Time passages

Pub date May 6, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art


The past is vanishing, more than ever before. Or so it seems, as so many temporal placeholders — including the newspaper you might be holding in your hands right now — give way to digital facsimiles. This quandary is a morphing source of inspiration for "Postcards & Calendars," a solo show by the New York artist and temporary San Francisco resident Matt Keegan, who is about to complete a teaching stint at California College of the Arts.

While Keegan engages a consistently time-based theme throughout "Postcards and Calendars," he does so via refreshingly varied forms and motifs. He’s dedicatedly studious enough to turn a trip to the GLBT Historical Society into an semi-installation, yet easygoing enough to use sexually-charged archival pieces as material, spontaneous enough to try out something different with each piece in his overall show, subversive (or formally perverse) enough to digitally photograph newspapers, and irreverent enough to break his own rules regarding what constitutes a record of daily life.

Keegan first stung my eyes and queer spirit with a piece from the Altman Siegel Gallery’s inaugural group show. It visually manifested the infinite recess of a ex-romantic relationship in a manner that interspersed teasing hints of still-extant attraction with a palpable sense of emotional loss. All of these aspects brought the "memory drawings" of San Francisco artists Colter Jacobsen to mind, so it’s only fitting that Jacobsen contributes a booklet to "Postcards & Calendars" that plays off of Keegan’s theme. In fact, one can draw further connections between Keegan, Jacobsen, and the NYC filmmaker Matt Wolf — three artists of roughly the same generation who share similar queer historical imperatives while allowing humor, traces of casual lust or longing and even some lovelorn aspects into their art. Keegan’s book AMERICAMERICA (Printed Matter, 140 pages, 2008), an exploration of national identity through the Reagan era’s "Hands Across America" phenomenon, possesses enjoyable parallels to Wolf’s films about the late David Wojnarowicz and Arthur Russell, and Jacobsen’s arrangements of trinkets and trash into expressions that find meaning or power in degradeability.

"Postcards & Calendars" is a direct array of works, often candid, and at times (in the case of the gay calendars from the ‘1970s) full-frontal. But the show’s lingering strength comes from more elliptical gestures, such as a wall of personal imagery that Keegan has rendered more enigmatic and evocative through an unconventional series of drawing and photo processes. In fact, to tap into the depth of what Keegan does here, you need to look closely at the walls themselves, where you might discover 31 passages of time.


Through May 23

Altman Siegel Gallery

49 Geary, fourth floor, SF

(415) 576-9300