Visual Art

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 »

You're going to myth me

Bay Area Now: Ala Ebtekar rises above while tapping into persian and personal mythologies
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You don't need to pick up all the subtleties of Berkeley-born Iranian American artist Ala Ebtekar's work to appreciate the resonant beauty of, for instance, The Ascension II (2007), and its angelic, part-griffin, semi-human, quasi-Homa messenger drawn from Persian mythology, winging across reams of Farsi as assorted readers' delicate notes intricately lace the printed manuscript. Read more »

Doing it naturally

Bay Area Now: Donald Fortescue And Lawrence Labianca take to the tides
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Donald Fortescue and Lawrence LaBianca's "Bay Area Now 5" work — jokingly referred to earlier this month as the "Top Secret Oyster Project" — is not just about the creation of a well-crafted object. The piece also deals with the current state of San Francisco Bay's wildlife, tides, and geography. Read more »

Creature feature

Bay Area Now: Misako Inaoka mashes together animal-vegetable-machine hybrids
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Nature — in its many contrived or bizarrely hybridized forms — has ways of rearing its at-times-grotesque, at-times-seductive heads in Misako Inaoka's work. Are her cunning mutants little monsters — be they chirping mechanical birds with propeller beaks or flowery pincushion pates, or donkeys or cattle mermaid-merged with John Deere tractor parts? Miniature extras from a lost installment of Ultraman? The petit-four-size stuff of surrealist nightmares? Read more »

Super Wofler

Bay Area Now: Hitching a ride with Galleon Trade
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Super Wofler! That's as good a nickname as any for artist, curator, teacher, and creative tornado Jenifer K. Wofford. Read more »

Book 'em

Bay Area Now: Outside the white box with Michael Swaine
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Michael Swaine is contagious. Whether investigating Reap What You Sew/Sewing for the People (2001, ongoing) in the streets of the Tenderloin, using braille to make a Plea for Tenderness (2007) at the Southern Exposure Gallery, or joining forces with Futurefarmers and the interdisciplinary design studio's founder, Amy Franceschini, with whom Swaine began collaborating in 1998, the San Francisco artist brings a driven curiosity and sense of aesthetic detail to every project he touches. If you experience his work, you can't help but get involved. Read more »

Nailing it

Bay Area Now: The Queens Nails Annex snares "Estacion Odesia" in its glam talons
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Queens Nails Annex has long had its street-level glam talons on the pulse of the Mission District art scene — one that so often melds visual art, music, film and video, and performance — so it's fitting that unexpected connections are emerging from its curatorial contribution to "BAN 5": "Estacion Odesia," a four-parter named for a metro stop that will present visual works by artists and musicians at QNA and their audio pieces at YBCA listening stations; produce a limited-edition box set of music and visual artifacts; and throw a music club with download Read more »

Timothy Horn: Bitter Suite

Sparkling with sugar crystals and enormous glass-blown forms
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REVIEW At some point this summer, you'll likely be asked — or roped into — accompanying visitors to see the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the de Young Museum. It's a pretty series of darkened rooms with enormous blown glass forms, lit to show off a floorshow of colors and whimsical shapes. There's nothing conceptually difficult or politically offensive in this Willy Wonka–scale display. Read more »

"Jim Campbell: Home Movies"

The technophile artist has arrived at a startling depiction of memory and magic
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REVIEW The West Coast electronic artist Jim Campbell returns to the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum to reprise his popular 2006 installation "Home Movies," a screening of amateur, low-resolution family films projected through a tapestry of LED lights. Strung from ceiling to floor, the highly pixilated reflections of quotidian family life become nothing less than digital simulacra when magnified to such extremes. Read more »

"Matt Gil: Reel to Real"

A nonstop catwalk of coffee-tabletop-size ceramic forms parading in a loop
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REVIEW Remember those jazzy Raymond Scott tunes that accompanied many Depression–era Bugs Bunny cartoons? The rhythmic tinkling of the xylophone, the metronome and piano one-two-ing, while the trumpets and clarinets wah-wahed to our wise-ass rabbit scrambling to free himself from the inner workings of a factory. Those images merged Technicolor fantasy and swinging wackiness to the dumb, impersonal nature of mass production, a cartoonish combo that comes to mind when entering Matt Gil's exhibition at the Marx and Zavattero Gallery. Read more »