at Urban Outfitters (not to mention Lady Gaga's day-to-day wardrobe). I don't fault Pecis' art for its timing. Read more »

"2012: Super-Bato Saves the World"

Fully-functional, gaudy, lusty, but also mystically calm slot machines in the style of souped-up Camaros
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REVIEW Energy must not be conserved in Enrique Chagoya's universe. From his earlier pieces on paper through his show-stopping work on linen at the turn of the century (Le Cannibale Moderniste, 1999; Aparición Sublime, 2000; Pocahontas Gets a New Passport (More Art Faster), 2000), the experimental printmaker's mock-specificity and hidden sensitivity — both aspects of a brilliant pictorial stubbornness — leave the whole body buzzing. This is art that gathers energy from its viewers as much as its subjects. Read more »

Recession, renewal

Larry Rinder transforms the Berkeley Art Museum's secret treasures into a "Galaxy"
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johnny@sfbg.com

REVIEW When it comes to the negative impact that economic recession has upon the art world, there are as many problems as missing dollars. Yet among contemporary artists, such times tend to skew various views back toward those whose work isn't epically expensive to begin with, a development that can be welcome. Moreover, careful budgeting can inspire reflection rather than a mad dash to acquire the newest, most expensive, and trendiest work.

At least two significant survey shows in 2009 follow this impulse in search of revelation. Read more »

"Leave the Capital"

A multiartist endeavor, ranging from overt to oblique, addressing the economy and matters of rough trade
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PREVIEW What is it with Bay Area group art shows named after album and song titles by the Fall? Last month brought "I Am Kurious Orange," an exhibition and performance at David Cunningham Projects that slightly twisted the name of 1988 album by mush-mouth Mark E. Smith's band. Read more »

Looking at 'Looking In'

The making and unmaking of Robert Frank's The Americans
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More on SFBG.com:
>>Johnny Ray Huston's take on the epic SFMOMA Robert Frank retrospective

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"All original art looks ugly at first," Clement Greenberg wrote in defense of modern art. Implicit in Greenberg's statement is the sense that time would eventually vindicate what was seen as anathema to prevailing tastes. Read more »

That crazy feeling

The humor, sadness, and everything-ness of Robert Frank's The Americans -- 50 years later
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>johnny@sfbg.com

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Robert Frank, "San Francisco, 1956"

The world writes a story far beyond — or deeper and more twist-riddled than — any author's imagination. How else to explain the fact that Robert Frank's peerless photographic book The Americans turned 50 the same year that Barack H. Obama was elected president of the United States? Read more »

"Otl Aicher: Munchen 1972" and "Veronica De Jesus: Do the Waive"

Corporate branding and athleticism
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REVIEW The 1972 Munich Olympics is mostly associated with terrorism, with Marc Spitz running a distant second. But Otl Aicher's graphic design for the event exemplifies the better possibilities of the fusion of humanism and capitalism that characterizes each incarnation of the international event. A member of the White Rose movement and friend of Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were arrested and executed by the Nazis, Aicher later made his name through graphic design concepts that possess a rare fusion of experience and imagination. Read more »