"Eye (Red, White, Blue) by Andrew Schoultz

San Francisco artist Andrew Schoultz’s newest work (on show through October 23, 2010) comes at you like an explosion. It’s big, bold, and colorful. It’s also serious, playful, and chaotic. The show features collage and acrylic paintings, monotypes, and large-scale sculpture. Throughout, Schoultz utilizes graphic/illustrative imagery regularly featured in past work as well as his exquisitely detailed line work. In every piece there is more than a lot going on. They work on numerous levels, foremost hovering between representation and abstraction. They are a brightly twisted playground for the eye and the mind, a trip down the rabbit hole with serious social commentary.

Schoultz came out of the graffiti scene; he put up his first tag while he was still in grade school. This street experience is reflected in his gallery work, most obviously in his penchant for large scale. He counter-balances this with innumerable small elements. The play of scale gives the work a great deal of depth and movement.

He also reworks the same images over and over, in the same manner that tags are repeated again and again on the street. For Shoultz, this repetition serves two purposes. It’s a form of storytelling: “In stories,” Schoultz said in a 2006 interview with Fecal Face, “characters reoccur and build themselves. I like the idea of developing a character or an image.” He also notes that by painting the same subject year after year, it slowly changes and finds fresh meaning. Throughout this body of work, we see the medieval horse, the eye of Providence (a graphic eye as appears on the one-dollar bill), tornados, bricks, and buildings askew. They serve as powerful symbols of Schoultz’s explorations: issues of man versus nature, history (and its sad repetition), environmental concerns, and globalization.

Like that of any good storyteller, Schoultz’s narrative does evolve, often to address current events. Reclamation, Oil, Water, for instance, is a commentary on the Gulf oil spill. The tornado (loss of control to nature) and eye are present. Schoultz also throws in a few other not so subtle but well placed ideas: the rippling water creates a camouflage pattern (war for oil), and the shimmering silver paint on a structure being transported on the water looks a lot like an oil slick (the true cost of global commerce).

The final crossover from Schoultz’s street work is the audience he addresses: the public. It shows a capacity to appeal to a broad audience, from children to the well-versed art lover.

Not to be overlooked is Schoultz’s use of color, which plays out in several ways. Red, white, and blue figure prominently in several works (a flag reference). And the messages are clear. In the large wall sculpture Broken Wall (in Three Parts) the American colors are separated to suggest a country divided or breaking apart. And gold, on bricks no less, figures prominently, especially in the enormous (and self-explanatory) Brick Wall (Gold).

Color also contributes to the many ways any given piece can be experienced. Explosion, a work made of layer upon layer of collage and innumerable graphics and images, as well as pieces of dollar bills, features numerous accents of different neon colors. From far away, these punchy tones read like a fairly un-modulated color-field painting. Up close, the eye reads color frantically in this wonderfully active work.

In this exhibition we are also privy to two types of work either not before seen, or not common to Schoultz’s oeuvre. New are his acrylic-on-found-antique-metal-plate-print paintings. In these black-and-white pieces, mostly comprised of his “Revisiting Insignificant Moments in History” series, Schoultz paints his own intricately lined iconography over the intricately lined images of the original prints, deftly merging past and present. Schoultz also presents a number of prints, most notably the monotype series “Compound Eye.” Each print features a one solid color, the eye graphic subtly present in a slightly different hue. The eye looks like a fingerprint or the rings of a tree. The series together is a breakdown of all the primary colors present in the show.

"A Girl Named Peaches" by Jill Gallenstein

Linear and organic structures complement each other in this two-person show of sculpture and works on paper (on view through September 11, 2010, at Johansson Projects in Oakland). There is a shared lightness to the works, giving the exhibition an overall ethereal, meditative feel. The exhibition comprises two sculptures by Jana Flynn — one wall mounted and the other a site-specific, floor-to-ceiling work that spans the back of the gallery — and several ink-on-paper works of various sizes by Jill Gallenstein.

Flynn’s creations come out of the craft of string art (think geometry class projects, gone huge, complex, and elaborate). She arranges arrays of strings, each their own color: Each same-length piece of string is fixed at either end; termination points are at equal intervals. Each array of strings, then, effectively creates a plane.  Flynn interweaves these planes, shaping and bending space. The works are at once delicate in their transparency while also being formidable — the taut lines make firm boundaries. (Of note is that these very precise, measured works are created improvisationally; they are not preplanned.)

Juxtaposed next to these are highly detailed and gorgeously colored works by Gallenstein. Rounded objects, starbursts, and other creations from the artist’s imagination group together, string out, and sometimes regroup across or down the paper; the backgrounds often feature subtle washes of color which enhance the atmosphere. The intricacy of these works cannot be overemphasized; they are stunningly rendered, each shape decorated with dots and lines to the tiniest degree. Up close, they are a wonder of obsessive attention; far away, they present beautiful, fluid compositions in bright, dramatic palettes.

Considering these two artists together, Flynn’s sculptures bring out the taut structure in Gallenstein’s work; Gallenstein’s seemingly amorphous works highlight the lyric aspects of the three-dimensional pieces. If these works hold their own individually, seeing them side-by-side mutually enhances their impact — a reminder of how the experience of an artwork is profoundly affected by its surroundings.

I came across a quote from John Waters in the current issue of Juxtapose magazine that neatly threaded together three things in a way I hadn’t previously realized: What I loved most about his last solo exhibition (titled “Rush” at Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, May 27 through July 10), one of the primary draws I have to looking at art, and why I’m also so drawn to the current solo exhibition of work by Maira Kalman, titled “Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World),” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CMJ) in San Francisco.

Waters says: “Art is exactly when there’s nothing there and only you can see it. If you go to art galleries all day and you really learn to see, when you walk home, at least for a couple of hours, you’ll see something on the street that will remind you of art. It fades; you have to go back to galleries. But then everything you see will look like art…”

John Waters, Pecker Still Life (4), 2010, chromogenic color print; Courtesy Rena Bransten Gallery

This is why I so loved Waters’s recent series of photographs, “Pecker Still Life,” which debuted in “Rush” and depicted unremarkable sights behind the scenes of movie filming — bits of the crew’s everyday life — as well as the piece “Shooting Script”, a photo of a grid of nine pads of yellow lined paper with all the pages ripped off and only the cardboard left. These are common objects with great stories.

New York artist Maira Kalman takes this elevating of the everyday even further: She’s turned just about anything in her world — from rubberbands, shoes, a candy bar, and a single pink present to hotel rooms, a found couch, or a dream — into artwork. “Basically I get paid to be myself,” Kalman says in a quote from one of the show catalog essays, “and for my imagination.” And what a joy.

Maira Kalman, Pink Package, 2004-5, gouache on paper; Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Kalman’s work is most familiar outside of the context of the fine art world. She’s long been an illustrator for the New Yorker — having created many covers — as well as twelve children’s books (most of which she either wrote or co-wrote), the first of which, Stay Up Late, was a collaboration with Talking Heads front-man David Byrne. She’s written and blogged for the New York Times, has worked on a set for Mark Morris and designed with Isaac Mizrahi and Kate Spade, among other projects. She is also a photographer and embroiderer. This, her first solo museum exhibition, is a retrospective covering thirty years of Kalman’s work and also includes an installation of objects from her home and studio; it premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year, will be on show at the CMJ through October 26, and then travels to the Skirball Cultural Center in L.A. and The Jewish Museum in New York.

Installation detail; Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

Kalman is not a formally trained illustrator or painter, but that’s not to say her pieces are uninformed by the art world. The work is layered with cultural and art historical references from Matisse and Chagall, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism. Fashion, travel, and design also figure greatly. In addition to illustration, an arena Kalman has had a profound impact on is design; she was very influential in the work of her husband Tibor Kalman (now deceased), who founded M&Co, a firm that is credited with changing the world of contemporary graphic design. Among other projects, M&Co created Bennetton’s Color magazine.

Maira Kalman, New York, Grand Central Station, 1999, gouache and ink on paper; Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Kalman’s work, however, does have an outsider art quality — quirky, unique, absurd and highly imaginative. Figures and objects are not rendered precisely but possess personality and a distinct loveable quality. And, they are often funny. “Maira Kalman,” says curator Hiroko Tanaka in a catalog brochure of the artist’s 1989 exhibition at Ginza Art Space in Tokyo, “your pictures are so crazy that everyone wants to hug them.”

Kalman’s work engenders great affection, no doubt. Her honest representations hit their mark. In another of the essay’s for this show, Kalman is quoted describing a painting she did of Le Corbusier’s kitchen sink. She says her intension was that it be “an earnest and loving presentation of something I fell in love with.”

This is the very heart of Kalman’s work, and why we heart it so much. Not only do we share her love of what she presents to us, we begin to see the love-worthy bits of life’s art we unattentively pass by every day.

"Wildwood" by Nemo Gould

Don’t let the title of the exhibition derail you: this is not a show of devices aimed at doing evil. It is a superb display of the intersection among art, mechanics, and whimsical beings. Finely crafted, imaginatively assembled, and possessing a balance of humor and insight, the work in this three-person exhibition is unique and eclectic.  “Machinations” (on show through August 21, 2010) features the art of Jeremy Mayer, Nemo Gould, and Benjamin Cowden — all Oakland-based — in this new gallery’s second exhibition.

The common thread of these works is the assembling, reassigning, and recycling of found or archaic objects — often mechanical — to examine or explore creative inquiries or comment on the human condition. Evident is an interest in robotics and the inner workings of man-made systems. (Not surprisingly, all three artists presented work at the recent Maker Faire at the San Mateo County Event Center during May.) Though sharing these similarities, the expressions are different. Mayer exclusively uses antique typewriter parts to creative human forms; he does not solder, weld, or glue any of the pieces, they are only reassembled. The three works here are extraordinarily detailed, beautiful, but the clear standout here is the graceful lifesized female figure Nude IV, Delilah.

Gould presents dioramas, large-scale figures, and wall-mounted pieces, including a green-backlit octopus creature, partially made out of a guitar, which is thus fittingly titled Acoustapus. The materials used to create these intricate and often funny works vary widely — wood, spare parts, a lens, a thermometer conduit, and much more have found their way in. Not everyone finds his work amusing, however. Gould created the larger-than-life, anatomically correct robot sculpture that met with neighborhood controversy in 2004 when best-selling author Robert Mailer Anderson and wife Nicola Miner — daughter of Oracle co-founder, Robert Miner — displayed it in front of their Pacific Heights home. The topics Gould explores range widely, from commentary on the struggling artist, to oil spills, the monkeys who died in space experiments, and his obsession with the aforementioned octopuses.

The four kinetic sculptures created by Cowden are clean and sleek, elegant forms. Using gears and other interworking mechanical parts with miniature human figures or fabricated body parts, the work examines the human experience. A Series of Arbitrary but Passionate Decisions points to the uncontrollable nature of life; Eating my Cake and Having it Too, which features a disembodied (fake) tongue and lollypop, examines that oft-quoted phrase.

This is tinkering taken to the level of sublime. This show serves as a reminder that, with ingenuity, curiosity, imagination, and the care of craftsmanship, our junk really can transformed into treasure.

Installation view of Clare Rojas's solo exhibition at SF Museum of Craft and Folk Art; courtesy SFMCFA

San Francisco neo-folk artist Clare Rojas expands her visual range in this pivotal show of new work, which dominates the intimate space of this small museum. This is a powerful, twistedly delightful exhibition. It further adds to the artist’s growing stature as one of the Bay Area’s most celebrated and prolific contemporary artists. In addition to this, her first solo museum show, Rojas’s work is also currently featured in a two-person exhibition with Barry McGee at the Bolinas Museum of Art, and, last April, the SF Arts Commission installed a commissioned work by her at the City’s international airport.
In keeping with past work, this show is bright and graphic. The flatness of the work references Rojas’s printmaking past; the influences of folk art, outsider art, street art, cartooning, illustration, and quilting remain strong. Rojas is rightly associated with the area’s “lowbrow” Mission School, which also encompasses artists McGee, Chris Johanson, and Margaret Kilgallen, among others. Comparisons among the artists can readily be drawn.
But Rojas is not simply a product of influences. Her voice, iconography, and message are distinctive and evolving. In this show, Rojas presents both smaller works, which are hung salon-style along one wall, and then numerous enormous works that cover the rest of the walls from floor to ceiling. Also on view is an amusing video, “Manipulation,” that Rojas contributed to with animation.
Throughout, the artist continues her references to home-life with figurative narratives that are often bizarre, verging on disturbing; a primary topic is gender/feminism. In one large-scale work, three women look to the sky, two expelling an upflowing substance from their mouths, the other from her eyes. In another, three male figures ascend a striped ramp/tongue that leads to a woman’s open mouth.
New here the artist also presents almost completely abstracted scenes, though references to the home remain; another larger-than-life piece is a minimalist home interior. Exploring formal uses of line, perspective, color, and composition, Rojas’s depiction of this comfort zone gets a little queasy. One high point of the exhibition is a huge “wall quilt” made up of numerous geometric panels, each painted one color, and arranged in a way that recalls childhood parquetry block designs; this surrounds a central seated female figure.
A critique that has been leveled at Rojas’ work is that it drifts toward decorative simplicity. Now, no. It has decorative elements that make it likable, just not too likeable. It pushes far beyond becoming vapid or ingratiating. Colors, shapes, and patterns clash in challenging, dissonant ways; there is a not-quite-right-ness that keeps us fully engaged. It is, indeed, the decorativeness that provides the hook; we stick around to feel the story.

In a 2004 New York Times review of Rojas’s solo show at Deitch Projects, critic Roberta Smith ended with the upbeat, “. . . this show generally brims with promise.” Clare Rojas is making good on that promise.

This review was originally published at Visual Art Source.

Four galleries in San Francisco have teamed up and given curatorial freedom and unlimited access to their racks to four artists tasked to create one four-part group exhibition. This superb mega-show is called: “They Knew What They Wanted”. And it’s a rare change-up to the typically less inspiring multi-artist shows that occupy gallery space during this, the art world’s slow season. It’s also helping to bring together the city’s ever burgeoning art scene.

Detail of show curated by Katy Grannan at Fraenkel Gallery; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery

Roughly a year ago, Jeffrey Fraenkel, owner of his eponymous and highly regarded photography gallery, dreamed up the idea of a collaborative summer project involving other galleries. He teamed up with internationally renown Berggruen Gallery and two newer, highly contemporary galleries, Ratio 3 and Altman Siegel and developed “They Knew What They Wanted.” The show spans all four spaces. Each gallery’s part is curated by one of their own artists — Robert Bechtle for Berggruen, Katy Grannan for Fraenkel, Jordan Kantor for Ratio 3, and Shannon Ebner (the only non-SF artist; she’s from L.A.) for Altman Siegel.

DETAIL of show curated by Jordan Kantor at Ratio 3; courtesy Ratio 3

“This truly was a collaborative effort,” says Frish Brandt, director of Fraenkel. She also notes that this was a case study in gallery cross-pollination, as a means to strengthen the area’s visual art community and relationships among galleries. Quoting a favorite borrowed phrase, she says, “I’ve always said, ‘It takes a village.'” So successful has this project been, both from a planning as well as a results standpoint, Brandt notes that there is interest in future collaborations.

I’ll admit, when I first learned about this show, I thought it might suffer from being gimmicky, too hip and clever. I was wrong. After I saw the first show, I couldn’t wait to see the second. My enthusiasm only increased as I made my way to galleries three and four. One of the original show titles was something along the lines of “Treasure Hunt.” While I’m happy that got nixed, it does rightly point to the searching, journey, discovery elements of this project.

From gallery to gallery, there’s the joy of finding stellar not often or rarely seen pictures and sculptures from artists famous, emerging, and little or unknown — and spanning a large swath of time — such as: anonymous, E.J. Bellocq, Vija Celmins, Lee Friedlander, Adam Fuss, Maureen Gallace, Edward Muybridge, Trevor Plagen, Ed Ruscha, Rachel Whiteread, Sara Vanderbeek, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Charlie Harper, Matt Keegan, Los Carpinteros, Henry Wessel, Barry McGee, Tom McKinley, Manuel Neri, Mitzi Pederson, Robert Rauschenberg, Will Rogan, Iran Do Espirito Santo, Garth Weiser, and others, including the artist/curators themselves.

The installments are further enhanced by unique curating, expressing the individual personalities or creative investigations of the artists. “It’s as much about the artists as it is about the shows,” observes Brandt. We’re also reminded the role curating plays in how art is perceived; new context provides a fresh take — the experience of an artwork is always partially a product of the environment. “Everything has its absolute right place in relationship to itself and the work that it is in proximity to,” says Ebner on this subject. “Each artwork possesses a universe and so determining where it belongs in relationship to all of the other universes around it is a very satisfying problem.”

Painting from show curated by Robert Bechtle at Berggruen Gallery, Tom McKinley, Pool House, 2008, courtesy Berggruen Gallery

So, puzzling through the curatorial dynamic of each show presents another layer of pleasures. At Freankel, Grannan presents clumps of coherence that play off each other in strangely humorous ways. “It’s ineffable,” observes Brandt about Grannan’s chapter. “It has a certain energy – -messy and chaotic.” An energy akin to that of the subjects in the photographs Grannan makes. Similar rhythm can be found in Kantor’s contribution. He started with key works and built small groups around each. The show holds together with a subtle narrative that one feels rather than tells; Kantor attributes that cohesion to the fact that all of the works were ones that appeal to his taste. More directly emulating his artistic style, Bechtle’s show features almost exclusively landscape, many depicting everyday life. “I included many artists who I admire,” he says, “and added others I wasn’t familiar with.” Much of the curating process was intuitive, by the seat of his pants, he says.

Ebner’s creation has the feel of a singular installation. “I did not really set out with too much criteria,” she explains, “but more of a vague sense that I wanted the works selected for the show to possess a kind of quality or affect.

Sculpture from show curated by Shannon Ebner at Alman Siegel, Iran Do Espirito Santo, Water Glass 2, courtesy Altman Siegel, SF

“I was looking to see if there are ways to select and juxtapose artworks so that what they mean or say or do as a fixed identity is constantly being called into question,” Ebner continues. “A good example of this might be Iran’s water glass [Iran Do Espirito Santo’s Water Glass 2] and how, because it is a solid form made of crystal, it creates the illusion that it is a liquid, a glass always full. When you take a liquid and make it a solid, but still have it appear as what we expect it to be, you are really asking us to think about all of reality as a series of inquiries and/or doubts.”

“They Knew What They Wanted” is like great summer reading. Fun, liberating, and with just the right amount of depth and momentum; you not want to stop until you reach the end. It also leaves you hoping that there will be a new release next summer.

Detail of show curated by Shannon Ebner at Altman Siegel, courtesy Altman Siegel, SF

This exhibition closes August 13.

"Away" by Erin Cone

Even with fast and wide praise of her paintings since her first (sell-out) solo show in 2003, Santa Fe–based artist Erin Cone continues to push her work, and it shows. Cone boldly, consciously explores new approaches to form, composition, and palette with each body of work she creates. The recent solo exhibition at Hespe Gallery in San Francisco shows the painter refining and developing. 

Cone paints stylized figures based on herself. (These aren’t self-portraits, however; Cone acts as model, not subject). She says, accurately, that her work is a fusion of figurative realism and abstract minimalism. The figure is almost always solitary against a flat background and usually cropped in an arresting way—off to one side cutting out an arm, three-quarters of the head cut off. These works are as much about forms and arrangement as they are about the figure itself. And they are strong; this is made obvious when noting that the impact of the work isn’t diminished when showing the figure from behind, typically a less engaging view.

Numerous influences and art historical connections can be seen in Cone’s work. The clean, stylized approach of the neoclassicists, albeit with a fresh approach; Cone’s figure, dressed in “office casual,” is a modern woman. Contemporarily, there is a resemblance, especially as regards cropping and also stylization, to the Pasadena-based artist Kenton Nelson. Cone herself states influences from Georgia O’Keefe, Caravaggio, Édouard Manet, Gerhard Richter, and Wayne Thiebaud, among others. Cone’s traditional influences—she’d originally wanted to be a portrait painter in the Old Master style—are contrasted by the bold, commercial feel of graphic design and the slickness of photography. Her surfaces are clean and smooth, unblemished. (Cone worked as a graphic designer at a publishing company before taking the leap to devote herself to painting full time.) Inspiration also comes from collage, fashion, and dance.

For this body of work, Cone has limited her palette. She’s playing with levels of contrast. Some work features less, such as Away, a quiet work with almost a sepia tone appearance. Work such as Allure, showing a partial upper portion of a figure with a bright red shirt again a blue-grey ground, shows more. But gone are, say, the hard orange backgrounds of past work. The new-found subtlety is welcome. Cone also softens her images and adds movement by showing afterimages, hints of where the body just was; it gives us more to see. And the rendering of the figure itself, verging slightly more toward realism, gives these paintings greater life and depth; they energize the work more than in the past, and they’re simply better painted. If there are criticisms to be made, it’s that Cone’s work can tend toward being too pretty and too rigid or graphic—flat, lacking depth. Cone’s to be credited, however, for seriously honing her craft and working through formal concerns. It’s an exciting process to watch and no small pursuit.

 Here we see a dedicated, talented painter steadily developing into an artist.

This review first appeared on

Davide Coltro's "Living Shrouds," detail

One hundred black-and-white portraits, with an emphasis toward the black end of the scale, repetitively line the walls of this solo exhibition by new media Milan-based artist Davide Coltro (on view April 1 through May15, 2010). Each work measures 16-by-13 inches and is encased in a plastic sleeve; the sole break in the lineup: a screen, similar in size to the portraits, playing a random feed of hundreds of these images, here brightly colored, melding slowly into each other, one after the next.

The portraits, which feature Coltro’s friends or people he’s met, were created with a standard office photocopier; the subject laid his or her head on the machine. This accounts for the mostly three-quarter or full profiles, with only a few head-on shots. The method also explains the darkness of the images and that everything surrounding the face is black.

To create the continually morphing screen feed, the artist uses a proprietary algorithm he wrote, which resizes, colors, and combines the portraits. The screen recalls and further pushes the work, “[Systems],” featured in the artist’s first exhibition at Wolfe Contemporary (2007), which focused on landscape. Again, Coltro approaches a traditional genre through his lens of unique technology.
While the printouts serve to support the screen module, the combination works well as a whole. While the screen steadily presents a never-ending march of faces over time, the single portraits snaking the gallery walls offer the whole crowd, all at once. And both views upend the genre: whereas portraiture originally highlighted an individual’s uniqueness, set him or her apart, these streams of faces remind us that we are one of many. The xeroxing process, which renders a visual sameness, reinforces this . So stark, unflattering, and similarly produced are the images, beauty and status become a non-factor. The end result is one of equitability and unification.

The one off-putting aspect of the show is the plastic encasing of the images; wavy and reflective, it makes the portraits difficult to see. (It’s curious to learn that this display was insisted on by the artist.) But still, the show works. The flow of images is harmonious; the screen, especially, is mesmerizing. And, this is at its heart a conceptual piece; it is the idea we take with us. We are all a part of this, in it together. There’s a comfort in that.

This review originally ran in art, ltd magazine.

Ai Weiwei's "Snake Bag"

The Ai Weiwei show at Haines Gallery is important for many reasons, not all of which have to do with the specific work on view. Hailing from Beijing, Weiwei is at the forefront of the increasingly vibrant conversation the international art world is having about contemporary Asian art, especially that coming out of China. An activist and forceful critic of the Chinese government (he was beaten by the Chinese police last year and suffered life-threatening head injuries because of it), Weiwei’s art gives outsiders intimate insight into Chinese culture and current issues through the universal language of objects and concepts. His work also resonates within Western art history. Obvious influences and references can be made to Marcel Duchamp, Félix González-Torres, and Andy Warhol, and even contemporaries, such as Jeff Koons. (Also worth noting, similar to other mega-artists, Weiwei employs loads of assistants to transform his vision into form.)

Weiwei is a conceptual artist; the greater message of his pieces is not immediately evident. Where his work succeeds then is that it engages us to the point of curiosity. The pieces on show at Haines—all recent sculpture (2006–2010) of various mediums, including porcelain, marble, and canvas packs—are pretty, sometimes luscious, and simple. They are easy points of entry to sometimes difficult subjects.

Perhaps most powerful—at almost sixty feet long, it has quite a presence—is Snake Bag, 2008, a series of 360 backpacks zippered together in the form of a serpent. The work is a memorial to the thousands of children who perished in the 2008 Sichuan Province earthquake; Weiwei holds the government responsible for the excessiveness of the death toll (it was this criticism that led to the police beatings). Kui Hua Zi (sunflower seeds), 2009, is another strong work. Comprising 550 pounds of porcelain seeds piled in a conical shape (it took twenty assistants more than a year to hand-make all the pieces), it’s a nod to the famine diet of peasants during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, which spanned 1959 to 1961. The work readily recalls Gonzalez-Torres’s candy piles, albeit appropriately relaying a slightly less generous twist. Of particular interest to the Bay Area is Owl Houses, 2010, a collection of ten hand-painted porcelain structures meant to be owl habitats. These were recently installed in the San Francisco Presidio to serve their sheltering purpose as part of “Presidio Habitats,” an on-site group exhibition that  runs through May 16, 2011.

This is the first major solo exhibition of Weiwei’s work on the West Coast. Go to see some lovely work, stay for the conversation.

This exhibition is on view until May 28, 2010.

Interact with the artist: Additionally, Haines Gallery has created an “Ai Weiwei at Haines Gallery” blog. It serves as a place where the public, artist, and gallery can interact. Questions and comments for Weiwei are encouraged; it’s a unique opportunity to interact directly with the artist. Go to:

"The Three Graces" by Lucy Gaylord-Lindholm

This review of Lucy Gaylord-Lindholm’s current solo exhibition recently appeared on Visual Art Source:

Enchanting, strange and impeccably painted, the series of new oil paintings by Bay Area artist Lucy Gaylord-Lindholm are wonderfully enticing, presenting a multi-layered universe that continues to unfold. The thirteen detailed works that comprise the exhibition are small, ranging in size from 17.5-by-13 inches to 11.5-by-9 inches. They are designed to create an intimate viewing experience.
A romantic evening landscape is intruded on by an enormous structure, or perhaps it is a creature made of haphazardly arranged pieces of lumber and fronted by the head of what appears to be a bird. Finely rendered portraits morph into a tangle of string. Gaylord-Lindholm’s paintings have a classic, centuries-old feel, drawing on traditional subjects and the genres of landscape, still life, portraiture, and the figure, with a heavy dose of surrealism.
In Three Graces the famous mythological trio is depicted nude and voluptuous in its traditional grouping. The middle figure faces away while the other two have their faces exposed to the viewer; here, however, the nudes are variously covered in larger-than-life Band-Aids – the adhesive strips appear on multiple occasions in this body of work. And, unlike most portrayals where the women interact only with each other, here the figure on the left, Aglaea, goddess of beauty, stares brazenly at the viewer, referencing the once-upon-a-time controversial frankness of Édouard Manet’s Olympia.
Gaylord-Lindholm draws ideas and imagery primarily from art history, pop culture, science, and fairy tales. “I’ve always been interested in the quirky or absurd,” the artist says in a recent interview, “portraying the impossible in a way that almost could be plausible.” From show to show, painting to painting, the imagery varies widely, but throughout, the palette is rich, the work tight and dramatic. And there is a commonly depicted idea: change, juxtaposing reality and the further reaches of our imagination, often drawing from a place of fear – disintegration of self, insanity, claustrophobia.
Untitled #2 is a portrait of a young girl, face forward, who stares into the middle ground, out toward us, but not at us. Her hair is dark brown and tied back, giving her a plain look; her clothing, which we see from the waist up, is a dark grey. She is against a solid darkish brown-green background. Below her neckline we can partially see through her to what’s beneath her skin: a small shadowy horse, mechanics, perhaps a spaceship. There is movement indicated toward the bottom and flowing to the right, as if a celestial storm is beginning to blow through her and will eventually fully expose her bizarre inner workings.
While these works are haunting, they are so gorgeously rendered and delightfully intricate, they play out like a dark comedy. And though completely odd, they have an internal logic that makes its own kind of sense; these paintings aren’t arbitrary. They approach the edge of absurdity without crossing over. We come away smiling and a bit more comfortable with the world’s uncertainty.

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