Visual Art

Mission: school

Alicia McCarthy turns her studies into art
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REVIEW When I walked into the Berkeley Art Museum for a first look at Alicia McCarthy's contribution to "Fer-ma-ta," the 37th annual UC Berkeley MFA graduate exhibition, I was given a small stash of pencils — the kind you use to mark scores in bowling or putt-putt golf. Note-taking is allowed in museum spaces, but pens are a definite no-no. The self-consciousness brought about by such a rule and the gift of the pencils only served to enhance the direct address of McCarthy's work. Read more »

Mighty morphin' power ranger

Christian Maychack's mutating pieces challenge the boundaries of time, space, physics
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REVIEW Those of us who got to see the eastbound I-580 freeway connector overpass right after it was charbroiled by that teetering gas tanker truck understand the weirdness of witnessing a thing so hefty and solid transformed into something much like melted cheese sliding off a pizza slice. Read more »

Prints charming

In a new SoMa location, Electric Works is building the Land of Yes
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PREVIEW If only it were prix fixe. The lamb curry wrapped in crystallized mint leaves sounds delectable, but the butternut squash ravioli catch your eye first. Then you notice that one of the items on the menu is made entirely with ingredients from the chef's garden. The choice is obvious. As you munch on homegrown multicolored heirloom tomatoes, conversation turns to how much is in our own backyards. Read more »

Love machine

Peering under the hood of Charles Sheeler's magnificent mechanical obsession
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REVIEW To look at the formally austere self-portraits made by the American artist Charles Sheeler (1883–1965) at various points throughout his career, you might surmise, from the repeated images of his stiff, unsmiling visage, that he toiled in obscurity for dry, dusty decades as an administrative underling at a low-level law firm, forever obsessed with organizing his paper clips, pausing from his tedious task only long enough to clean his spectacles on a crisply starched pocket handkerchief and tie the laces of his uncomfortable shoes, polished d Read more »

No hidin' SECA

Searching for thematic threads at the biennial exhibition
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REVIEW Each SECA Art Award exhibition, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's biennial and only official nod to Bay Area artists, is cause to revisit the curious, contested idea of place in contemporary art. Read more »

Scruff trade

Berkeley Art Museum's marvelous Bruce Nauman show locates inspirations in the hood
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Forty years ago Bruce Nauman made a squat, unpainted block of plaster sculpture titled A Cast of the Space under My Chair. This single work, one of dozens in the Berkeley Art Museum's absorbing exhibition "A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s," is said to have provided enough inspiration to fuel the career of British artist Rachel Whiteread, who famously cast the interior of a condemned Victorian house. Nauman's sculpture, here seen as cast exhibition copy, could easily be overlooked. Read more »

Fresh hedonism and sound artifacts

Bill Owens and Christian Patterson shoot for skin, sin, and salvation
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America's holy trinity — beer, barbecue, and the Bible — forms a belief system of carnivorous consumption and garish glitz in recent photographs by Bill Owens and Christian Patterson, well paired in concurrent exhibitions at Robert Koch Gallery.

Owens's "Flesh," with its uncomfortable close-ups of pork parts and gnashing teeth, picks through gristly ribs, charred bacon strips, and headless mannequins, revealing an eat-or-be-eaten society starved for gustatory and spiritual succor. Read more »

The video guy

SECA recipient makes pop moving pictures and remixes history-making moments
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PREVIEW The public furor set off last November by the imminent publication of onetime football star and Avis flunky O.J. Simpson's now-quashed book, If I Did It, on the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and Ron Goldman, demonstrates how pivotal the 1995 Simpson trial was to so many, just as Newsweek's recent publication of details from a key chapter shows how much it continues to compel — and how tender the wounds remain on this country's notions of race, justice, media, and celebrity. Read more »

Air play

The natural history of Bay Area artist Ruth Asawa
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REVIEW There is something about "The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air," the de Young Museum's current retrospective of Ruth Asawa's work, that initially feels a bit like a natural history museum display. The darkened space, punctuated with spotlights, showcases Asawa's floating woven wire forms, which look like giant representations of diatoms or plankton. Read more »

They rule — and drool

Clown cars riddle the work of leonardogillesfleur
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REVIEW It may sound like a toast at a wedding reception, but in order to have some measure of success in a collaborative project, there has to be an agreement between the parties involving respect, patience, and a dose of humor. The opposite would be when a couple filing for divorce cites "irreconcilable differences." For the collaborative art team leonardogillesfleur (Leonardo Giacomuzzo and Gilles-fleur Boutry), this phrase is also the clever title of their recent body of work currently on exhibit at Catharine Clark Gallery. Read more »