New art and style on Geary

Pub date May 6, 2009
WriterLaura Peach
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

With a calm demeanor and a pulled-together, no-nonsense appearance, Claudia Altman-Siegel isn’t an obvious suspect when it comes to identifying the driving force behind a conceptual art show that draws well-heeled European tourists and people clad in Converse shoes and skinny jeans. Both types, and more, are drawn to Matt Keegan’s "Postcards & Calendars," where they’re confronted by an eight-foot list of days of the week and a larger-than-life photograph of a New York Times reader hidden behind dismal headlines.

The four month-old Altman Siegel Gallery is set apart from neighboring galleries by its inclusion of a window, a trait that trades art hermeticism for the possibility of sunshine. Street noise is present but not disruptive — a reminder that another world exists beyond the space’s light cocoon of images and ideas. It has a distinctively different aura from the other galleries in the 49 Geary St. building, something Altman-Siegel says she is "sort of blind to."

After 10 years of work in New York City, Altman-Siegel slipped over to San Francisco to fill a gap in the West Coast gallery scene, bringing emerging local and internationally established artists who are still early on the trajectory to significance in the art canon.

Local art or specificity is prominent in Altman-Siegel’s curatorial work to date. The current show, though by a New York artist, includes sketches of familiar San Francisco street corners. Bay Area artist Trevor Paglen’s surreal cosmic photographs were the focus of the gallery’s first solo show.

Across the street, mannequins wearing teal trousers topped by black, multipocketed jackets and craftily reconstructed vintage dresses stand defiantly among an installation of birch tree branches and rusted machinery. A former STA travel office has been transformed into Shotwell, a cutting-edge update of a funky Aunt Edna boutique.

Newlyweds Michael and Holly Weaver needed somewhere to hawk their extensive collection of vintage clothes. When they landed a lease at 36 Geary St., the shop expanded to fuse groundbreaking European fashion and clothes by Bay Area designers. Denim from local menswear line B.Son is paired with chic shirts by Parisian collective Surface2Air. Shape-shifting square dresses from the San Francisco duo Please Dress Up! hang alongside bold separates by British label Scout. On the other side of Silverman Gallery’s recent move to Sutter Street, the openings of Shotwell and Altman-Siegel suggest that something new and bold is creeping up on Union Square.