I will be participating on a panel discussion scheduled for Tuesday, June 17th from 6:30-8:00 pm to discuss the work of Bay Area artist Evie Leder. Her current body (no pun intended, maybe) is currently on view at A Simple Collective (San Francisco, CA). Here’s an excerpt from the shows press release,
Evie Leder’s The Objects is a meditation on the male body consisting of approximately thirty videos, along with a series of detail photographs and video stills. Over a filming period of ten days, fourteen men—a diverse group of performers and artists in the San Francisco queer scene—visited the artist’s studio one by one. Creating an intimate space and relationship between artist and subject, Leder gave simple, but deliberate instruction: stand quietly, breathe, stretch, open and close eyes, turn…In Leder’s series, the men are objects, but specific, very human objects, with presence.
For more information, please visit the event link here
Humans are resilient. Our anatomy is extraordinary and highly complex. We build, construct, destroy, and synthesize. But human nature involves understanding the biology and mechanisms that provoke us to move and accelerate. In Movement in Many Parts, an exhibition curated by Lucy Seena K. Lin and Weston Teruya, artists investigate human evolution through nature and industry. Their ruminations are shown through organic forms, moving image, photography, drawing, and painting. Each work reminds us of the adage that the totality of many things in concert is far greater than one single part of the whole.
In A1007 (Wall II) (2011), Noritaka Minami asks us to peer into the modular housing built within the Japanese urban landscape. At the start of the series, a viewer is let into a small room with a single, large round window that looks out onto the city and other pods. There is no returning gaze; a viewer sees only the disheveled room of a seemingly busy city dweller. The room could very well be a viewer’s; the window is the only way to see outside and to observe other living things. Stagnancy is apparent through the dull colors of bed sheets and the aging, disintegrating papers on the wall. Even the dated typography of the numbers on the clock suggests a thick layer of dust has settled over things untouched. The scene gives the sense that the busyness of city life has depleted the weary soul that inhabits this space. Minami’sTower (Facade 1) (2011) includes a segment of the exterior architecture that gives a viewer not only a sense of scale but also of how nature has weathered the building’s exterior. The erosion suggests that the original design is obsolete in this fast-paced environment.
While Minami’s photographs depict an environment, Kim Anno’s photographs ponder the effects of climate change and demonstrate how humans may adapt to and work with rising sea levels. Men and Women in Water Cities (2011) shows individuals fully clothed in suits and corporate attire turning their bodies toward a viewer, as though caught in mid-action. The picture plane presents something absurd. Yet, is it as absurd as we think? Anno proposes peculiar but perhaps ingenious ways we might survive despite nature’s disposition, showing what humans may be driven to do when it is necessary to endure. It is this human tendency toward movement that forces resiliency.
Originally posted to Shotgun Reviews on Art Practical, please clickhereto view.
You know what is awesome about grad school? Being around talented and brilliant artists and writers. Check out fellow classmate Erica Gomez’s guest blog post on the SOMArts Cultural Center blog regarding the Annual Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Group show. It’s a great write-up! Click here to view on SOMArts!
The Annual Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition is on view at SOMArts through October 2, 2012.
The opening of Question Bridge: Black Males (2011), a new-media work by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis, is a timely response to events like Trayvon Martin’s death and the Oscar Grant case. By mimicking a roundtable discussion, Question Bridge excavates and delves into issues around the notion of the African American male, forcing participants and viewers across the spectrum of human experience to witness a thought-provoking exchange.
Originally, Johnson began the Question Bridge project in 1996 in order to address concerns regarding divisions within the San Diego African American community.1 Close to a decade later, Willis approached Johnson about collaborating, which resulted in interviews gathered from black men in different cities across the United States.2 The work consists of one hundred fifty videotaped black males from a diverse range of demographics (age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation, to name a few), answering questions about violence, health, intelligence, masculinity, education, fears, lifestyles, and sexuality. The installation speaks directly to the collective consciousness, for although there’s never an easy time or place to discuss race relations, posing questions around the topics of race, gender, and cultural amnesia feels especially urgent.
Johnson and Willis asked participants to provide questions as well as answer questions from other participants. In response to a vehement question about the code of the streets, the answers vacillate between the prevalent street mentality that silence is the ultimate code to anger and frustration that young black men perpetuate the cycle of violence. For some of the younger participants, respecting the unspoken commandment of the streets—in the belief that “the streets will take care of that” with “that” being the violence inflicted or received from an assailant—is common and strictly observed.3
Yet, as others noted, the code of the streets is a mere “set of playground rules” that some may or may not grow out of to deal with the complexities of violence and power struggles found within a disenfranchised community. All of the men speak of solidarity but are unaware of how to bridge the differences that exist between them.
The editing of the video footage makes it appear as though men on separate screens are looking at one another as they pose and answer questions. Each of the speakers seems to express genuine and sincere interest in listening to and addressing the questions of his interlocutors. The illusion that these men are in discussion together, in the same physical space, makes the artwork less of a physical object and more of a glimpse into the experiences of African American males and the issues and concerns often obscured by the media, silenced by culture, or cloaked by hyper-masculinity.
The nearly pitch-black installation space and editing of the videos also implicate us as witnesses as we listen to these conversations between men. As we wait for a question and answer, our heads might slowly turn from screen to screen, as if watching the trajectory of a ball in mid-flight. These gestures echo the connecting of complex ideas and thoughts between and among the participants.
Despite the power and effectiveness of the work, it would nonetheless be advantageous to expand the scope of the Question Bridge project. Participants identifying themselves as gay or queer were certainly incorporated into the discussion and, understandably, the work focuses on African American male experiences. However, the absence of African American transgendered men suggests another aspect of the male experience that remains concealed from the public. This lack of representation certainly does not make the work deficient, but it raises the question of how American culture defines the male experience.
Indeed, what happens in the space between the participants serves to remind the viewer that the archetypal black male is nonexistent. One participant’s question, “What is common to all of us?” provokes a flurry of answers. Though the participants’ commonalities overlap time, space, sex, gender, color, beliefs, and much more, a more significant commonality emerges from their responses. These men are willing and ready for engagement. All that they needed was for someone to ask the question.
On a clear, breezy evening on any given opening exhibition night, glowing lights emanate into the street from Meridian Gallery, revealing an exquisite exterior as well as an equally timeless and beautiful interior on the 500 block of Powell Street. The 100-year-old Victorian building certainly perseveres through the city’s constant evolution. Architect C.A. Meussdorffer designed the structure in 1911, and it remains the only single-family home left in such a bustling and highly trafficked area of San Francisco.
Even though the original design and construction was not of a gallery, the space is not too dissimilar to a home. Although, in a different context, Meridian is a home—to artists, educators, writers and young, budding art professionals, as a place to nurture existing skills and learn new ones. Based on the function and architecture, it’s probable that Meussdorffer didn’t intend for the space to become one of San Francisco’s beacons for art and cultural awareness. Yet the staff of Meridian Gallery makes it a home for the San Francisco arts community. The gallery is an exemplary reflection of the city’s diversity and rich, growing culture. As Imin Yeh, assistant director, states, “The space becomes this beautiful analogy for the architectural, political and critical history of San Francisco, and the home is a container for Meridian Center for the Arts’ numerous contributions and relationship to San Francisco’s Past and Future.” But the Financial District is not necessarily known for its alternative art spaces. With its beautiful hardwood floors and three levels of visual arts, Meridian remains one the most unique art spaces in the city. From its location to its architecture, it proves itself as a perfect place for cultivating ideas and serves as fertile ground for artists.
Meridian is widely known for helping break down racial and cultural barriers by showcasing artists with the same goal, in both their works and their art practices. From poetry readings to performing arts, many of the artists work with San Francisco youth to help bridge gaps and bring awareness through the arts. The Meridian Interns Program (MIP) assists high school students in learning more about the business of art, the community and art’s relationship to culture. Yeh reflects on the program’s objective: “It provides San Francisco low-income teens a safe space to work after school that combines real-world arts and administrative job skills with studio practice led by amazing teachers who are also working artists. Participating youths are often faced with complex challenges, including the need to provide financial support for their families. With MIP, they are not only getting the space to engage in artistic projects and job skills, but getting paid wages for their participation.” The program facilitates disciplined practice for students interested in pursuing a career in the arts as well as practical skills for those wanting to learn more about the administrative and curatorial side of running a gallery. MIP enables students to foster a sense of responsibility and to learn valuable business skills.
Although Meridian Gallery was established in the 1980s, the physical space seems to have been made especially for this gallery and community. In looking back, it’s also important to ponder the future, and between the wide array of diverse artists, scholars, curators, volunteers and students, Meridian will certainly see another 100 years in San Francisco.
Upcoming exhibitions include The Painted Word: Paintings, Drawings and Collages by Poets From the Beat Generation Era. To learn more about this exhibition, please visit meridiangallery.org.
On June 16, Zina Al-Shukri and Maja Ruznic will be on exhibition in To Draw, to Transpose.
Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine. Please view here.
In the early 20th century, San Francisco felt the effects of disaster. The earthquake of 1906 left the city with crumbled buildings and widespread devastation throughout the downtown area, so art was probably not on the minds of civil servants and residents trying to recuperate and clean a city in disrepair. Artwork from this period in San Francisco history, such as works by Jules Page, showed a San Francisco landscape unharmed by natural disaster; Page’s work captured the vibrancy of the city. In such a digitally laden age, shows may not commonly feature serene paintings of the San Francisco cityscape. But there’s still a deep appreciation for artists who incorporate the city through an artistic lens that gives the viewer a strong sense of the city’s essence.
In searching for a contemporary San Francisco artist who uses San Francisco as a primary element within their work, we found Rio Yañez. At Muddy Waters Coffee House on San Francisco’s popular Valencia Street, a young man wearing a black, Star Wars–themed Dia de Los Muertos T-shirt approaches and kindly greets me. As a native San Franciscan, Yañez grew up on 26th Street to parents who were both visual artists. In the 1970s, his father was a collage artist and curator, while his mother was a painter. Rene Yañez, his father, remains highly active in the Bay Area arts community today. Father and son have co-curated shows and worked in tandem, most recently on a 3-D art project enticing viewers into a rich dialogue both visually and physically. In addition, Yañez created 3-D conversions of his father’s other work. As co-founders of art group The Great Tortilla Conspiracy, the duo silkscreen tortillas with chocolate ink and create edible works of art that serve as both interventions and experimental art.
One of the life-changing events for Yañez was turning to photography in high school. Soon after graduation in the late 1990s, he started the City College of San Francisco associate degree program in photography, marveling at two-megapixel cameras. He found something exciting and rewarding. He moved to Southern California to attend the prestigious California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he received his bachelor’s degree in photography. Upon returning to the Bay Area, he wanted to mesh his photography skills with his love and fascination for sequential art. The end results were dynamic artworks that coalesced photography, drawing and new media. His childhood obsession with comic books resurfaced and can be seen in some of his most current works. Yañez continues to work digitally but is exploring
ways that he can apply his knowledge to other formats. With a fascination of moving GIFs, or cinemagraphs, he continues to pay homage to the San Francisco cityscape and memories that shape his spirited and energetic work.
Even with significant differences in medium, the common thread between Page and Yañez is the desire to illustrate San Francisco in a way that captivates and piques the curiosity of the viewer. Both artists utilize San Francisco as a subject, but Yañez shows how the city has grown, developed and changed over the past century. He successfully aims to show his San Francisco in such a way that any viewer—whether newcomer, transplant or native—is more than welcome to join in on the dialogue.
Upcoming Shows: Counterproof: The Other Side of Print at Incline Gallery with The Great Tortilla Conspiracy ~ April 13. To learn more about Rio Yañez visit his website. RioYanez.com
Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine. Please view here.