Hairy Eyeball

Pwning the classics


Jennie Ottinger’s last solo painting show at Johansson Projects, “ibid,” presented an assortment of ghostly figures — ballerinas, nurses, schoolchildren, businessmen — lifted from found photographs. The less-is-more aesthetic of Ottinger’s small oil and gouache canvases underscored the fact that, save for the recovered images used as source material, the everyday people depicted in them had long been lost to history.

The same could hardly be said of the authors Ottinger breezily engages with in her latest show, “Due By,” in which she casts a gimlet eye on William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Harper Lee, John Updike, and Leo Tolstoy, among other notable figures of the modern Western literary canon.

Ottinger has essentially remade these authors’ best-known works in her own image with her own images. In addition to painting scenes from titles such as The Loved One and To Kill A Mockingbird, she has also created new covers for them (based on the design of older editions) enfolding her art around actual books. The contents of the books don’t match their titles. Their plastic slipcases, though, are a clever nod at authenticity.

On one wall these new-old books have been stacked horizontally into humorous thematic groupings whose titles frequently double as groan-inducing punchlines: the Madame Bovary, Couples, and Anna Karenina stack is called Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the MILF For Free? Another short stack that includes Lolita, Sons and Lovers, and Oedipus Rex is titled, appropriately enough, Inappropriate Lovers.

Also throughout the gallery are single volumes, propped open on shelves. Ottinger has glued together the books’ pages and carved out small rectangular spaces into which she has placed her own summaries of the re-covered work, which you are allowed to pick up and leaf through.

Ottinger’s retellings — handwritten in a tiny, tidy scrawl that resembles birdtracks across fresh snow — are by far the best thing in “Due By.” Her observations are pithy, and at times, flash an understated brilliance. Ottinger is also, on occasion, not above proclaiming her ignorance of the text she’s writing on and doesn’t hesitate to quote Wikipedia and SparkNotes for backup.

Here she is on Anna Karenina‘s titular doomed heroine: “We will soon see evidence of her extraordinary relationship skills.”

Or the protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: “Much like tofu, he adopts the qualities of those around him.”

And I challenge any English PhD to come up with a more perfect gloss on As I Lay Dying‘s Budren clan as, “Holy shit! This family is cursed. Very National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

If Ottinger were a high school student, she would be the bright kid who always makes wisecracks in class because she’s bored with or understimulated by her surroundings, and not necessarily by the assigned reading (I wonder, in fact, if Ottinger was that student). Her writing, for all its glibness and front-loaded superficiality, carries a palpable amount of affection for the texts. Ottinger’s sassiness is an informed sassiness; it lacks the underlying vitriol of true snark.

In other words, Ottinger’s armchair criticism is the sort that the Internet — and blogs, in particular — has made us more accustomed to. At the same time, educators attempting to teach any of the texts featured in “Due By,” have had to become more adept at sniffing out the lines in their students’ papers lifted from the same Wikipedia and SparkNotes entries that Ottinger playfully quotes. You can read Anna Karenina in its entirety online, or you can find a million ways to get around reading it and still turn in a term paper on “the death of the heart.”

Mind you, I don’t think Ottinger is clutching her pearls over the fate of the literary canon (or the book as object, or the coarsening of pedagogy, etc.) in the age of Google. If the smart, funny, and lovingly crafted objects she has created in “Due By” must be burdened with a takeaway message about the way we read now, I’d like to quote one of the great antiheros of television, Don Draper: “Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.”



With Ed Moses’ dazzling acrylics, what you see is what you get. That’s not a diss by any means. Rather, don’t expect something else to emerge if you give into the temptation to slowly cross and uncross your eyes while staring down one of the textile-like paintings in “Wic Wac,” Moses’ current show at Brian Gross Fine Art.

Moses — a L.A. veteran who had his first show at the city’s legendary Ferus Gallery in 1958 — identifies as an abstract artist, even though paintings such as Anima Kracker can’t help but cause pattern recognition: their fractal-like smears of off-set yellows and purples are in fact made up of the morphed stripes, spots, and other tell-tale markings of zebras, giraffes, and tigers. 


Through Jan. 8, 2011

Johansson Projects

2300 Telegraph Ave, Oakland

(510) 444-9140


Through Dec. 23

Brian Gross Fine Art

49 Geary, SF

(415) 788-1050

Bless the beasts and children


HAIRY EYEBALL It’s hard not to look at Ryan McGinley’s road-trip photographs — in which his young, often nude, subjects, having ventured far from civilization, run through the woods, climb trees, dance amid a Vulcanic cascade of sparklers, and leap into the void — and not sigh a little. What now separates them from the images he shot for Levi’s current “Go Forth” campaign, seemingly plastered on every other Muni shelter, is frequently a conspicuously displayed pair of jeans.

McGinley has built his reputation on capturing Edenic visions of youth running wild. His pictures are gauzy and nostalgic, shot through with the sexy frisson of their in-the-moment documentation of a way of living that rebukes authority and throws caution to the wind. No one is at work in a McGinley photograph (an irony, perhaps, given the faux-literati, “we are all workers” sloganeering that Levi’s uses elsewhere in the campaign). Rather, people, such as the New York area taggers he started off photographing early in his career, create. Or, as in the road trip pictures, they drop out, escape.

No wonder Levi’s came calling. McGinley’s photographs deliver the promise of youth and all its freedoms in a sexy visual package. When McGinley is at his strongest, though, his pictures also offer up flashes of mystery and unaffected joy. Sometimes, when his subject’s eyes lock with his camera they seem to transmit the promise of a secret to be shared.

The road-trip photographs make up roughly half the images in “Life Adjustment Center,” McGinley’s current exhibit at Ratio 3. However much they dazzle — Tom (Blue, Pink and Orange), a male nude study, gives George Platt Lynes a glowing Technicolor kiss — they are not the true draw. The animals are.

The other half of the show consists of black and white studio portraits of models (again, nude) posing with all sorts of fauna: deer, a domesticated mutt, a peacock, a butterfly, and a coyote. They are the inverse of the road-trip scenes: nature has been brought inside. Both creatures and humans address us with unblinking stillness that, at first glance, gives the impression that the former are stuffed. However, the press notes inform us that the animals are real, which makes a photo like India (Coyote) all the more riveting.

The coyote is draped around India’s shoulders, her hands balancing it in place, in a pose that echoes classic depictions of Christ as shepherd holding aloft his allegorical lamb. The coyote — its tongue hanging out — appears at ease, as does India. Their proximity to each other is nonetheless unsettling (we are left to guess whether or not the scars that criss-cross India’s torso and legs were acquired while posing or before the shoot).

The photograph also makes me think of Josef Beuys’ famous 1974 performance in which he stayed in the René Block Gallery with a wild coyote for eight hours over three days. By the end of the piece, the coyote had become tolerant enough of Beuys to allow the artist to give it a farewell embrace.

In McGinley’s remarkable photographs animals and humans pose together, but there is no hierarchy of prop and subject. In these double portraits McGinley has captured a momentary, and intensely tactile, experience of trust and vulnerability shared between unlike creatures.



I have one thing to say to fans of 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys (1968) who haven’t yet seen local animation wunderkind and 2008 Goldie winner Samara Halperin’s epic, stop-motion same-sex cowboy romance Tumbleweed Town (1999). Get thee to YouTube.

A brief plot synopsis is in order. As Todd the Tonka cowboy hitchhikes his way across the Texas desert he navigates a rugged world of plastic masculinity only to find true love in the arms of a two-stepper at a raunchy roadhouse.

Currently in residence this week at Southern Exposure, Halperin has been converting the space’s sizeable gallery into a set for West of the Wonder Wheel, her much-awaited sequel to Tumbleweed Town, which trades wide, open spaces for the enclosed, topsy-turvy world of the carnival.

Halperin’s miniature amusement park, complete with rides and games of skill, was greatly inspired by Coney Island’s recently demolished Astroland Park, one of the subjects of a Halperin-curated series of short films about amusement parks that is shown alongside the film set/sculpture.

The last tiny detail is set to be glued in place this Friday, and to celebrate Halperin is hosting a pre-filming carnival-themed party with live music, games, and, of course, cotton candy.


Through Dec. 11

Ratio 3

1447 Stevenson, SF

(415) 821-3371


Through Nov. 15 (carnival reception Fri/12, 7 p.m.–9 p.m.

Southern Exposure

3030 20th St., SF

(415) 863-2141

Seeing spots


Jancar Jones Gallery might be no larger than most gallery kitchens, but New York City-based artist Bill Jenkins has created the illusion of more space within it through very simple means. For his solo show “Lids and Dots,” he irregularly spray painted black polka dots across the gallery’s white walls, evoking Yayoi Kusama’s spot-covered installations from the 1960s as well as Keith Haring’s doodled-over interiors from two decades later.

The dots, especially when gazed at from the corner of one’s eye, make the gallery’s tiny dimensions seem more malleable. They curve corners rather than cut them, and their irregular placement suggests protrusion or indentation where there is actually only flatness.

This play off the given shape of a space is taken up in the exhibit’s other titular component. Made from papier-mâché, sometimes studded with debris and small objects from his studio, Jenkins’ coral-like “lids” sit atop a variety of everyday domestic vessels: a filing tray, a small plastic waste basket, a bowl — that have themselves been placed on white plinths.

The juxtaposition of Jenkins’ handmade components with the mass-produced products they only haphazardly cover is funny and strange. But the absurd pairings also raise the more serious question — echoed in Jenkins’ transformation of the exhibition space itself — of what happens when functionality is no longer a self-apparent quality of a thing but becomes something to be discovered in-process or, perhaps, to discard altogether.


Narwhals are the sort of animals that seem too strange to actually exist yet are that much more fantastic because they do. The same could be said of Seth Koen’s wonderfully suggestive wood sculptures at Gregory Lind, currently on display in a show that takes its inspiration from the small Artic whale, and its singular spiraling horn (actually a tooth).

Koen carves and planes his pale maple and basswood pieces into smooth planks with soft, curved edges that typically bend 90 degrees at a certain point. Their placement on the walls or floor, along with their titles, suggest various marine mammals, or the sort of tools that ancient fisherman would use to hunt those very same creatures.

With its two dowel-like appendages poking from what resembles the joined back and seat of a chair turned upside-down, Tusk sketches a walrus with but the simplest lines. So, too, does Selkie, with its upturned spire, evoke the titular shape-shifting seal of Celtic lore, as well as the horned creature from which the exhibit takes its name and creates a strange new adjective: “Narwhellian.”

It is a fanciful variation on “Orwellian,” as well as a repudiation of that word’s sinister connotations of control and manipulation. Koen’s sculptures, whose simple shapes are at once unspecific and particularly evocative, welcome a freedom of interpretation. Almost toy-like, they invite play.


If you don’t get your candy fix this Halloween weekend, be sure to browse the rainbow-colored confections at Scott Richards Contemporary Art when the group show “Sweet Tooth” opens Nov. 4.

Your eyes will probably hurt as much as your teeth after taking in so many glossy, photo-realistic depictions of sugar, as well as its cheaper, government subsidized imitations. There are paintings of candy drops, a cocktail umbrella-topped mountain of sorbet, a truly dubious Jell-O mold, and a package of colorfully iced cookies (Daniel Douke’s Invasion) that resembles an edible version of one of Warhol’s Flowers silkscreens. The effect is one of brightly hued and cutely packaged obscenity.

There’s even some old fashioned, Easy-Bake sexism courtesy of pop pin-up artist Mel Ramos, whose Reese’s Rose features a busty brunette emerging from a Reese’s candy bar wrapper, à la Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Katy Perry should hit him up for her next album cover.

Wayne Thiebaud’s 1970 gouache painting Study for Gumball Machine is remarkable for its vivid two-dimensionality, reducing the spherical nature of its subject to colors and mostly straight lines. Dimension is drawn in, but Thiebaud’s line and color combinations create an aura around the gumball machine rather than convey its seeming tactile immediacy.

Thiebaud’s study lacks the glossy shellac that drips across the other works in “Sweet Tooth.” It is a useful reminder that we can’t always get what we want. 


Through Nov. 13

Jancar Jones Gallery

965 Mission, Suite 120, SF

(415) 281-3770


Through Dec. 11

Gregory Lind Gallery

49 Geary, Fourth Floor, SF

(415) 296-9661


Nov. 4–Dec. 31

Scott Richards Contemporary Art

251 Post, Suite 425, SF

(415) 788-5588



Tick tock


HAIRY EYEBALL In a characteristically poetic passage within 1980’s Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes describes early cameras, given their cabinet-like appearance and precise mechanical innards, as “clocks for seeing.” I couldn’t shake the phrase while taking in Will Rogan’s “Stay Home,” an ambiguous smile of a solo show composed of photographs and three-dimensional photographic collages at Altman Siegel.

Taking the measure of time is very much on Rogan’s mind, as it was on Barthes’ some 40 years ago. A photograph is but an imperfect means of forestalling time’s onward march: it offers the present a momentary record of an instant long gone. So too has photography, at least in the nondigital form that Barthes was writing about, become an index of a past medium, and in our current age of Photoshop, an object for nostalgic longing (see the Hipstamatic iPhone app).

Rogan skirts this sand trap even though his practice deliberately engages with 1970s printed matter and evokes a range of photographers from that decade and later, most notably Lee Friedlander and Daido Moriyama’s social landscapes, and to a lesser extent, Sherrie Levine’s appropriations. The three small sculptural collages of cropped images affixed to painted wood pieces with beeswax even look as if they are from another time. Indeed, it’s easy to get distracted by Rogan’s mode of address (“hey guys, here are some cool books I found at a yard sale, and look what I came upon while walking to the corner store”), by his work’s muted cleverness and calculated arrangement of happenstance, that it can be easy to overlook the substance of what he’s saying.

Viewing the Past As it Happens takes its title from a passage in a picture book on astronomy that is itself the subject of the photograph. The book lies open; a picture of a galaxy on the right page. A description on the adjacent page details that what we are looking at, that what astronomers gaze at through their telescopes night after night, is in fact millions of years old. Of course, this also functions as a gloss (as does the photograph’s title) on the act of taking a picture: in that moment when we look into the viewfinder, our fingers poised to capture what we see before us, we are in a sense seeing what will become the past.

Two other photographs of educational books, The Elusive Nature of Time and Man Versus Clock: The Unequal Struggle, drive the point home that the photographer’s relationship to time is a Sisyphean one, even as the lifted bathos of their titles sends up the self-seriousness inherent to such postulating. Rogan seems to say, “Don’t freak out, too much,” while simultaneously holding up evidence to the contrary. The detritus that catches Rogan’s eye in other pictures — reflective glass shards, a gutter-lodged beer can, a taped-together window, an abandoned sneaker — are corollaries to the amazing sign on the paper shredding business captured in Shredder that reads, “DOCUMENT DESTRUCTION — While You Watch,” in light of which “document” starts to read more as a verb than a noun.

With Busts, a series of six magazine pages (covers perhaps?) that have been altered so that only the ghostly white silhouettes of unknown seated subjects remain, Rogan moves from documenting destruction to participating in it. It’s hard to tell whether or not the outlines are formed from erasing a prior image or painting over unrelated text, some of which is visible underneath the white. Regardless, the message is still clear: time is on no one’s side.



Time will certainly not be on the side of Hugh Brown, who demonstrates in his solo show “Allegedly” at Robert Koch that no amount of skilled workmanship or flawless execution can make up for a paucity of ideas. Indeed, he has but one, and truly, it is more a gimmick than a concept: to remake iconic works of art in his own image.

And how does the artist picture himself? As a chainsaw-wielding bad boy, cutting through the canon and art world pretensions with the power phallus of choice for exploitation filmmakers and ice sculptors. Brown’s smash and grab tour through art history includes Diane Arbus (here, the child clenched in rage holds a toy saw instead of a grenade), John Baldessari, Henri Matisse, Barbara Kruger (“I saw therefore I am”), and Roy Lichtenstein, among many others.

Granted, Brown’s art is well made and it exhibits a careful attention to the material details of the work it parodies. A “Bruce Nauman” is actually done in neon (surprise, it’s a chainsaw). Each work is also credited to the original artist, a parenthetical “allegedly” following their name, as if the dubiousness of what we we’re looking at weren’t apparent already.

Appropriation is by no means a new game, and many of the artists hijacked by Brown made poaching and quotation central to their own practices. But the art in “Allegedly” lacks any real critical force. It says nothing about the works being pillaged and everything about Brown’s estimation of himself. The show is apiece with those postcards that put sunglasses on the Mona Lisa or banana hammocks on Michelangelo’s David.

How Brown has managed to convince gallerists otherwise is a mystery that “Allegedly” leaves unsolved. *


Through No. 6

Altman Siegel Gallery S/F

49 Geary, Fourth floor, SF

(415) 576-9300


Through Oct. 30

Robert Koch Gallery

49 Geary, SF

(415) 421-0122


Of Human Bondage


HAIRY EYEBALL Two life-size sculptures of human skulls sit side by side at Meridian Gallery. The first is cast in glass, tiny air bubbles filling its dome like frozen stars. The one to the right, the wall card indicates, is actually human, but you wouldn’t know it since it’s covered in black leather. The seamless second skin is pulled tight around the bone, as if shrink-wrapped. The effect is both helmet- and lifelike, making you immediately want to run your fingers across your head and face, feeling the tautness of your flesh, aware, at the same time, of what’s contained by such penetrable softness.

Bringing out the sentient in the inanimate is one function of certain forms of shamanism, but it could also serve as description of art making as well. It certainly applies to the practice of Toronto-based, African American artist Tim Whiten, whose work, by turns affecting and frustratingly opaque, is the subject of Meridian’s career-spanning overview, “Darker, Ever Darker; Deeper, Always Deeper: The Journey of Tim Whiten.” This is Whiten’s third show with the gallery, and his return is always something of personal one: his close friendship with exhibit curator and Meridian director Anne Trueblood Brodzky goes back decades.

With its use of natural, sometimes found materials — cotton, coffee, leather, wood, stone, bone, glass — and ritualistic air, Whiten’s art frequently gives off the impression of having been excavated rather than created in a studio, as if what fills Meridian’s three floors are the assembled artifacts from some now-vanished indigenous people. (This is an artist whose most well-known piece, Metamorphosis, involved him being sewn into — and then wriggling out from — a bear skin turned inside-out ). As Robert Farris Thompson’s essay in the accompanying catalog painstakingly details, Whiten’s work consciously takes inspiration from and evokes a network of traditions and objects (his “visual ancestry” in Thompson’s words) that stretches from the daily rituals of his late woodworker father to the bone yards of the American South to the totems of the Ejagham people of southwestern Camaroon.

Although such context is helpful, possessing it does not give a more overtly referential sculpture such as Magic Staffs (1970) — two wooden sticks wrapped in leather with dangling bits of animal bone and human hair — the same charge as Whiten’s far simpler leather encased stones from the same period. As with the leather-wrapped skull (Parsifal, 1986), Whiten’s covering of the stones serves to underscore the natural processes by which their shapes came to be while also reconstituting them as something more mammalian.

Two large canvases from the mid-to-late 1990s, Enigmata (no. 11) and Enigmata with Rose (no 4.), work in the reverse by displaying just the covering: in this case, hospital sheets, stained with coffee. Their chestnut brown wrinkles and creases suggest skin, as well as the bodies who once laid on and beneath them, leaving their marks in blood and sweat, giving birth to new life and passing on from this one. They are by far the most touchingly human pieces in “Darker.”



Darker still are the photos of Rudolph Schwarzkogler at Steven Wolf’s spacious new Mission District digs. “Castration Myth” documents the intense 1960s actions the late Vienna Aktionist carried out in front of a few spectators in his apartment. The indeterminacy of what’s happening in these photos (the exhibit takes its title from the apocryphal story that Schwarzkogler amputated his own penis in one performance) still causes unease, even if the Aktionists’ anti-aesthetic — in which the artist’s body is pushed to its limits, trussed up, battered, and defiled — has become metabolized into pop culture by way of punk rock and, more recently, the prurient sadism of the Saw films.


Through Nov. 26

Meridian Gallery

535 Powell, SF

(415) 398-7229


Through Oct. 9

Steven Wolf Fine Arts

2747 19th St., A, SF

(415) 263-3677

Portraits of Jason


HAIRY EYEBALL “The black queen is not interested in sympathy,” intones the artist Tim Roseborough dryly in Portrait of Jason II: Rebirth of the B*tch , his “sequel” to Shirley Clarke’s 1967 film Portrait of Jason. It’s one of many verbal snaps issued by Roseborough’s piece, a séance with and tribute to its titular subject currently on view at the tiny Scenius Gallery.

The Jason is question is Jason Holliday, who, for close to 100 minutes, gives Clarke’s near-static 16mm camera the performance of a lifetime. In an uninterrupted stream of speech filmed mostly in medium close-up, Holliday holds forth on the life experiences, aspirations, and observations he’s picked up as an African American, a gay man, an ex hustler, and a showbiz dreamer.

As the culled remains of the 12-hour shoot roll on and Clarke loads in new reel after new reel, Holliday’s finger poppin’ sassy front gradually gives way to flashes of deep-rooted pain and vodka-fueled rage, culminating in a tear-streaked finale that qualifies as one of the most unsettling moments in American documentary film.

Dressed in Jason drag — Coke bottle glasses, a natty white shirt, and dark blazer — and speaking in Holliday’s jivey cadence, Roseborough resurrects Clarke’s subject as a ghost from the past commenting on current events (Obama is discussed) and a cultural climate worlds away from the pre-Stonewall moment of Portrait.

Things get more interesting when Roseborough uses his performance of Jason to dive into how race and gender are affectively coded in Clarke’s film. The above quote is spoken in the midst of a disquisition on representations of “the queeny black man” as either an object of (presumably white) pity — here he brings up Paris is Burning — or exotic fascination (RuPaul), who is invariably collapsed with the figure of the drag queen.

Although it bears the look of its source material, Roseborough’s piece fundamentally differs from Clarke’s film in its presentation. Shot on single-channel video, Roseborough’s movie is shown on DVD. At my viewing session, I was given a remote allowing me to skip around between chapters, effectively taking in as much or as little of his Jason as I would like. Of course, when watching the original Portrait, you can up and leave the theater at any time (many viewers have in the two screenings I’ve attended), but its grueling duration and unrelenting pace are also what gives Jason’s performance, and Clarke’s film, their urgency.

Roseborough’s Jason might be more effective if unleashed across YouTube instead of confined to the by-appointment-only limitations of Scenius’ white cube (although, even former reigning queen Kalup Linzy has moved on and up to episodes of General Hospital). I’m glad the bitch is back, but I’d like to have a clearer sense of the stakes behind Roseborough’s new portrait.



There are scads more shows opening just around the corner that space limits me from including in last week’s fall arts preview. That said, here are a few more current and upcoming exhibits worth seeking out in the coming weeks:

Composed of hundreds of miniature landscapes inspired by Western landscape painting, Sean McFarland’s refracted view of California’s blues, browns, greens, and golds turns Adobe Books’ back room into an exploded postcard shop.

At the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the cleverly titled “Black Sabbath” examines how black artists used Jewish music as way to define African American identity, history, and politics. The Idelsohn Society of Musical Preservation, which curated CJM’s recent “Jews on Vinyl” exhibit, has uncovered all sorts of hidden-in-plain-sight encounters between black and Jewish musical cultures, from Cab Calloway doing Yiddish jive to Johnny Mathis singing the Aramaic prayer “Kol Nidre.”

Radiohead fans know Stanley Donwood as the go-to cover artist and frequent artistic collaborator for the British rock group’s albums from The Bends onward. “Over Normal,” Donwood’s first stateside solo exhibit, features many of the painter’s colorful “word map” canvases, whose wavy, grid-like structures (based on the street layouts of major world cities) are filled in with politically resonant and controversially juxtaposed words (see the cover for 2003’s Hail to the Thief). 


Through Sept. 10


3150 18th St., Suite 104, SF

(415) 420-2509


Through Sept. 19

Adobe Books Backroom Gallery

3166 16th St, SF

(415) 864-3936


Through March 1, 2011

Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission, SF

(415) 655-7800



Thurs/2 through Oct. 27

218 Fillmore, SF

(415) 861-1960


Funny face, fecal face


FALL ARTS/HAIRY EYEBALL “New Work: R. H. Quaytman” It’s appropriate that the paintings commissioned by SFMOMA for R.H. Quaytman’s first West Coast showing were conceived in response to the museum’s own photography holdings as well as the work of SF Renaissance poet Jack Spicer. I’m curious to see what sort of conversation Quaytman’s precise, labor-intensive, and site-specific silk-screens (in “seven interrelated sizes based on the golden ratio”) stage with Spicer’s salty and spicy verse. Oct. 22-Jan. 16, 2011; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,

“Masami Teraoka: The Inversion of the Sacred” Masami Teraoka built his reputation in the 1980s and ’90s on his apocalyptic ukiyo-e-style paintings, which juxtaposed topical content (AIDS, the globalization of fast food) against their faithful reproduction of an older, “traditional” aesthetic. In recent years he’s turned to Renaissance altar painting as the medium of choice to express his disgust over a whole host of new evils. His latest gilded blasphemy — a triptych that reenvisions the Last Supper as a Papal stag party in hell — encompass the ever-mounting sex abuse scandals linked to the Catholic Church and the gulf oil spill. Oct. 2-Nov.13; Catharine Clark Gallery,

“Tammy Rae Carland: Funny Face, I Love You” For her second solo show at Silverman Gallery, Mr. Lady Records cofounder and visual artist Tammy Rae Carland presents a suite of new work inspired by female comedians. Carland’s photographs of empty stand-up stages give off a slightly forlorn vibe, to be sure, but her anywhere clubs are also sites of possibility to laugh off gender difference as well as to laugh at it. You’ll leave in stitches. Sept. 10-Oct. 23, 2010; Silverman Gallery,

“10 Years of Fecal Face, An Anniversary Show” A decade in Internet years is a long-ass time, so three cheers to founder John Trippe and his army of global correspondents for sticking to their guns these past 10 years and creating an invaluable resource and platform for Bay Area artists and visual art fans. Tripp has pulled together a who’s who of site and Fecal Face Dot Gallery alum — David Choe, Matt Furie, and Jeremy Fish, to name a few — for this epic retrospective. Support the scene that supports you. Sept. 10-Oct. 9, 2010; Luggage Store Gallery,

“HARVEST: what have you gathered?” Just in time for the lead-up to Thanksgiving, the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District Gallery lays out quite a spread. “Harvest” asked a diverse group of TL-based artists, “What have you gathered?” Their responses should make for an interesting snapshot of the lives that comprise a neighborhood in flux. Sept. 1–Nov. 30; 134 A Golden Gate,

“Reclaimed: Paintings From the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker” Fact: the Nazis did many shitty things, such as taking other people’s (wealthy Jews, in particular) cultural property as their own. Such was the fate of the collection of prominent Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who had amassed a sizable number of Northern Renaissance rarities. After much effort conservators finally repieced together the collection in 2006, and now SF gets a peek at Goudstikker’s greatest hits. And what hits they are: for starters, Hendrick Avercamp’s Winter Landscape with Iceskaters (1608) could give Breughel’s peasantry a run for their money. Oct. 29-March 11, 2011; Contemporary Jewish Museum,

“Chris Duncan: Eye Against I” Though it takes its title from a seminal album by Washington, D.C., hardcore-legends Bad Brains, “Eye Against I” can also refer to the mind/body split one undergoes when staring down one of Chris Duncan’s refracted whirlpools of color. Fry art by way of Saul Bass is one way to think about Duncan’s carefully hued spirals of isosceles triangles, but some of the guest artists scheduled for a series of accompanying live events might provide some other ways to re-see the work. Sept. 11- Oct. 16, 2010; Baer Ridgway Exhibitions,

“One Night Stand: A Mills MFA Group Show” Art doesn’t come much cheaper than this. The bright-eyed and bushy-tailed talents in the 2011 Mills MFA class are selling their work for under $50 a pop. Buy now or cry later after they’ve won a SECA award and made the cover of Juxtapoz. Oct. 8, 6-9 p.m.; Branch Gallery,

“Cliff Hengst and Wayne Smith: New Work” Both Hengst and Smith have been longtime fixtures on the SF art scene, but their work — different as it is in tone and medium — is always refreshing. Here’s hoping Hengst unveils work in line with the small gems in his last showing at 2nd Floor Projects: news photo-sourced images of demonstrations in which everything but the protestors’ signs have been blackened out. Sept. 10-Oct. 29; Gallery 16,

“Suggestions of Life Being Lived” This exciting group show curated by Danny Orendorff and Adriane Skye Roberts promises to live up to the dare laid down by Bikini Kill many moons ago to be “worse than queer.” Bypassing the usual identity politics-centered narratives and concerns that have defined much LGBT art practice, “Suggestions” seeks out new territory for queerness, whether it be in Kirstyn Russell’s photos of gay bars past, Jeannie Simm’s intimate study of an Indonesian maid training agency, or Chris Vargas and Greg Youman’s humorous “real life” Web sitcom Falling in Love With Chris and Greg. Sept. 9-Oct. 23; SF Camerawork,


Not all fall hits are in the city. Borrow some wheels and head to points north and south to check out these promising shows:


Before SF Art Institute was SF Art Institute, it was known as the California School of Fine Arts and had one of the finest photography programs in post-World War II America. Set up by Ansel Adams, the program counted such celebrated photographers as Dorothea Lange, Homer Page, and Imogen Cunningham among its illustrious faculty. Smith Anderson North in San Anselmo collects an unprecedented showing of photographers who came out of the program at the height of its fame. Sept. 14-Oct. 15; Smith Anderson North,

“2010 01SJ BIENNIAL”

You may know the way to San Jose, but San Jose knows the way to the future. The 01SJ Biennial has grown into one of the Bay Area’s premier art events, bringing together visual artists, architects, computer programmers, and a whole host of other creative doers and thinkers and unleashing their creations and collaborations across the city, this year, with the prompt to “Build Your Own World.” Sept. 16-19;

In the dumps


From Kurt Schwitters’ dwelling-consuming accretion The Merzbau to Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s silhouette-casting garbage heaps, making art from the discard pile is by no means a new gesture. It can still be a potent one, though, as evinced by “Art at the Dump,” a 20-year survey of the fruits of Recology’s artist in residence program at Intersection for the Art’s new gallery space in the historic San Francisco Chronicle building.

Recology’s program — the first of its kind in the nation — has grown immensely since the late artist and activist Jo Hanson first reached out to the Sanitary Fill Company back in 1990 and got her hands dirty. Today, participating artists are provided with a stipend and a studio in which to create work from materials scavenged from the Public Disposal and Recycling Area (a.k.a. “the dump”). The residency also involves community outreach, with artists speaking to the more than 5,000 students and adults who annually attend tours of the city’s garbage and recycling facility.

As in any large group show, the creative mileage at “Art at the Dump” varies. More than a few residents over the years seem unified in their studied appreciation of Robert Rauschenberg’s combines and Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes, but their final pieces often lack Rauschenberg’s precise eye for juxtaposition or Cornell’s tender hermeticism. Mark Faigenbaum’s (2005) wonderful Pop 66 (2) — a chopped-up 1966 Muni bus poster arranged into a quilt-like pattern of concentric squares — on the other hand, stands on its own as an abstract reconfiguration of its source material while also evoking Charles Demuth’s precisionist oils.

If one artist’s trash doesn’t always make for treasure, at the very least you can count on a conversation piece. A sculpture by Casey Logan (2008) consists of a section of a tree trunk whose upper half has been, as if by the intervention of some magic beavers, whittled into a two-by-four complete with barcode sticker. It is called Destiny. It makes for a humorous pairing with Linda Raynsford’s (2000) two Tree Saws: old handsaws whose rusted blades Raynsford delicately cut into the outlines of forest giants.

Other past residents have taken a craftier approach. Estelle Akamine’s 1993 evening skirt and fantastically fringed cape made from computer tape ribbon could easily pass for one of Gareth Pugh’s recent gothic runway looks.

Perhaps the exhibit’s final word belongs to Donna Keiko Ozawa’s 2001 conceptual sculpture Art Reception, a found jug filled to the top with trash produced during a gallery’s opening reception. Cleverly recalling Oscar Wilde’s famous opening salvo in The Picture of Dorian Gray that “All art is quite useless,” Ozawa’s piece also underscores that the process of art-making — from a piece’s creation to its display — leaves its own set of carbon footprints.



Robb Putnam’s also no stranger to refuse. The titular orphans in the Oakland artist’s first solo exhibition at Rena Bransten are large, cartoonish canine heads made from compacted scraps of old blankets, fake fur, bubble-wrap, and it seems whatever else Putnam swept off his studio floor.

Mike Kelley’s perverse stuffed animal sculptures and the grotesque composite portraits of Giuseppe Arcimboldo both come to mind here. But with their Augie Doggie-like curves and permanently wagging tongues, Putnam’s mutts are more pitiable than abject. Skinned and beheaded, they are mascots for the unwanted and forgotten.

The show is only up for four more days, so run don’t walk to take in all the plush sadness.


Through Sept. 25, free

Intersection 5M

925 Mission, SF

(415) 626-2787


Through Aug. 21, free

Rena Bransten Gallery

49 Geary, SF

(415) 982-3292


The yellow wallpaper


HAIRY EYEBALL New York City construction workers at the World Trade Center site recently unearthed an 18th-century ship hull. More interesting is that scientists believe that the structure was part of the massive landfill that extended lower Manhattan further into the Hudson River. You don’t have to read too deep to hit on the symbolism of this story, even if the occurrence at its center isn’t so uncommon in a city as densely developed and old as New York (see the 1991 discovery of a 200-year old African burial ground, also in lower Manhattan). Beneath the site where the Twin Towers fell lies further wreckage, older ruins. Nothing is ever truly gone. What lies buried will eventually surface. The present is always haunted by the past.

The same could be said of the art world, which has recently been holding some flashy curatorial séances of its own. Two exhibits don’t necessarily make a trend, but the Berkeley Art Museum’s current “Hauntology,” recently reviewed in this paper, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Musuem’s ongoing exhibit “Haunted: Contemporary: Photography/Video/Performance,” both summon the specters of late-1980s academic theory (Derrida in name and word, in the case of BAM’s show) in their selection of works that address the unseen yet felt presences — aesthetic, historical, political — floating amid the present.

You can also add “Now, It’s About What You Can’t See” to the list, although this group show at Triple Base Gallery of paintings, drawings, and installations is not as enthralled by its organizing principle — what is absent may not be forgotten — as the previously mentioned exhibits are to critical theory and now-old debates around appropriation in photography. As Triple Base’s statement declares, though the artists vary by age and medium, their works, “provide faint shadowy traces of moments to imagine what once existed and hint at an ever-evolving history.”

The faintest traces belong to Rachel E. Foster’s wall installation, which is practically invisible from certain angles. Only by moving back and forth in front of the surface does the repeatedly painted word “ghost” emerge from the seemingly contiguous white field of the gallery’s wall. As in her older works involving text, here, Foster cleverly collapses medium and message, using a representational strategy to bring a word’s meaning to life. In this case, the word “ghost” becomes just that.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to read Foster’s installation as a commentary on the small group of Eleanor Kent’s early oil paintings, which are hung on the same wall. Inspired by her life in Noe Valley in the 1960s when she was still associated with the Bay Area Figurative movement, Kent’s small-scale domestic scenes — her son playing, a couple talking over dinner — aren’t by themselves elegiac. But Foster’s apparitional wallpaper imbues Kent’s facelessness figures and rough outlines with an air of loss that might not be present otherwise.

Wallpaper is put to different use in Mara Baldwin’s How to remember where you put something, the sharpest and most moving articulation of the show’s preoccupation with absence and memory. Baldwin, it appears, has removed and rehung a large section of old wallpaper. The yellowish pattern of red and yellow flowers has faded with age, as revealed by two brighter rectangles near the section’s center that suggest the spaces where perhaps art or photos had once been hung (curiously, no nail holes are visible). But looking closer, you realize that the paper in the less-faded sections is not the same paper at all, but a continuation of the wallpaper’s design in watercolor.

The piece’s two painted sections aren’t simply indexes for what’s gone missing (which may not have even existed in the first place). Executed by Baldwin’s steady, patient hand, the painted sections also draw attention to what they are intended to replicate: the banal, mass-produced wallpaper that surrounds them. By flattening background and subject, Baldwin makes painting the aid to memory of the piece’s title, while also suggesting that “putting on a new coat of paint” always involves some form of erasure. Chechu Alava’s soft-focus portrait of a sylph-like young woman in a slip is more conventionally ghostly, but not nearly as haunting as Foster’s hidden graffiti or Baldwin’s yellow wallpaper.



As I wrote two columns ago in my review of the multi-gallery show “They Knew What They Wanted,” the George Eastman House’s 1975 exhibit “New Topographics” — currently hanging in a reassembled version at SFMOMA — continues to cast its shadow over contemporary art and curatorial practice, particularly where landscape is concerned.

“Land Use,” at Oakland’s Swarm Gallery, could easily be a satellite to both exhibits. Bill Mattick’s color photographs documenting the ecological cost of urban and industrial development in Southern California are the closest relatives to the grim indictments of such “New Topographic” participants as Joe Deal, Robert Adams, and Lewis Baltz. Chris Sicat’s pieces of reclaimed wood “colored in” with soft graphite pencils are less successful as sculptures than as documents of the artist’s attempts to work within natural form of his materials. Sculptor Reenie Charrière takes a similar tack with manmade waste, aggregating the plastic bits that don’t make it to the recycling center into playful, biologic forms.


Through Aug. 29

Triple Base

3041 24th St., SF

(415) 643-3943


Through Sept. 12

Swarm Gallery

560 Second St, Oakl.

(510) 839-2787

The people’s court


HAIRY EYEBALL Amanda Curreri wants you. Like the open-ended phrasing of its title, "Occupy the Empty," Curreri’s second solo show at Ping Pong Gallery is both a basic statement of what an artist does within an exhibition space and a call to action soliciting the viewer to step in, step up, and take a stand. Or perhaps the phrase should be "take the stand," since, as the artist explained to me during a recent gallery visit, the arrangement of the installation’s components roughly mirrors the layout of a courtroom.

A heavy wooden bench sits to the right of the gallery entrance, evoking where the witnesses, lawyers, and spectators sit; leaning against the wall to the right is the "jury box," two long panels silk-screened with six life-size images of chairs apiece; a sculpture in the gallery’s center, which looks like a segment of the kind of pearl necklace both Jackie O and a porn actress would wear, becomes the balustrade that typically separates the actors from the observers in legal proceedings.

On the wall opposite the bench hangs a canvas covered in carefully painted grayscale rectangles — an abstract approximation of TV static — that’s next to a TV set elevated on a stool off of which hangs a compilation of last words of various famous figures (it’s hard to top Karl Marx’s final trump card: "Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough"). This is what Curreri refers to as the "power spot" in the room, "either where the judge would go or where the witness stand would be."

Our conversation is occurring after I’ve just "stepped down" from being videotaped by Curreri, and her telling collapse of the judge’s bench and the jury box sums up my experience: I wasn’t really under oath, but I wanted to be true to myself, since my act of testifying and its record are now part of "Occupy the Empty." She’s been asking people who come by the show to sign up and share their thoughts on the subject of last words. On July 9th, just before the exhibit closes, these conversations will be played back on the TV set, which until then has remained off.

Curreri started formulating "Occupy the Empty" last year after participating in a court hearing in Massachusetts concerning her late father. It turns out this was the same courthouse in which Italian-American anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti were sentenced to death in the early 20th century. Curreri, also of Italian-American descent, started thinking about the judicial system as a kind of democratic theater in which one’s mandatory performance carries incredibly high stakes — including, as with Sacco and Vanzetti and thousands of other tragic cases, death.

"I wanted to bring some gravity into what we do as artists," Curreri explains, reflecting on the stakes of participation in her art. "I really value the way people put their lives together and present themselves. So I wanted a work that would necessitate some commitment on the viewers’ part."

When Curreri starts remembering the conversation she had with her father on his deathbed, I think of the collage hanging on the wall opposite the silk-screened jury box, in which Curreri has surrounded a copy of the moving letter Sacco wrote to his son on the eve of his execution with childhood photos of her and her dad. This fusion of the personal with the historic is simultaneously touching and troubling (Sacco’s words are not those of Curreri’s father, even though the two men are aligned graphically), but it is rooted in the common impulse to ground our present by finding solace in the past. Last words are comforting in this regard. They are epigrammatic reminders that we will have our say.

At its core, "Occupy the Empty" is about just that: having a say. Or as Curreri phrases it: "I’m asking people to stand in a moment of silence and occupy it and project."


"3+3," a group show of local marquee names at Haines Gallery, contains a lot of eye candy. Shaun O’Dell’s delicate ink-on-paper exercises in moiré pattern interference and Leslie Shows’ graphic reconfiguration of a brush-painted Chinese landscape scroll via cut-out comics and Benday dot sprays are particularly lovely stations in this curatorial relay: Haines selected O’Dell along with Kota Ezawa and Darren WatersTon, who in turn chose Emily Prince, Taha Belal, and Shows, respectively.

Prince’s contribution stands out because the beauty of its craft comments on the nature and history of its craft. In two identical wooden square frames hang what appear to be identical lace doilies, although the one of the right seems more brittle and aged. Closer inspection reveals that the second doily is in fact a to-scale, scanned, and intricately cut-out paper replica of the one on the left, which the wall card indicates was crocheted by the artist’s grandmother. Prince’s handiwork is no less delicate — or "auratic" for that matter — than that of her grandmother’s, and this tribute to "women’s work" is no less genuine for containing a facsimile.

If you want to have a conversation about the place of craft within fine art, you’re first going to have to navigate through these two skeins.


Through July 10, free

"Last Words" viewing party July 9 , 7–9 p.m.

Ping Pong Gallery

1240 22nd St, SF

(415) 550-7483


Through July 10, free

Haines Gallery

49 Geary, SF

(415) 397-8114

Dear John


HAIRY EYEBALL What does it mean to call John Waters’ art “bad”? The question is hard to shake while surveying “Rush,” the filmmaker and part-time San Francisco resident’s fourth show at Rena Bransten Gallery. It’s tricky with Waters, whose creative practice has always exulted in its bad taste. He would probably respond to my query with a knowing smile.

Time has certainly been on his side. What was once reviled someday becomes celebrated, and so even Waters’ most extreme examples of cinematic filth are now part of the cultural canon. In his post-Hairspray crossover years, Waters has settled into the role of practiced raconteur, having whittled his biographical anecdotes and wry observations into a recombinant set of talking points.

This stand-up-like approach has informed his visual art as well. Waters’ early stabs at photography — horizontally grouped freeze-frames from Hollywood classics, obscure gems, and gay porn, all shot from the television screen — riffed on the innate humor of their subjects, further underscoring the awkwardness of each pause through canny juxtaposition.

The photo-collages in “Rush” are more aggressively puerile. Less documents of the chance encounter between a TV set and a camera, they offer up a series of crudely Photoshopped one-liners: a bevy of Hollywood royalty are given hairlips; Charlton Heston as Moses holds a can of soda; Audrey Hepburn’s swan-like neck is covered in monstrous hickeys.

The sharper collages — like the series of characters lying in state — elicit a chuckle. The dumber ones recall in their approach Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Gottfried Helnwein’s frequently copied, cheesy Hollywood riff on Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Again, I sense Waters would be just as proud having his work compared to Helnwein’s as he would to his more obvious precedents in business and in art: Koons and Warhol.

Instead of cardboard Brillo boxes, Waters — or, one presumes, a workshop — has fabricated bigger-than-life versions of an ant trap, a spilled bottle of Rush-brand “liquid incense” (from which the show takes its name), and a tub of the exorbitantly priced facial cream La Mer. There’s also an Ike Turner doll, posed on bended knee, holding a smaller marionette of Tina Turner, called “Control.”.

The sculptures are by far the smartest works in the show — gaudy, oversized lawn ornaments to hucksterism, the fleeting nature of pleasure, and the futile postponement of time’s onward creep through conspicuous consumption. In short, they are monuments to the follies and vanities of the art world itself, which, judging by the show’s price list, is willing to pay top dollar for a spanking from John Waters.

For those of us who are simply content with our dog-eared copies of Shock Value and our Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living DVDs, “Rush” is too often like that overturned bottle of poppers: all flash but no high.



While in 77 Geary, head over to Marx & Zavattero for a different but no less trashy example of queer sensibility. James Gobel’s yarn, felt, and acrylic paintings construct a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camp for bears in which hirsute and chubby fanboys do their best Jem impressions in truly outrageous color combinations. More interesting are Gobel’s “couture beanbags,” whose doughy amorphousness and “designer” plaid covers evoke the physicality and dress of his painted subjects in a far more tactile manner that’s as inviting as it is unsettling. Gobel understands that with subcultures, as with lovers, snuggling can sometimes turn to smothering.


Through July 10, free

Rena Bransten

77 Geary, SF

(415) 982-3292


Through July 17, free

Marx & Zavattero

77 Geary, SF

(415) 627-9111

100 photos in search of an exhibit


HAIRY EYEBALL "Furthermore" implies that one is not quite finished. There is more elaboration to come, or another point entirely will be addressed. It signals that what the speaker may have fully thought through has not yet been fully stated.

"Furthermore" is also the title of Fraenkel Gallery’s 30th anniversary show, a wonderful assortment of odd ducks and singular sensations, canonized masters and anonymous geniuses. Or as gallerist Jeffrey Fraenkel puts it in the intro to the exhibit’s catalog, these are, "scrappy, tenacious, unrelated photographs that want to become an exhibition."

Fraenkel’s anthropomorphic phrasing (they "want to become an exhibition") is appropriate since these pictures have new stories to tell. Many names and images are familiar (Arbus, Lange, Warhol, Levitt), while others, like the heartbreaking anonymous photograph of 1930s starlet Starr Faithful’s suicide note, aren’t. But none of these photographs are quite finished with what they have to tell us, especially when in proximity to each other.

The pictures are hung in clusters that bring out their thematic or formal affinities while simultaneously enhancing the singular qualities of each individual piece. In one of the first groupings, the scatological mechanics of Morton Schamberg’s 1917 Dada readymade God (this study is reputedly the only known photographic print of the piece in existence) are echoed in the tubular forms of Christian Marclay’s collage Double Tuba and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson’s 1867 albumen print of a pneumatic motor.

Nearby hangs a constellation of feminine self-presentation as masquerade, with Katy Grannan’s anonymous, windswept crone (2009); Ethyl Eichelberger in Peter Hujar’s elegiac 1983 portrait of the performer in Southern belle drag; and the Deco seductress in Andre Kertesz’s Satiric Dancer (1926) emerging as Norn-like sisters from across time and space.

The more abstract groupings are no less evocative, linking up formal experimentations (Mel Bochner’s cartographic Surface Dis/tension) to the serendipitous beauty of scientific documentation (the anonymous 1930 cyanotype of a radio transmission sent from the Eiffel Tower). Wonderful stuff.


Candy-coating sexual innuendo is an old trick in pop music (see 50 Cent, Madonna, etc.), but the sweets served up by John DeFazio and Leigha Mason at Meridian Gallery seduce precisely because they don’t want your loving. DeFazio’s baroque reliquaries for cultural figures and Mason’s fingernail and hair-laden resin candies are memento mori for youthful fantasies and heroes; roadside tchotchkes picked up from America’s death drive.

Keira Kotler’s monochromatic paintings, with their soothing shifts in luminosity and tone, are the visual equivalent of a drone: seemingly static planes that slowly reveal their depth and subtlety through prolonged exposure. The color fields in "Stillness," her new show at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, skew more Richter (specifically his 1991 painting Blood Red Mirror, currently hanging at SFMOMA) than Rothko, but their slickness diminishes none of their auratic pull.

Well tickle me proud: it’s June. Electric Works is showing its pride with "More Glitter — Less Bitter," a career retrospective of local legend Daniel Nicoletta. If queer life in this city is a cabaret, then Nicoletta has been its unofficial in-house photographer, snapping SF’s finest LGBT freaks since he was a 19-year-old employee at Harvey Milk’s Castro Street camera store. Sparkle, Danny, sparkle! *


Through June 25, free

Fraenkel Gallery

49 Geary, SF

(415) 981-2661


June 3– July 24, free

Meridian Gallery

535 Powell, SF

(415) 398-6176


June 4–July 24, free

Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

480 23rd St, Oakl.

(510) 260-7494


June 4–July 10, free

Electric Works

130 Eighth St, SF

(415) 626-5496

All the young Turks


HAIRY EYEBALL Welcome to Hairy Eyeball, a bimonthly rundown of visual art. We don’t aim to be comprehensive, just opinionated. First Thursday is tomorrow, so enough with the introductions. On with the shows.

CCA is unleashing a new batch of Fine Arts MFA students into the wild Thursday night. With 66 artists total, this year’s MFA show (which runs at the San Francisco campus through May 15) is one of the largest in recent memory. The cream from CCA tends to rise to the top pretty quickly, so here are some names worth looking out for in white cubes, near and far, in the future.

Llewelynn Fletcher’s interactive sculptures aren’t aiming to take a particular pulse, but will probably slow yours down. For Please Lie Down, she has created several enclosures of lead, ceramic, wood, and felt that completely cover the head, forcing you, per the piece’s title, to lie down on the floor (thankfully, she’s also constructed camping-style palettes for comfort). The mini-meditation huts, evocative of beehives as well as certain medieval torture implements, have the additional effect of transforming the wearer into something of a sculpture.

Maggie Haas’ mixed-media pieces could easily be mistaken for installations-in-progress. But her arrangements and treatment of construction site detritus — sawhorses, wooden slats — cannily gut minimalism, This Old House-style, by preferring to hang out in the workshop with Donald Judd et al., turning the means of production into the piece itself. Endless Escape in particular performs a neat rope trick that yokes Robert Smithson and Yayoi Kusama with the ease of an Eagle Scout.

Hilary Wiedemann’s installations, which frequently combine sculptures and projection, are far more elusive — and unsettling. In Untitled, a plaster cast of what looks to be a bullet hole-riddled surface (glass, perhaps?) leans against the wall; on the floor, laminated sheet glass has been contorted to resemble discarded tissue. Both components record the violence of the transformational processes that have brought them to their current states. It’s not comfortable viewing — as if you’ve stumbled on a crime scene before the police tape has gone up.

Someone put Doron Fishman in touch with a textiles manufacturer, stat. His gorgeous ink-on-paper works, all black tendrils of liquid smoke, let it bleed. They’re begging to be transferred to chiffon. The witchy Mulleavy sisters, of Rodarte fame, would be smart to look him up.

Well worth the trek to the other side of Potrero Hill is Ping Pong Gallery, which is currently showing Gwenael Rattke’s dark, hypnogogic collages (through May 14). The collection’s title, “Oktogon,” refers to a street intersection in Budapest and also to the Ottoman-style “Kiraly” baths built during the Turkish occupation in the 16th century. These layers of history, architecture, exposed flesh, and power are not wholly self-evident in the psychedelic grandeur of Rattke’s straight-razor wizardry — which recalls, among many associations, the graphic punch of Tadanori Yokoo and Keiichi Tanami’s 1960s poster designs, the homo-plagiarism of Jess’ massive Narkissos (1978/91), and the profondo rosso beloved by Dario Argento. Rather, they form the deep structures to these mandala-like works in which Op-Art geometrics collide with Art Nouveau scrollwork and leather daddies are refracted into Busby Berkeley chorines. The corner in which 14 of these pieces have been hung draws you in, like some black hole. Proceed with caution, and awe.

Also closing toward the end of the month (May 22 to be exact) is Beverly Rayner’s “Accretion” at Braunstein/Quay, an elongated housecoat covered in the day-to-day paper ephemera — greeting cards, bills, receipts, inspirational quotes, correspondences — that one accumulates over the course of a lifetime. “Go paperless” is one takeaway. That such a load is too much to bear — psychically as much as environmentally — is another. *


Through May 14, free

California College of the Arts

1111 Eighth St., SF

(415) 703-9500



Through May 14, free

Ping Pong Gallery

1240 22nd St., SF

(415) 550-7483


Through May 22, free

Braunstein/Quay Gallery

430 Clementina, SF

(415) 278-9850

Holiday Hops


We alter our schedules, our menus, and even our cocktail choices during the winter months. Why not our beers too? In fact, old world monasteries (which functioned as both breweries and spiritual centers) have been making commemorative holiday beers since monotheism was invented (and pagan producers long before that). Though modern seasonal beers are as much a state of mind as an actual brewing style, many made in winter are geared towards fending off the cold of a long winter night (or the exhaustion of a long day of shopping), combining complex flavors and high alcohol content in styles like old ales, barleywines, and strong lagers. Below are some of our favorite seasonal releases, from breweries both near and far.

Autumn Maple

Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, this specialty beer is The Bruery’s answer to the pumpkin beer trend. With 17 pounds of yams and a traditional Belgian yeast strain mixed in ever barrel, this 10% beer is perfect for pairing with Thanksgiving dinner – or, with a vanilla ice cream float, for dessert. Available through December.
The Bruery, 715 Dunn Way, Placentia. (714) 996-MALT,

Brewmaster Reserve Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale

Want something stronger than Wreck the Halls? This deep, robust, 9% brew, released in October, is the employee-owned brewery’s answer to the barleywine trend.
Full Sail Brewing, 506 Columbia, Hood River. (541) 386-2247,

Celebration Ale

The dry-hopped favorite with the distinctive red label that’s been winning awards since the early ‘90s pairs nicely with beef, lamb, and even rich cheese dishes.
Sierra Nevada, 1075 East 20th St, Chico. (530) 893-3520,

Chicory Stout

Originally created in 1995, this December release is dark and delicious, thanks to roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John’s Wort (perfect for fighting off seasonal depression!), and licorice root. Rarely served outside the Dogfish brewery, this brew might be reason enough to take a Delaware detour on your East Coast vacation.
Dogfish Head, 6 Cannery Village Center, Milton, DE. (302) 684-1000,

Christmas Ale

This classic brewery’s 35-year-old seasonal release may have a classic name, but every year it gets a new recipe and a new label. (Check the Website for images of every Christmas Ale label from 1975 to today.)
Anchor Brewing, 1705 Mariposa, SF. (415) 863-8350,

The Hairy Eyeball

At 8.7% ABV, this New Year’s release packs a big, brown warmer punch. You just have to get past the name (and the creepy pooch staring you down from the label).
Lagunitas Brewing, 1280 N Mcdowell Blvd, Petaluma. (707) 769-4495,

Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah

What 15 is to Latin American teenagers and 16 is to spoiled girls on MTV (that is, the age of a rite of passage), 13 is to Jews. So it only makes sense that the 13th of Shmaltz Brewery’s Jewbelation series would be named after the celebration of a young Yid’s transformation into an adult Yid. Made (appropriately) with 13 malts and 13 hops, this 13% brew is being billed as an extreme Channukah Ale and should be available throughout the holiday season. My favorite part? Bottle artwork features consumer-submitted photos from their own bar and bat mitzvahs. They are, after all, the Brews.
Shmaltz Brewing Company, 912 Cole, SF. (415) 339-7462,


Deschutes Brewery offers several seasonal beers out of their Bend, Oregon, locale, but perhaps the best known is Jubelale – not only for its dark crystal malt but its annually changing bottle artwork. This year’s label, by Tracy Leagjeld, is inspired by fresh snow. But you can see 15 years worth of Jubelale art on exhibit at Toronado on Nov. 19 and City Beer Store on Dec. 1.
Deschutes Brewery, 901 SW Simpson, Bend, Ore. (541) 385-8606,

Old Gubbillygotch

The Sonoma County brewery packs this copper-colored barleywine with a whopping 9.5% ABU, ensuring that you’ll no longer be able to pronounce its name after imbibing a glass or two.
Russian River Brewing Company, 725 4th St, Santa Rosa. (707) 545-BEER,

Old Godfather Barleywine-Style Ale

The Dogpatch brewery famous for bringing us Prohibition Ale and Big Daddy I.P.A. has thrown their noir-style hat into the barleywine ring with this winter release.
Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, 5700 3rd St, SF. (415) 822-8972,

Seasonal Brews

You never know what the geniuses at this stellar Berkeley brewhouse are going to whip up any time of year, but the creators of Monkey Head, Titanium Pale Ale, and Black Rock Porter can be trusted to make a small batch of something transcendent. Visit the alehouse and let the brewmaster choose for you.
Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse, 1920 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-4677,

Snow Cap

This winter warmer is brewed in the style of British winter ales, with roasted chocolate and caramel malts and plenty of hops. Try it with shellfish and rich desserts – or all on its own.
Pyramid Brewery, 920 Gilman, Berk. (510) 528-9880,

Two Turtle Doves

The Orange County brewery’s second installment in its 12 Days of Christmas line of Belgian-style dark strong ales (which launched last year with the fruity, complex Patridge in a Pear Tree), Two Turtle Doves is made with dark candi sugar and both Munich and Vienna malts. Available December through March.
The Bruery, 715 Dunn Way, Placentia. (714) 996-MALT,

Winter Solstice

Most people know Anderson Valley Brewing for their popular Boont Amber Ale, but those in the know spend the year anticipating this creamy medium-bodied ale, released every November.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville.(707) 89-BEER,

Winter Warmer

Visit the Haight on November 25 if you want the first pours of Magnolia’s interpreation of a strong, English holiday-time beer, brewed every year since 1997. The rich, malty brew usually lasts until Christmas, but with all the attention this award-winning brewpub’s been getting lately, you might not want to count on it.
Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery, 1398 Haight, SF. (415) 864-7468,

Wreck the Halls

This sublime hybrid of an American style IPA with a Winter Warmer style strong ale is a sublime hybrid of an American style IPA is the Hood River brewery’s newest seasonal offering, available November through December.
Full Sail Brewing, 506 Columbia, Hood River. (541) 386-2247,

Of course, you can get these seasonals from the breweries themselves. But you also can find many on tap at better beer bars like Toronado (547 Haight, SF. 415-863-2276,, Zeitgeist (199 Valencia, SF. 415-255-7505,, and Amnesia (853 Valencia, SF. 415-970-0012,, or at top-notch beer shops like City Beer Store (1168 Folsom, SF. 415-503-1033, and Healthy Spirits (2299 15th St, SF. 415-255-0610,

Peeing by design



TECHSPLOITATION If you think it’s hard to find a decent public bathroom in the city, try finding a bathroom for the gender ambiguous. People who appear androgynous, whether unintentionally or because they’re going for that cool genderqueer look, know that finding a bathroom is an ordeal. It sucks to walk into the women’s room and have the ladies tell you to get out just because you’ve got short hair and like to wear ties. Same goes for short, girly boys who get the hairy eyeball in the men’s room. Sometimes these nasty encounters get violent or lead to indignant bathroom patrons contacting security to get the androgynous interloper out of their binary gender space.

Luckily, this is one social problem that has a technical solution. A genderqueer hacker collective has created one of the best map mashup Web sites I’ve ever seen: It’s a dynamic, constantly updating map of publicly accessible, gender-neutral bathrooms throughout the United States. Just plug in the name of your city or town, and up pops a Google map with bathrooms marked with those spermy-looking markers that Google favors. Most of these are unisex, single-person bathrooms. But some are just gender free, as site co-developer Bailey puts it.

Visitors at Safe2Pee can plug in the location, gender status, and accessibility of the bathroom on a handy form. Even if the bathroom isn’t gender free but is simply in a nice spot, you can note that it’s gendered but really clean or available to anyone who comes into the place where it’s located.

As somebody who often has to pee while going for walks, I can’t recommend Safe2Pee enough — I can plot my course around the city based on where I can get to nice public bathrooms. And though I rarely get hassled for my gender presentation in bathrooms, I also hate having to declare my gender just because I need to take a piss. I’d rather just use the toilet without having to decide whether I look more like the stick figure in a dress or the stick figure without one.

What’s really great about Safe2Pee, however, is the matter-of-fact way it suggests that technology can help encourage gender tolerance. If merchants realize that having gender-free bathrooms will pull in more paying customers, there will be more incentive for people to build such bathrooms. Having a map of those bathrooms available online makes it far easier for consumers to make choices that nudge merchants in that direction.

Plus, just from a nerd point of view, Safe2Pee is full of yummy Web 2.0 goodness There’s a tag cloud for cities included in the database, in which the names of cities with more categorized bathrooms appear much larger than cities with fewer. You can also search the database by proximity to where you are or for particular types of bathrooms (i.e., ones you can use for free versus ones where you should buy something before asking to pee). Programmable Web, a blog about mashups, gave Safe2Pee a Mashup of the Day Award. And Bailey says the genderqueer hacker collective behind the site is growing. "The collective has morphed, at least geographically speaking," Bailey said via e-mail. "It has grown beyond the Bay Area and now it’s just me here. Others are in Seattle, Portland and Boston."

Not surprisingly, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Boston are also well represented in the bathroom database. But Bailey says the group plans to stick with it and keep expanding. The site coauthor draws a comparison between gender fluidity and geek attention spans when it comes to finishing projects. "When conventional notions of gender and sexuality are always blurred or challenged or in flux, I think perhaps all the fluidity carries over to form a particularly post-modern attention span." Or maybe Bailey is just a new breed of gendernerd, whose attachment to one particular gender identity morphs as often as an attachment to a particular flavor of Linux — or a particular API.

In my old workplace I frequently pasted over the gender markers on the single-room bathrooms — I printed "Carbon-based lifeforms only" on a piece of paper that was just big enough to cover the stick figure in a skirt. Luckily my coworkers enjoyed the joke, and we all made it an unwritten rule that we would use whatever bathroom was available, no matter what our genders. Now I plan to spread the genderfree bathroom meme online by adding good bathrooms to the database. When I can write a sentence like that, I really do feel like I’m living in the future. *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who really has to pee right now.