Visual Art

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 »

Looking up

Sales and salvation were art world keywords in 2006
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In late 2006 several major art-market events — record-breaking auctions and 14 Miami Beach art fairs — provided a bracing contrast to a slew of exhibitions concerned with the immaterial, experiential, mystical, and social. These instances clearly illustrate the exciting, age-old tensions between the thrill of commerce and the quest for artistic integrity.
In November a Christie's sale of impressionist and modern art yielded nearly half a billion dollars. Read more »

All that heaven and earth allow

Gods, stars, and burnt offerings mark Anselm Kiefer's dark worlds
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(To read Marke B.'s take on Anselm Kiefer, "Crash and Burn," click here.)

REVIEW Recently, in an Amish schoolhouse shooting, five girls were killed and five wounded by a man who was "angry with God" and haunted by thoughts of molestation.
One girl escaped. In the earliest versions of the story, nine-year-old Emma Fisher simply snuck out. It was later said that she misunderstood the shooter's instructions in English and thought she was supposed to leave. Read more »

Crash and burn

Anselm Kiefer's mighty works are far too heavy to dance
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To read Stephen Beachy's take on Anselm Kiefer, "All That Heaven and Earth Allow," click here.)

REVIEW You could go into “Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth” looking for a rush of monumental drama and cosmic philosophizing, for German guilt writ large, and for abnormal feats of technical skill. Or you could go in looking, as I did, for laughs.
Well, not laughs exactly, but at least a little humor. Read more »

Fits and housing starts

"Suburban Escape" plumbs the art of California sprawl
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REVIEW There's a new multistory condo complex rising on a sliver of SoMa between the freeway and the Caltrain tracks. It's on one of those heretofore undesirable plots that stood vacant for decades, holding their own as a weedy buffer zone between transportation and industry. I wonder if the contractors are using a new high-tech glass that, in the space of a faux bay window, will neutralize the din of traffic. Who'd want to live there?
San Francisco is an urban area, don't you know. Read more »

Goldies Visual Art winner Chris Duncan

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Artist Chris Duncan came to Northern California for the Tahoe powder — and to get away from his routine in Delaware and his native New Jersey of catching hardcore shows every weekend and doing absolutely nothing else with his life. Duncan recalls he and a friend "snowboarded for a season, and it was rad and it was horrible at the same time. Read more »