A Visit to Two Art Fairs

by Dominica Phetteplace

In the Instagram era, the consumption of art can become conflated with narcissism. If you can’t take a selfie with, does it even exist? The flip side of this is art that warmly invites the viewer in. I thought of this as I was turning a music box handle at the FOG Art + Design Fair, which ran from January 16-19 at Fort Mason. The music box was part of Anri Sala’s 2016 installation No Window, No Cry, (Olavo Redig de Campos) displayed by the Marian Goodman Gallery. A freestanding white wooden frame encloses a clear glass pane that is […]

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Augmenting Reality Through Fashion: Jonathon Keats and His Superego Suits

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Clothing advertisements have long called for consumers to “try on a new you!” – as though a simple change in wardrobe can unlock previously untapped wells of confidence and charm, leading to a makeover not just of one’s style but of one’s inner self. While this brand of hyperbole is standard in the retail industry, a new range of products from experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats may finally deliver where fashion has failed. Keats’ Superego Suits, which can now be tried on by appointment at Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, are a line of apparel designed to augment—or alter—your personality at […]

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This Land Is Your Land: Jonathon Keats’s ‘Pangea Optima’ at Modernism

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Our Earth has never been more divided. Tensions between the United States and other major powers like Russia and China, as well as conflict in the Middle East, cast a shadow over a planet threatened by climate change. Not to mention that the current run-up to the 2016 presidential election has begun to seem less like a political race and more like a professional wrestling match. But what if there was a way to heal our world’s divide–both figuratively and literally? Through a revolutionary geo-engineering process, the Political Tectonics Lab–pioneered by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats–is proposing a plan to direct […]

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Astonishing and Everlasting Work: ‘Reformations: Dürer and the New Age of Print’ at USF

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During the Renaissance, it may have been the Italians who mastered the painted canvas, but it was the Northern Europeans who mastered the print. Perhaps the best artist to come out of that period, Albrecht Dürer (1472-1528) sought to prove he could do with woodblocks and copper plates what any Italian painter boasted with his paintbrush. Perspective, proportion, and balance, Dürer achieved it all. In Reformations: Dürer and the New Age of Print, an exhibit running at the Thacher Gallery at the University of San Francisco till February 22, prints by the legendary print-maker are showcased along with some of […]

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Displaced, Disconnected: ‘Somewhere, Elsewhere, Anywhere, Nowhere’ at Kadist

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San Francisco has long been thought of as the great exception, to use historian Carey McWilliams’ phrase. Located at the far western edge of America, it was also a cultural and political frontier, a very last urban refuge from the rest of the country. In “The Poetic City That Was,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti recalled San Francisco, circa 1951, as “an island, which wasn’t necessarily part of the United States…like Athens at the height of Greek culture.” He woke up 50 years later to find his friends being evicted from their homes, himself priced out of his apartment and art studio. The […]

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Not an Immortal Art: Will Rogan/Matrix 253 at the UC Berkeley Art Museum

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Will Rogan’s solo show at the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM)—his first ever at a museum—includes two identical photographs titled Scout’s Ruler (2013). Deadpan, black-and-white, literal, the pieces are characteristic of Conceptual Art photography from the mid to late-1960s, when artists used cameras for strictly “objective” documentation, to convey only “factual” information. (Think Joseph Kosuth’s very literal photographs of shovels, chairs, lamps, and hammers.) But the one-foot ruler in Rogan’s photographs is not an impersonal object: It was created by the artist’s daughter, Scout, who has written the numerals 1-12 in reverse order. That subjective aura raises many questions about time, […]

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The Truth About Harmony: Gordon’s ‘It Only Happens All of the Time’ at YBCA

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In one of the finest supermarket scenes in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise (1985), the narrator, Jack Gladney, walks with his daughter past the exotic fruit bins where he suddenly becomes aware of the sounds of the space, the confusion: “I realized the place was awash in noise. The toneless systems, the jangle and skid of carts, the loudspeaker and the coffee-making machines, the cries of children. And over it all, or under it all, a dull and unlocatable roar, as of some form of swarming life just outside the range of human apprehension.” “Dissonance,” Theodor Adorno famously remarked, “is […]

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Stories of Resistance: Paz Errázuriz’s ‘La manzana de Adán’ & ‘Boxeadores’

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At the heart of a dictatorship is the ability to control a country’s narrative, to embed an authoritative view into the personal, to elide difference in favor of a universal meta-story. Characters and subjective viewpoints judged “out of line” are relegated to the margins where they are placed in an ontological vacuum. Against this totalizing force, art finds potency in its ability to assail the putative objectivity of the dictatorship’s narrative, to create new stories, to offer the gaze of the individual free from hegemonic forces. […]

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Rural Doesn’t Equal Empty: Lisa M. Hamilton’s ‘I See Beauty in This Life’

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I See Beauty In This Life, photographer Lisa M. Hamilton’s exhibition of her own work as well as images she pulled from the California Historical Society’s vast archives, attempts something seemingly impossible: in Hamilton’s words, to “cover a history dating from 2012 all the way back to a time when California was essentially nothing but rural” in about 150 pictures. This presents a gargantuan curatorial challenge. How do you address California’s geographical vastness, the scope of its industries, and the numerous complexities of its rural labor history? “Rural” is different than “empty,” and the exhibition’s images nearly all emphasize the […]

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An Ever-Evolving Chameleon: Cindy Sherman Retrospective at SFMOMA

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The long-standing queen of conceptual portraiture, Cindy Sherman is the art world’s daring chameleon and its fiercest critic. Known for her bold pieces that often question identity, self-perception and established gender norms, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City has curated an incredibly thorough traveling retrospective of Sherman’s work—more than 150 of her photographs, film projects, as well as a special series of film screenings that have inspired her creatively—that’s on exhibition until October 8 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Portraying herself as everything from a harlot to a housewife, Sherman embodies the narrow gender […]

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Do Not Linger at the Gate: David Shrigley’s ‘Brain Activity’ at the YBCA

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No one can fully appreciate the comedy and the strangeness of David Shrigley’s work without first becoming acquainted with his drawings. As bizarre as they are funny, these drawings are the Shrigley staple, a primer for his sculptures, photography, paintings, and installations. Rather than simply a display of artistic talent (it seems that anyone witty enough with a black Sharpie and a piece of paper could reach a similar end), they reveal his ability to make comic sense of the absurd and the obvious. The British artist’s current exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Brain Activity, starts […]

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Ghosts in the Archive: Five Notes on the Asian Art Museum’s ‘Phantoms’

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I. The first thing I see when I enter the Asian Art Museum on opening night of “Phantoms of Asia”—before the scrolls, the photographs, the paintings, and the artifacts—is a sculpture of an upside-down “A” crawling with graffiti. Who’s the artist? I ask a staff member. Everyone, I’m told. The freestanding letter serves as a meeting point for the museums’ thousands of guests, each of whom can add to the piece. Some sign their names, others draw hearts. Dates and initials on white. From a distance, nothing’s legible; all that comes through is the letter itself. BE A CITIZEN OF […]

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