ArtSpan Selections: The Best of the Open Studios Artists

ArtSpan Selections 2007, December 6 - 29, 2007, 111 Minna Gallery,

Opening Reception: Thursday, December 6, 2007, Reception ($75), 5 - 7pm, General Reception, 7 - 8:30pm, 111 Minna Gallery,

David Avery, Johanna Baruch, Marie Bourget, Rebecca Chang, Mitchell Confer, Elaine Coombs, Katie Gilmartin, James Gleeson, Joshua Hagler, Ivy Jacobsen, Mark Jaremko, Mike Kimball, Jim Leff, Christopher Leib, Christina Mazza, Laurel Roth, Terry Sauvé, Kathryn St. Clair, Lena Tsakmaki, Christopher Wiedmann

Curious to know whose work was the best of this year’s Open Studios? Well here’s your chance to find out and purchase it as well. The unveiling of the juried ArtSpanSelections” winners will go on display this Thursday at 111 Minna. If you choose to attend the $75 fundraiser event from 5-7pm this Thursday, December 6, you’ll get to hear the curators who chose the winners speak and you’ll be supporting a worthy grassroots organization at the same time (plus enjoy great apps and an open bar).

The not-for-profit ArtSpan isn’t a one trick pony. It's a critical resource for independent artists who don’t have gallery representation and may not have the connections that are a benefit of coming up through the local MFA (Master of Fine Arts) Greek system.

In addition to managing the massive logistics and marketing for the 800+ artists who participate in Open Studios every year, ArtSpan offers valuable professional development services to its members and sponsors Art for City Youth which introduces elementary school students to artists. All this for annual dues of $135.

Juried awards are a common and popular way for the art community to recognize Talent. A typical panel involves a few judges that fit the following archetypes: curator from local museum or non-profit, teacher from an MFA program, gallery director, rounded out by Bay Area artist who has already received critical acclaim. Being picked by a jury panel of this make-up is extremely prestigious and is a great resume builder for an emerging artist.

The Selections jury follows this model. Participating on this panel is Gabe Scott and Eleanor Harwood, their first collaboration with ArtSpan. Their participation is a testament to the efforts of the current Board of Directors which reached out to the two and invited them to participate. (Fellow juror Rene de Guzman has been a friend of ArtSpan for many years.) This board is also responsible for the jazzed up Open Studios program guide this year, which made the neighborhood-by-neighborhood event the easiest it’s ever been to navigate.

Eleanor Harwood of the eponymous Mission-Potrero gallery is a CCA trained artist herself. She made the “Backroom” at Adobe Books famous during her tenure curating that space. This funky cobwebby counter-culture bookstore on 16th Street in the Mission is the place that time forgot. Step gingerly over stacks of books and past the aging hippies engrossed in their manifestos; your reward is a postage stamp sized dynamic art space that generates a lot of talk among art world insiders.

The second judge is Gabe Scott, the director of 111 Minna Gallery where the show will be on display for the next month. 111 Minna is the original art gallery/bar in the city, fittingly located just steps away from SFMOMA’s back door. 111 Minna is known for showing “lowbrow” art and "street art" and for being a big booster of the art community in general, often lending its space to events like this.

Rounding out the panel is Rene de Guzman who needs no introduction to the Bay Area art community. De Guzman was one of the original staff members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and is credited with being the force behind “Bay Area Now,” a must-see show that takes place every three years. After nearly fifteen years with YBCA the Oakland Museum managed to woo him away, an acquisition that bodes well for that venerable institution. De Guzman and a snazzy makeover of the galleries scheduled to start in early ’08 should serve to make that space back into a premier destination.

De Guzman did visit some open studios in October and say he saw some things he liked. “I saw some artists that were new to me and took down their names to follow up later.” De Guzman speaks very highly of ArtSpan and its importance to the San Francisco art community. “I’m very impressed with ArtSpan and their complete commitment to supporting the city’s artists. ArtSpan allows its artists to not only be known in the community at large but also to know each other and strengthen themselves through that dialogue. ArtSpan works with the level of artist who needs the most support: artists who are beginning their practice. We need that foundation to be strong in order for everyone to be successful.”

Harwood also thinks that artists who are dues-paying members of ArtSpan get a valuable service in return. “I think that any organization that manages to give artists exposure is valuable. ArtSpan Selections provides its artists with access to curators that they wouldn’t normally have.”

Eleanor goes on to explain how this jury experience was different from other panel reviews. “This selection process was different from others I have curated in that the review process was ‘blind.’ Usually a curator acting as a juror would review the CV and the artist statement and unavoidably take note if the artist had already received recognition or acclaim in some other format. The work completely spoke for itself using this method of selection.”

Electric Works: State of the Art Printmakers Offer Something for Everyone

Group Show featuring emerging artists: Civil Twilight, November 30 - January 5, 2008, 130 8th Street San Francisco, California 94103, Monday - Friday 10 AM - 6 PM, Saturday 10:30 AM - 5:30 PM, 415 626 5496,,

Electric Works is not just a print shop with special to-the-trade high-tech services; it’s a collaborative space with a community spirit.

Emerging collectors can start an art collection with the $40 Mini Print Program. Universally appealing is the gift shop is stocked for the holiday season with unique and affordable artistic collectibles. This is the perfect place to find gifts under $25 for all ages including every issue of Cabinet Magazine in print ($10), limited edition book art by David Byrne ($24) and David Mamet ($19.95), natural beeswax crayons ($11/$25/$45), charming old-fashioned tin toys ($10-$15), and incredibly hard-to-find Japanese Steampunk watches (already collectors' items, priced upon request).

For established collectors, not only is there the opportunity to purchase 2D and 3D print editions worthy of the Achenbach Collection, there is also a service that would make Stanley Marcus take notice. Looking for a holiday gift for the art collector who has everything? Electric Works will bring their high-tech equipment to your home and photograph your collection. You'll get a leather bound book with pictures of everything you own - perfect for when a guest comes over and an important piece is on loan (and doubles as a record for insurance purposes).

The Lang Family is such an important part of the San Francisco Bay Area art community that it seems like Electric Works has been in the city forever. But no, this family enterprise just relocated from its old incarnation (Trillium Press) in Brisbane to its new home on Eighth between Mission and Howard last Spring. The Langs were part of Trillium for over ten years and it was there that they established their reputation as master printmakers with an appetite for experimentation and envelope-pushing (other venerable printmakers bring projects they can’t execute to Trillium and EW). Dad Richard and son Noah searched for a long time for the right spot and then kismet brought them to the historic Buzzell Building which for decades housed a machine repair shop. It was such a good match that the Langs adopted the name of the former tenants, perfect for printmakers who specialize in state of the art printmaking.

First a quick primer on prints. A print is not the faded Monet Water Lillies poster you bought in college that has managed to follow you from apartment to apartment ever since. An original print is a work of art on paper which has been conceived by the artist to be realized as a print, rather than as a photographic reproduction of a work in another medium. Each impression should be approved and signed by the artist and the master image destroyed or cancelled. An original print is not a copy of anything else; it is a work of art in its own right.

Electric Works has quickly built a niche business in digital prints. To create these, artists use a computer to create or manipulate their works often use a large-scale ink jet printer to print them. These complex printers use a sophisticated print head to disperse the ink on the paper in a fine mist of minute droplets in order to deliver a continuous tone image.

Electric Works’ strength is its breadth of programming, the affable personality of the Lang family and their commitment to philanthropy. The Foyer Gallery features work from its Venture Philanthropy program which supports non-profit organizations through the commission of limited edition prints. Fundraising projects on display beginning Nov. 30 benefit Headlands Center for the Arts, the Magic Theater and 826 Valencia. Past partners include New Langton Arts and Friends of the Urban Forest.

All three Langs are artists themselves. Richard originally conceived of the versatile gallery while enrolled in the M.A. sculpture program at the University of Wisconsin. Wife Judith Selby Lang (who does the PR) creates multi-media art installations with an ardent Green message. She is often wearing eye-catching accessories that she fashions from found materials. She has taught art for thirty years in to higher-ed students in Bay Area schools as well as arts and crafts to those in convalescent hospitals with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

After receiving his masters in German Literature, Noah heard the siren call of the gallery and moved home to help with the high tech aspects of the print shop. When not taking the gallery’s offerings on the road to art fairs or searching out new items for the gift shop, Noah makes conceptual sculpture and volunteers his time as a member of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery Advisory Board.

Electric Works business partner Anthony Luzi is an artist as well, and is the CEO of Raven Motors. Luzi and Lang became friends through their mutual appreciation for the work of William Wiley. He is responsible for bringing in artists Ron Davis and Nathan Redwood. Visit the gallery and you’ll see a Raven, a bright green, single passenger, three-wheeled car which registers and parks as a motorcycle, gets seventy miles to the gallon, has an airbag and a design patented for your safety.

Since its grand opening in May, the Langs have featured a fifty-year retrospective of California artist Ronald Davis’ abstract geometrics, Paul Madonna’s dreamy drawings of the view along I5, the results of Amanda Hughen & Jennifer Starkweather’s collaboration for the SFAC “Art on Market Street” program, brainy doodler Tucker Nichols and Katherine Sherwood, professor of Art at UC Berkeley with an incredible personal story of rebirth that is an integral part of her work.

Love the work you see in an Electric Works show but can’t afford it? The $40 Mini Print Program was designed for you. Every headliner artist who shows in the gallery is invited to make an original work of art for this program. You can buy just one (unframed) or subscribe to the series. Each month you’ll receive the same number in the print series (such as 23/100). Email Noah directly if you’d like to sign up:

John Berggruen Gallery: Take Note of These Emerging Artists on Display

November 1- December 15, 2007, Displaced: Jonathan Callan, Frank Ebert,Armando Miguelez, Julio Ceaser Morales, Gabrielle Teschner, Hours 9:30am -5:30pm Monday through Friday, 10:30am - 5:00pm Saturday, 228 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, 94108, 415-781-4629

Click here to see images under Menu, Exhibitions, Current, Displaced:

The list of artists shown over the past thirty plus years at John Berggruen Gallery includes a who's-who from the pantheon of California greats: Thiebaud, Diebenkorn, Oliveira and Bischoff to name a few.

But the show on view in the gallery's third floor through mid-December is noteworthy because it features emerging artists, something Berggruen hasn't done in ages. (For the purpose of this article, "emerging" is defined as very recently graduated from grad school and/or as yet "untested"by a commercial gallery with an international reputation.)

1997 was the last time Berggruen featured artists at such an early career stage, in a group show that included the work of Barry McGee. That was the year that McGee’s work was revealed to the art community as one of the winners of the SFMOMA SECA Award show. (The Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art was founded in 1960 by San Francisco Bay Area art community notables including Ruth Braunstein and Rene di Rosa and recognizes a handful of outstanding local emerging artists every other year who invariably go on to receive national recognition.) Since then McGee has ascended to the position of Godfather of the home grown Mission School movement.

Two of the artists on view in "Displaced" just received their MFA's from California College of the Arts last Spring. Frank Ebert's photorealist graphite on paper drawings ($1,500-$3,200) are the ultimate grown-up rock and roll poster. Gabrielle Teschner also bowed at CCA in May; her "Altered Maps" ($1,400-$2,200) are found vintage maps with stenciled cut-outs of tongue in cheek cartographer's jargon.

Although Julio Cesar Morales is also included in the "Displaced" show, "emerging" is not the right description for this accomplished artist. Morales is the founder of the provocative alternative gallery space called "Queen's Nails Annex" (which really is next door to a beauty shop in the outer Mission called Queen's Nails). He is a graduate of San Francisco Art Institute and now teaches there in the New Genres department. The Rockefeller Foundation and The Fleishhacker Foundation are among the many venerable institutions that have recognized his talent.

The Tijuana born artist's work is highly charged with border politics featuring the desperate attempts of illegal immigrants to smuggle themselves into the US. (It is not a surprise that his provocative work is featured in the permanent collection of the San Diego Museum of Art in a city on the front lines of this issue.) The soft watercolors look like science fiction cartoon cels but are horrifyingly real and depict actual cases documented by the border patrol. This is serious political art that makes its point effectively. ($5,000-$5,500)

New blood on the Berggruen staff has something to do with it. Mike Bianco just signed on full-time with the gallery after graduating from the Curatorial Practice Master's program at CCA, and this is the first show he has curated there. Bianco's not exactly brand new to Berggruen. He had been working part-time for the gallery while enrolled in CCA ever since Mr. Berggruen discovered him in 2005 in the American Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennial where he was an assistant in the Ed Ruscha exhibit.

Bianco leads a second life in Marfa, Texas, where he runs a space called "The Way Point" ( that he curates during Chinati season. The contemporary art world knows Marfa as a town that is synonymous with the Chinati Foundation, founded by Donald Judd in the early 1980's, to provide a home for large scale minimalist/conceptual sculpture. Forget Burning Man; during "Chinati Season" the tiny town (population 2,121) is a happening, overrun with artists and curators. (Julio Morales is also a Marfite.)

Next time Bianco is scheduled to curate something big for Berggruen is not until Fall ’08 so be sure to stop by while “Displaced” is still up on the walls.

Triple Base Gallery: White Glove Inspection

Triple Base Gallery, Thursday-Sunday 12-5pm, (please check for special evening hours), 3041 24th Street @ Treat (btw Folsom & Harrison) San Francisco, CA 94110,, phone: 415.643.3943,

Do you ever dream about being able to do the one-stop-shopping thing and get an overview of the work of Bay Area emerging artists in one gallery visit?

Well, close your eyes and imagine an art gallery that’s open on a Sunday in a cool neighborhood next to a joint where you can get a great fish taco. Now imagine that the gallery owner likes you and lets you look through her inventory in a no-pressure environment and takes the time to educate you about each artist whose work you’re viewing. And there’s more: the majority of pieces for sale are in your price range. (No uncomfortable embarrassment while the gallery director and assistant unwrap canvas after canvas while you know all along you can’t afford anything they’re showing you.)

Now open your eyes- it’s not a dream. You’re at Triple Base in the Mission and you’re wearing white gloves and looking through the “flat files,” metal cabinets with shallow drawers which store works on paper numbering close to 300 and featuring the work of over 30 different young artists. Prices start at $75 and range up to $2000, with the majority around $500 (unframed). The only thing that’s different from your dream is that there are two gallery directors: Joyce Grimm and Dina Pugh.

You now know you’re not asleep but the fantasy goes on. Joyce and Dina have just invited you to their next dinner lecture held at a real live-work loft where the Dean of CCA, Larry Rinder, will give a talk about Triple Base’s featured artist of the month and the dinner is catered by underground chef Leif Hedendal who serves an I-can’t-believe-this-is-vegan organic gourmet three course dinner. And no, you don’t need to pinch yourself; you DO see Jack Hanley, Gary Sangster, Executive Director of Headlands Center for the Arts, Svea Lin Vezzone of Swarm and Terri Kwiatek, Co-President of SFMOMA’s SECA, all enjoying the party too.

Joyce and Dina became friends while enrolled in the Masters of Curatorial Practice graduate program at California College of the Arts. Larry Rinder was Dina’s thesis advisor and has since taken the pair under his wing. Rinder says, “They have thrown themselves totally into the cultural mix of our city. And they've done so in a way that combines idealism and pragmatism extremely effectively. When they took over Triple Base, the space already had an excellent reputation. They kept a lot of what Oliver had started alive, in terms of the warm and generous connection to local artists, and added some ideas of their own, like flat-files and the dinner talks. Triple Base is now one of the most vital and dynamic of any Bay Area arts organizations. Dina and Joyce have shown that you can make a really important contribution without a great deal of money. Their dedication, talent, and inclusive spirit naturally draw others around them. It's not surprising at all that so many people are cheering them on.”

The gallery was founded in 2003 by two artists Oliver Halsman Rosenberg and Clint Tanaguchi who used the storefront as their studio and as a community project space. The founders moved on to make their art in New York and Tokyo, respectively, and entrusted Triple Base to the women before they left. (The original name, Triple Base, was a reference to a vision of being one of many “bases” with similar vision connected internationally.)

Having a curatorial background comes in handy when you’re working with young artists who don’t yet have a mature body of work. The two agree that Joyce is slightly more hands-on in the creative process and Dina is more hands-off but both women enjoy their role as mentor, drawing out strong potential that they see in the work.

Modeled after the Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn, the “flat files” pay the rent and allow the co-directors to use the rest of the space for sheer artistic expression including experimental performance and installation art. Artwork in the files is rotated out every six months and every month or so a new artist is added to the mix.

Time management is an art form here as well. Both women have been holding down full-time jobs while simultaneously running Triple Base Gallery. It is truly a labor of love.

Joyce is Gallery Assistant at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery (your tax dollars at work). Meg Shiffler, Gallery Director, is supportive of their mission as well: “Joyce and Dina have [contributed to the San Francisco art community] by developing a space that is not a nonprofit alternative space and not a commercial gallery. It is important in this age of dwindling arts funding to come up with new models that address long-term stability. This is an agile space that can easily transform itself to suit the needs of each exhibition/artist. Triple Base offers patrons of the arts an opportunity to see works by young artists at the beginning of their careers - long industrious careers if Joyce and Dina have anything to say about it!"

Until this week, Dina was the Director of the Jack Hanley Gallery. (Hanley has galleries in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, and represents a number of critically acclaimed young San Francisco artists including Tauba Auerbach, Leslie Shows, Simon Evans, Chris Johanson, and Shaun O’Dell.) But after a valuable year working with Jack Hanley, Dina has resigned from the position, making the weighty decision to dedicate herself 100% to running Triple Base. While they are lucky to have three talented interns, the business partners decided it was important to have one of the two principals in the space at all times. Dina will use this gift of additional time to further Triple Base’s work with artists, manage the logistics of participating in national and international art fairs and raise funding.

Wall, Jeff: A Movie in Every Photograph

Saturday, October 27, 2007 - Sunday, January 27, 2008

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third Street (between Mission and Howard Streets), San Francisco, 94103, Telephone: 415.357.4000, Mon &Tues 11:00 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.,
Wed CLOSED, Thurs 11:00 a.m. - 8:45 p.m., Fri – Sun 11:00 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.
Click here for images:

SFMOMA’s Fall/Holiday offering is an embarrassment of riches: Joseph Cornell’s intimate dioramas, Olafur Eliasson’s new age appropriation of the entire 5th floor, Douglas Gordon’s outrageous video art, and newcomer Lucy McKenzie’s hand drawn interiors reminiscent of a 50’s movie set are all worth visiting. It will be interesting to see how the influence of these exhibitions shows up in the work of San Francisco Bay Area artists over the next few years.

But if you can only make time to visit one museum show before the end of the year, the Jeff Wall retrospective at SFMOMA is the one to see. This is highly entertaining photography that will appeal to art aficionados and novices alike.

Wall has only produced 130 or so finished light box transparencies since he devised this format in 1977, and here you can see a full 30% of this work. 40 of his signature staged oversize photographs are on view, beginning with his first foray into this format and concluding with the thrilling denouement of new masterpiece “In Front of a Nightclub,” a promised gift to SFMOMA.

The limited production stems from the fact that he strives for originality in every work; he does not like to repeat himself. The result is a dazzlingly varied array of subject matter but all with the characteristic Wall look: expansive, epic, rich in detail and a satisfying beginning, middle and open-end, just like a great short story.

Wall (born 1946 in Vancouver, B.C.) is a member of an elite club of superstar living photographers (including Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth) who are pushing the medium forward at a rapid pace. Wall takes photography to the next level by mounting the transparencies in a light box (larger than the movie screens at Opera Plaza in some cases). In fact these works are so wide that if you look closely you can see the seam linking the 50” film. Wall first started using this method of presentation when it was new to the world of commercial advertising and it has since become his signature.

Wall’s greatness stems from the fact that his work is a Napoleon pastry of academic layers and yet is egalitarian at heart. Knowledge of cinematography, great film direction, literature, and art history all provide extra satisfaction to the trained viewer but are not necessary to enjoy his work.

Those that did sit through an art history survey will appreciate that Wall spent a decade of his life teaching that class to undergrads and his work is heavily influenced by the monumental scale and dynamic axes of greats like Carravagio and Delacroix, as well as the intimate social-boundary pushing depictions of the bourgeois by Manet and Renoir.

Knowing his process makes the pictures even more interesting. He carefully plans the scene he will stage and photograph, exactly if he were directing a movie, including holding dress rehearsals. In fact he did collaborate on making films for many years but nothing ever quite came to fruition. Wall has also curated a fall film series at SFMOMA that features a “who’s who” roster of important ‘60’s and ‘70’s directors. Click here for the screening schedule:

This exhibit is unique in that it is co-curated by the Director of SFMOMA himself, Neal Benezra. It is a rare occurrence that someone of Mr. Benezra’s station takes time from his demanding day job of running the museum to do any curating project, let alone a blockbuster traveling show like this.

Don’t miss: “Destroyed Room” (parents, rest easy, you’ve never had it this bad), “Milk,” “Insomnia,” “Tattoos and Shadows,” and “After Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Prologue.” If you ever daydreamed during AP Lit about what 1.369 light bulbs hanging from the bedroom ceiling might look like, Wall has improved upon your vision.

Steven Wolf Fine Arts: Journalist’s Sensibility Pervades Artistic Choices

October 4-29: Derek Boshier, Magazine / Colleen Asper, The Trial;

Steven Wolf Fine Arts, 49 Geary St., Suite 411, San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-263-3677

Steven Wolf has a well respected reputation in the San Francisco art community as someone who features intellectually rigorous work and takes risks with his programming choices. Steven Wolf’s aesthetic is informed by his undergraduate degree in philosophy, growing up surrounded by his parents’ collection of Americana, and his first career as a newspaper reporter covering politics, crime, business and theater in New York and Los Angeles.

He is also universally liked and considered to be friendly and approachable, especially to young artists and gallery directors. He makes a point to keep track of what’s happening in the smaller and newer galleries. Svea Lin Vezzone of nascent Swarm Gallery + Studios in Oakland agrees: “I really like visiting his gallery because it's a guarantee I'll see something I've never seen before. The work he shows is experimental and often humorous. We have the type of relationship that I can call him with a question or idea and he is generous with his perspective and knowledge.”

Wolf chooses the work he shows using the filter of a futuristic/historical perspective. If he thinks that the work will still resonate with an audience thirty years from now, then it’s a candidate for a gallery show. Quirky, droll and thought provoking are all adjectives that Wolf uses to describe his choices. “If it really looks like art, it makes me uncomfortable.”

The current show is no exception. The work of New York based Colleen Asper features blank courtroom scenes that are chilling in their anonymity and lack of narrative detail. The three untitled triptychs of witness, judge, and prosecuting attorney each flanked by two flags are viewed by you, the impotent defendant. Characters bear a resemblance to players in famous televised trials. The installation in fact mimics a courtroom set up and is well worth the trip to the gallery to see in person. ($3800-$4200 per triptych.)

Established British artist Derek Boshier’s cartoony and vibrantly colored magazine covers parody celebrity and sports star worship, the new religion of modern science, and fake geo-political boundaries that were arbitrarily imposed by jingoistic Western nations. The $18,000+ pricepoints for the enormous 80"x60" works reflect the great size and Boshier’s station. The smaller pieces are highly collectible at $2000 each.

Click here to see pictures of this show:

The painting featured on the splash page on the gallery website is a fitting icon for Steven Wolf Fine Arts. The irreverent piece by 60’s pop artist John Clem Clarke (“Stuart-George Washington”) is a paint-by-numbers copy of a 1806 piece by then portraitist-to-the-stars Gilbert Stuart, featuring our first president and his trusty steed’s large rear end.

Wolf and his wife relocated to San Francisco from New York in the early nineties. While covering his new Bay Area reporter's beat he came in frequent contact with the rich legacy of 1930’s and 40’s Works Project Administration (WPA) left-wing propaganda artwork which blankets our public buildings.

He also found himself in strange corners of the city and took the time to explore the underground network of thrift stores and flea markets. After discovering a Nathan Oliveira collage in a second-hand shop for $10, he actively enlisted the junkmen to keep on the lookout and put aside found artwork for him. Butterfield & Butterfield’s estate sale auctions were a wealth of forgotten treasures. After reading Carolyn Jones' seminal text, Bay Area Figurative Art, and learning about the California School of Fine Arts’ (now San Francisco Art Institute) influential post-war GI Bill scholarship students, he was hooked on collecting Bay Area art.

When he opened his first art gallery a few doors down from Zuni Café on Market Street in 1995, he shared space and customers with a business that sold second hand architectural furniture from the same 30’s and 40’s period that interested him. A few years later Wolf’s second gallery space at Jones and Sutter focused on “eccentric, under appreciated California artists.”

In 2003 he “got bored with the traditional notion of commercial galleries” and decided he “didn’t want to revive dead artists anymore.” He moved downtown to prestigious 49 Geary and modified his programming to feature emerging artists of the Bay Area and beyond, one of just a few of that ilk in the building at the time (including Stephen Wirtz and since relocated Catharine Clark).

Noteworthy artists represented by SWFA include Molly Springfield (MFA U.C. Berkeley) who creates conceptual work and drawings that comment on the place of books in our lives, Kaz Oshiro who recreates nostalgic suburban icons with verisimilitude such as dorm refrigerators, electric guitar amplifiers, and shopping mall trash cans and Hamburger Eyes, a San Francisco envelope pushing photo studio collective that offers darkroom classes and nurtures young talent.

Wolf is always on the lookout for new talent. He finds his artists through referrals from other artists and at the international art fairs, collaborating with galleries in other cities in order to give an artist national exposure. In fact he is just back from the Pulse London art fair this week so be sure to ask him about it when you stop by.

ArtSpan Open Studios: An Easy How-To

32nd Annual ArtSpan San Francisco Open Studios
Weekend 1: October 6 Private Preview Gala, October 7 Exhibition Opening
All Weekend 2-5 events: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Weekend 2: October 13-14 Western SF
Weekend 3: October 20-21 Central SF
Weekend 4: October 27-28 Eastern SF
Weekend 5: November 3-4 Hunters Point Shipyard

Yes, “Open Studios” is daunting. Exhausting. Even those of us with limitless stamina for seeing art feel weak the day-of and choose to stay in and swiffer the apartment instead. But this is the ultimate backstage pass. It’s an amazing opportunity- not only to buy art that makes your heart flutter at the very reasonable prices, but to also make friends with the artist himself. And there's a one-in-a-zillion chance that this same painting could pay for your kid’s college education some day.

No, you’re not imagining it; there is a distinct similarity to the undignified modern courtship ritual called speed-dating. For the unscorched, here's a quick synopsis: arrive at a downtown bar that is indistinguishably waxing or waning in popularity, sign in with the host. Speak to 20 members of the opposite sex for 5 minutes each (ladies stay seated as the men switch seats) and record important characteristics in dim light with a pen that is running out of ink. When you get home that night and log on to fill in the online ballot, hope that the clues you wrote to yourself are enough to jog your memory and that your can’t-take-it-back Y or N vote for each of the people you met that night is what you really want, and that the object of your affection feels the same way. However, unlike speed-dating, the Open Studios artist always wants you. With little effort on your part, you are guaranteed to find yourself in her bedroom because it doubles as her studio.

In past years, Open Studios caused brain fog and temporary amnesia after a day of driving, parking, looking for quarters, climbing to mold-scented attics and basements, begging forgiveness from meter maids, and then getting back in the car to go to the next studio.

But this year things will be different. There are ways to make the eight weekend days easier to navigate.

1. Narrow it down. Visit the Open Studios Exhibition at SomArts Gallery, 934 Brannan Street at 8th, Wednesday-Friday, Noon-4pm, Saturday & Sunday, 10am-5pm through October 28. Almost every artist participating in Open Studios has donated a work to this exhibition. Artists’ featured works are a good representation of their overall oeuvre so you can quickly see what appeals to you. Most of the paintings and sculptures on view (priced from $100-$3000) sold at the opening night party on Saturday, October 7, so don’t get frustrated if you see something you would have liked to buy. Just make a mental note to attend the kick-off party next year.

2. Get the guide. If you can’t make it to SomArts, go to this website to learn where you can pick up a copy near you. It’s a beautiful glossy magazine style book with an example of each artist’s work and clear mapping and scheduling information.

3. Do a little homework. Don’t just peruse the guide. Spend some time looking at the websites of the artists you have decided you like. Plot out who you will see each weekend.

4. Hire a car service. PlanetTran eco-friendly hybrid car service costs $60 per hour. Avoiding parking drama makes the investment a bargain. (Invite two friends and divide by three.)

5. Bring your checkbook. These guys do not take credit cards. Open Studios’ artists run the gamut from gallery-represented types to newly minted, just-quit-my-job-to-paint-full-time artists who have barely managed to scrape together the $175 fee to participate in the program.

6. Do not haggle. These prices are already low. IF you are buying more than one piece from a single artist then it is acceptable to ask if the artist would consider giving you a discount on your second purchase.

7. Don’t dawdle. If you walk in the door and don’t care for what you see, two minutes and a pleasant “thank you” is enough.

8. Sign the guest book. Get on the mailing list and follow his career!

Murphy & Cadogan Fellowship: “Skull & Bones” of the Bay Area Art Schools? (pssst… bring your checkbook)

September 15 - October 26, 2007, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102, P: 415.554.6080, F: 415.252.2595,

Better than the students who are tapped by their peers for membership in the Yale secret society Skull & Bones and then go on to be "bold faced names," these second-year grad students have been recognized for their great potential by their teachers. This year’s twenty-four 2007 winners of the San Francisco Foundation’s Murphy & Cadogan Fellowship in the Fine Arts are students from the best MFA programs in the Bay Area: Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts, Mills College, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco State University and Stanford University.

Be sure to bring your checkbook. Prices are double-take reasonable (many pieces below $1000) and this work will appreciate as these artists hone their skills and acquire gallery representation.
This also may be the only chance to buy pieces from these series; the work is so new that students are not even sure if they will include it in their MFA grad shows next Spring, the rite of passion every art student goes through as they complete their two year program.

Don’t be startled if the person behind the counter says “hello” when you walk in the door of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, and then a minute later “would you like to see a pricelist?” Because this space is a non-profit funded with your tax dollars, there is a distinctive friendly feeling. Not only is the staff charged with the responsibility of ensuring that you feel welcomed in the gallery, they invite your questions and have the time to give detailed answers. If you are interested you can even ask for a guided tour of the show.

Dana Hemenway, recently promoted to Gallery Manager, has participated in producing the show for years, and shared her insights on this year's show. According to Dana there are two overlapping themes. The first is a theme of copying or representation, though in an indirect way. The second theme is the information age. The side effect of the combination is that the show is extremely accessible to someone who may be new to seeing contemporary art. However in this case accessible also means thought-provoking and entertaining.

Here are descriptions of just a few of the pieces that evoked lively conversation between artists, collectors, Arts Commission board members and art journalists at the special collector’s reception last Friday night.

Matthew Jones' (Stanford) undulating sculpture “The Shape of Something Always Moving” is mesmerizing. The small cherry wood joints were hand carved by the artist and delicately wired together like a multi-celled organism or a Tactile Dome on Miracle Grow. The piece sits on a motorized base that moves up and down and pushes the sculpture around on the pedestal like an amoeba.

If you are one of those people who wonders what the draw is to those video games that allow you to create an avatar (or recreation) of yourself in the virtual world, Marque Cornblatt’s piece is a must-see. The artist created this 40 minute video piece, “Self-Portrait, Corleone Enforcer” using the Godfather video game. Marque’s avatar wanders the streets of 1940’s Manhattan in a menacing trance, ignoring innocent bystanders and threatening gangsters alike, confusing the game which is designed for interaction and violence. (Probably not a coincidence that Marque attends San Francisco State University, alma mater of Godfather Director Francis Ford Coppola.)

“My Memory of George W Bush as Described to and Drawn by Various Police Officers Certified in Drawing For Law” by another SF State student, Lizabeth Rossof, gets a chuckle at first because residents of the Left Coast already think of “Dubya” as a crook. But there is a second layer here relating to the reliability of witnesses, the subjective art of drawing from a third party description, and innocent people going to jail based on well-intentioned yet inaccurate recovered memories. The nine portraits look nothing alike other than their buck teeth and expressionistic wide forehead. One portrait even turned out African American.

And finally, plan your visit for a Saturday and call ahead to ensure that Sara Thacher of the Vacation Surrogate Travel Agency is open for business. Ms. Thacker has carefully typecast herself as an anachronistic travel agent down to the gelled spiky hair and mismatched khaki separates. Sara is the only M&C Fellow who is not enrolled in a traditional practice of art program. Sara is a student in the California College of the Arts Field of Social Practice, which trains its students to intervene within existing social systems to inspire debate or catalyze social exchange. The Surrogate Travel Agency pairs people who want to travel to San Francisco but cannot with San Franciscans who take the dream vacation on their behalf. The art here is the act of creating a connection between people who would otherwise never meet and forcing an inured San Franciscan to see his hometown in a new light. Buy film.

galleryThree: 66-6th Street, the Number of the Beast.

Kevin E. Taylor at "galleryThree" a new art space owned and operated by The Shooting
Gallery, opening reception Friday - September 7th, 2007, 7pm - 10pm, showing through October 4, 2007, 66 6th St. San Francisco CA 94109, 415.724.2140
By appointment only for a few months so please call to make an appointment before coming by.

This block of Sixth Street is not for the faint of heart. It’s a dense block of small businesses that cater to the SRO (Single Room Occupancy) Hotel residents. Barber shops, pawn shops, bodegas, and one-dollar-sign ethnic eateries are the majority. But Justin Giarla’s third art gallery, galleryThree, is the latest culture pioneer in this neighborhood.

The envelope-pushing Luggage Store Gallery came first (1007 Market at 6th) then Cal Modern (1035 Market). And now the fashionistas are getting into the mix. Reported in the Chronicle last month, Yetunde Schuhmann, first president of the San Francisco Innovative Design Council, is waging a campaign to make this block of Sixth a fashion design incubator both because of the low rents and because this neighborhood could use an infusion of culture and youth. Now galleryThree opens its doors for the first time this Friday at 66 - 6th St.

Justin’s other two locations, Shooting Gallery and White Walls (co-owned by Andres Guerrero) on Larkin between O’Farrell and Geary, are in an equally gritty neighborhood, ameliorated only by child-friendly Sergeant John Macaulay Mini Park on the corner (named after the San Francisco police officer who was killed in the adjacent Myrtle alley while on duty in 1992).

The Tenderloin is not a deterrent to Justin’s customers, drawn by Justin's distinctive eye. The influences on Justin’s taste in art run the gamut from skateboard culture, punk and rockabilly, tattoos, erotica, anime and Outsider Art. Justin’s business card sums it up: “Kick ass art for kick ass people.”

Justin’s path to the business of art is atypical, to say the least. When asked to fill in the blanks of his resume before he opened his first space in 2003, he proves his authentic appreciation of urban art. “I managed night clubs here in SF for years like 1015 Folsom, Sound Factory & Townsend. I grew up in Marin & SF, barely graduated high school, didn't go to college.”

Justin is opening a third location because he thinks there still aren’t enough venues for the kinds of artists that he loves. He feels it is his responsibility to provide another showcase for this talent that isn’t represented by mainstream galleries. The difference between this new space and the other two is that space will specialize in the “big break.” He’ll use this space as a showcase to feature artists who have never before had a gallery show.

Why choose another tough block? “I chose 6th St. because it’s ready for a big change. I like moving into gritty or edgy neighborhoods so that I may not only see the changes for myself but so I can help make the change happen. Bring something beautiful to a part of SF that needs it. Give people a reason to be proud of their street.” He means it. Justin also serves on the Hospitality House Art Auction committee where he gives back to the Tenderloin community that houses his galleries.

Taylor, Kevin E.: galleryThree Inaugural Show Not for the Faint of Heart

Kevin E Taylor at "galleryThree" a new art space owned and operated by The Shooting Gallery, opening reception Friday, September 7th, 2007, 7pm - 10pm, showing through October 4, 2007, 66 6th St. San Francisco CA 94109, 415.724.2140, By appointment only for a few months so please call to make an appointment before coming by.

As 666 (the street address of Justin Giarla’s brand new galleryThree) is the symbolic “Number of the Beast,” it is fitting that Kevin Earl Taylor’s work is featured in the inaugural show. In Kevin’s work there is a recurring theme of nightmarish anthropomorphic animals. These futuristic creatures are Kevin’s premonition of how the species will evolve, when the lines between man and beast have blurred irrevocably. The macabre portraits beg for backstory but Kevin won’t supply it. These are the creatures from the dreams you can’t quite remember.

Oil on wood, oil on masonite and works on paper are all intricately rendered with virtuosic, if wince-inducing, draftsmanship.

There is also a theme of forlorn figures sometimes violently dismembered but bandaged lovingly. The artist finds traditional figure drawing boring and hates to draw clothes. Like 6th Street, this work is for people with strong character.

Justin Giarla, owner of galleryThree, describes Kevin’s work as “extremely dark but fresh and really quite free and expressive. I think he’s just around the corner from doing some amazing things.”

Kevin’s story is noteworthy because he arrived in San Francisco just a little over one year ago and has made amazing in-roads. He debuted in the project space at Swarm, then on to Gallery AD in San Jose, A Bitchin’ Space in Sacto, bowed at the Shooting Gallery in a one night show, participated in Noisepop, recently Madrone Lounge, plus he’s found time to curate gallery shows in Sacramento and Atlanta. In all, ten different exhibitions of his work since arriving in the Bay Area in April ‘06.

He attributes his tenacious track record to his experience in hometown Charleston, S.C. When he graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a B.F.A. Illustration in 1994, there weren’t any galleries who would even consider showing the art of skateboarding and punk rock culture. Over the years he learned to market himself and not to take no for an answer. In the beginning when he was really hungry he resorted to posting his art on plywood boards in public spaces, anything to show his work. Over the years he became more comfortable with promoting himself and became “a big fish in a small pond.”

About the time of his 33rd birthday he decided it was time for a change of scenery and chose San Francisco, the home of Thrasher Magazine, where he knew there was a larger audience for his kind of work. He also looked forward to a larger community of artists making art in a similar style. A few years earlier he'd tried San Diego because his good friend, Shepard Fairey, was living there (he’s now in LA). A noted artist/graphic designer/illustrator, Shephard is most known for the “Obey GiantMalcolm Gladwellesque phenomenon.

San Diego wasn’t the right fit but San Francisco is.

Cardon, Shell: Synesthesia on Canvas

Shell Cardon: Hear with your Eyes – Visual Rock ‘n Roll
September 6 - October 13, 2007
Reception Thursday, September 6, 5:00 to 7:00pm

MM Galleries, 101 Townsend Street @ 2nd, Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94107, phone: 415.543.1550, Tuesday - Friday: 11am - 5pm, Saturday, 12pm- 4pm and always by appt.

No, synesthesia is not a fancy art term. It’s an involuntary condition that describes the phenomenon of attributing colors and personalities to numbers, days of the week or sounds.

Shell Cardon has not been diagnosed with this creative condition but the description of her artistic process and subject matter suggests that she is happily afflicted.

Shell’s paintings capture the simultaneous feeling of joy and mortality that you get in your gut when you think back to those seminal character-building “first” moments in your life: the first time you stood at the top of a diving board and gulped as your friends egged you on (High Dive), discovered the onomatopoeia of a comic strip’s “THWACK!” (Flash Gordon), tasted the explosion of watermelon candy in your mouth (Jolly Rancher) or heard your first earshock of the Stones (Gimme Shelter).

Her paintings beg to be touched. The layers of acrylic paint beckon like an orphaned inflatable toy in the swimming pool- same high gloss, same bold friendly vivid color, same plasticky pillowy surface.

You’ll immediately recognize the strong impact of 60’s pop art and op art in her work. Ellsworth Kelly and Andy Warhol are influences. Imagine Roy Lichtenstein’s signature benday dots viewed under a microscope.

Shell has taken a circuitous route to becoming a full time artist. Born into a family of “doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs” in a conservative Washington D.C. suburb, she attended law school after UCLA undergrad because that was what she was supposed to do. After graduating from Loyola Marymount she dutifully entered the practice of law.

But she exercised her creative side nights and weekends moonlighting for a decorative arts painter who she helped do elaborate murals in home interiors. This experience introduced her to what would later become her medium of choice, commercial latex paint.

After years of this rote, she came to her senses and quit the law. She chose to enroll in San Francisco’s Academy of Art in order to study fashion. There she perfected her figure-drawing skills and fully intended to become a fashion designer after graduation. (Gladys Perint Palmer, Executive Director of the Academy’s School of Fashion is a strong influence.) Although she didn’t end up in the business of fashion, this part of her artistic nature is thriving. Shell was short listed as one of the city’s three best dressed women by San Francisco Magazine in the September ’07 Fall Arts + Fashion issue.

She is a regular at independent G&R Paint on Sutter Street where she spends hours with the guys mixing the exact right shade and sheen of custom color. She doesn’t use brushes but instead pours the paint directly on the canvas. It is hard to imagine this diminutive figure leaning over a 4’x5’ canvas with a heavy paint can in her hands, perspiring in the heat of her L.A. studio and carefully allowing just a few tablespoons to stream out. Her pieces take ages to dry because the pools of color can be up to seven layers deep.

However her time consuming process, plus the capricious So-Cal humidity, do not slow her down her output. There is a wait list for commissions and her work is already featured in the art collections of many of San Francisco’s bright young things including Kimberly and Nicolo Bini, Alex Turner, Renee Singh, Alex Chases, Christina and Jad Dunning, Joel Goodrich, Charlot and Greg Malin and Jennifer Madjarov and Matt McCormick.

Shell’s new alliance with MM Galleries was chosen for many thoughtful reasons: its affiliation with (now departed) founder Michael Martin’s MMG Foundation which funds art programs in the public schools, her friendly rapport with the new co-directors Kit Schulte and Marina Cain and the gallery’s partnership with other San Francisco home-grown artists including Henry Jackson and Rex Ray.

Fortunately the Symphony has shifted its opening from its traditional Wednesday after Labor Day to later in the month. Now you’ll have plenty of energy to do both the opening of the Opera on Friday and the reception for Shell the night before, Thursday September 6th from 5:00-7:00 pm.

Gallery 1988: 80’s Time Warp Replicates in Lower Polk Gulch

Gallery 1988, 1173 Sutter St. at Polk, San Francisco, 94109, Hours Tues-Sat 12-7pm, phone 415.409.1376

Welcome Gallery 1988, San Francisco’s newest arrival on the scene. The grand opening in April was just as much a SF debut for G1988 as it was a homecoming for Co-Director Katie Cromwell, who grew up in Marin County and is an alum of The Branson School.

This is the second location for Gallery 1988. Since opening its Melrose flagship in 2004, G1988 has established its reputation as a purveyor of kitschy 80’s themes that evoke childhood nostalgia including plush animals, skateboarding, early video games, TV cartoons, and Disney. The name hearkens back to a good year for Los Angeles: the Dodgers and the Lakers were champions, Yo MTV Raps was born, and the gallery owners were about to hit puberty.

At the opening party of the current show, Skate Life: Skateboard Inspired Sculptures and Paintings by J. Shea and Freddi C, Katie’s mom and sis were serving beer from the cooler-keg and her dad was hanging back just behind them looking over the scene (her supportive family comes to all of the openings). The guests were a mix of skateboard industry types, graf guys and friends. The collaborative show (up through August 21) features J. Shea’s sculptures of miniature boarders made of Model Magic doing tricks off Freddi C’s camo street-scene painted plywood boards. The figures are loaded with personality and movement and the landscapes are strongly influenced by J. Shea’s background in textile design. ($60-$2,500)

Katie started out as an art major at the University of Southern California, inspired by the talent of her mother, Jean Cromwell, an artist and graphic designer. (She is not related to legendary Trojan track coach Dean Cromwell.) But after taking the mandatory survey art history course required for the practice of art curriculum, she was hooked. When making the decision to switch her studies, her parents asked her to curate a professional career for herself at the same time, and a business plan was born.

After graduation she learned the basics working as a gallery assistant for a short time at Louis Stern Fine Art in West Hollywood. She started her gallery in 2004 with her college sweetheart, Jensen Karp. Jensen did not have an art background, but being a cult rapper and a collector of 80's pop culture memorabilia, he did have his finger on the pulse of youth culture. Living together and starting a small business together took its toll on the relationship. They’ve since broken up and successfully transitioned to be amicable business partners.

When they secured their space off the beaten path in an old Saks Fifth Avenue store on Melrose at La Brea, they weren’t sure of what their focus would be. They knew there was a need for affordable original art and that there was a young customer base who didn’t bat an eye at spending big bucks for fancy designer handbags, so why not introduce this crowd to art? Serendipitously, Acme Game Store moved in next door only one month later and was targeting a similar clientele. A beautiful friendship developed.

Katie and Jensen started out by showing artists who they knew from running around LA, then showed those artists’ friends. In fact, mining those "favorite links" lists that artists post on their websites is the primary way they find new artists. G1988 still has relationships with all four artists featured in their first show: Plastic God (Doug Murphy). ESM (Kerri Sakurai), Nikki Van Pelt and Topher.

Then, a freelance journalist doing a story on next door neighbor Acme happened to stop by the gallery and the idea for what would become their big break was hatched. Writer Jon Gibson, Katie and Jensen worked together to curate “I AM 8 BIT,” art inspired by classic videogames of the ‘80s. (Think portraits of Donkey Kong’s Mario and head shots of Ms. Pac Man.) Limited edition prints are still available:

The opening was timed to coincide with E3 Expo, the annual video game convention, and Jon excercised his media contacts to publicize the show. At the same time, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was showing video game art in a show called "Into the Pixel."

Over 1,500 people showed up for the opening night reception. Not only were most of the paintings sold, Gibson secured a book deal with Chronicle Books. Acme Games closed after about a year, but G1988’s good fortune with neighbors continued when Golden Apple Comics took over the space.

After making the decision to move back to SF and open a second location, Katie looked for affordable gallery space for months. Natoma and Valencia streets were considered, but Sutter at Polk won out because of StrangeCo, with whom G1988 now shares space. Artists and galleries (including G1988 and Fifty24SF Gallery) collaborate with StrangeCo. to make limited edition, vinyl toys.

The Belvedere native’s commitment to the neighborhood is not lip service, she is also a TenderNob resident. She lives a just few blocks away near Bell Market and walks to work with her companion, Finnigan, a miniature Doberman.

Future G1988 shows will feature San Francisco artists Nathan Stapley, Scott Campbell, and Rueben Rood. Jensen and Katie intend to cross-pollinate artists between the two locations.

G1988 is not the first art gallery in the neighborhood. Pioneers Justin Giarla of Shooting Gallery and his partner Andres Guerrero of White Walls (835 and 839 Larkin at O’Farrell) have been friendly and welcoming to the newbie. There’s also funky Space Gallery, the art bar on Polk at Sutter.

But …ahem…, we’re not calling it "Lower Polk Gulch" any more. This notorious section of Polk has been rechristened “Polk Village.” If you need proof, just take a look at the awning of O’Reilly’s Holy Grail (formerly the historic Mayes Oyster House). This rebirth was midwifed by the Polk Corridor Business Association and real estate developers Vanguard, transforming old SRO hotels into condos for seniors (note the proximity to St. Francis Hospital) and yuppies alike.

Stark Guide looks forward to watching Gallery 1988 and Polk Village grow up together.

Artsource Consulting: Make Time for a Quickie at 101 Cal

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM, August 6-September 21, 101 California Street Lobby, curated by Artsource Consulting

On your next lunch hour in the financial district be sure to stop by 101 California and visit the lobby installation curated by Artsource Consulting. The atrium lobby is a soaring space infused with light and life. Walk through the revolving door and you are transported to an equatorial paradise, surrounded by potted palms and flourishing orchids.

Artsource is a ten year old fine art consulting firm whose impressive client list includes HP, PG&E and the U.S. State Department's art in embassies program.

Benicia Gantner's futuristic lush vinyl landscapes were designed for and are perfectly suited to the soaring verdant greenhouse space.

Karen Weiner's mixed media sculpture and works on paper are an imaginary world of miniature house perched on trees. Luxury birdy vacation homes or is this how we'll all be living once sea level rises?

Gantner, Benicia: Lush Vinyl Landscapes

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM, August 6-September 21, 101 California Street Lobby, curated by Artsource Consulting

Benicia’s work is astonishing because from afar it looks as if it were made without the human hand. High gloss vinyl film is meticulously sliced into snowflake-intricate floral patterns, evoking a stylized version of 19th century Arts and Crafts decorative arts master William Morris.

These are huge works that were made for this space and perfectly echo the riot of plant life and sunshine streaming in. Centered above the elevator bays is an enormous triptych, Sun Stream + Green, which has hanging folds of yellow sun over the contrived, overgrown landscape. Bloom 1 (pearlescent gray cast acrylic) and Bloom 2 (a vibrant pea shoot green) flank the Sun Stream altarpiece over the security desk. Benicia has made three strong pieces that stand out with confidence in this imposing space while still remaining true to her delicate style.

Benicia uses plexiglass mounted on wood frame often in her work, but at 8’ x 12’ “Sun Stream” is the largest piece that she has ever produced. When she first started making these carefully choreographed landscapes she cut the plastic strips by hand. Now that demand for her work has increased, she uses a sign maker’s plotter after creating the original stencil template. In fact her materials are traditional sign making supplies which she can't find locally and must import from L.A. (Fun fact: Benicia and Tauba Auerbach, whose work is also also influenced by commerical sign making, both went to San Francisco University High School.)

Are you thinking that the name Benicia sounds familiar? You’re right, the artist is not only a San Francisco native but is a descendant of Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo and her husband the General.

Benicia has had quite a few noteworthy achievements herself including kicking off Berkeley gallery Traywick’s 10th anniversary year with a solo show in January '07 and being honored as a finalist for the SFMOMA SECA Award (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art) last year.

Weiner, Karen: The Ultimate Imaginary Housing Project

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM, August 6-September 21, 101 California Street Lobby, curated by Artsource Consulting

Vermont based Weiner is represented by ZieherSmith in NY, and just had a one person show at Sixspace in L.A. Walking through the smaller space in the southeast lobby reminded me of a miniature version of It’s A Small World at Disneyland. A crop of tree houses rises up from felt and calico stuffed leaves and lily ponds. Intricate miniature houses of all sorts from ski lodge to double-wide are perched on birch tree trunks. Mixed media collages on the walls sport humorous scenes of birds carrying household appliances and consumer goods, another shows the little houses piled into an ark. Apparently the birds will survive The Great Warming even if we don't.

New York Art Diary

7.26.07 Neo Rauch at the Met. First zipped through the new Greek and Roman galleries. Thank goodness the hospital cafeteria is gone from this glorious space. Had trouble finding the exhibit I was looking for. I had never been in this obscure gallery before, hidden in the SW corner of the museum on the second floor. Rauch didn’t like the space much either which I know because the museum listed this piece of info in the introduction essay. I liked the show a lot. The invented iconography (with no legend for translation) reminded me of Matthew Barney. The primary color palette glows with an otherworldliness (the word “para” for paranormal etc shows up repeatedly). Fun to invent stories to go with the outlandish narratives.

Afternoon visit to Jeff Koons studio in Chelsea thanks to my new friend who is Koons assistant, realist painter James Seward.
Walk in to this brightly lit space and see dozens of assistants buzzing to complete sales from the Gagosian “Hulk Elvis” show in London.

At night, Grey Gardens the musical with tix bought at the half price booth at 6pm. Both Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson won tony awards for their roles. The 1975 movie of the same name revolutionized the genre of documentary film making.

7.25.07 First a quick visit to the Frick to see my favorite painting there, Manet's Bullfighters, but it was not on view! The Fragonard Room is being updated with a new state of the art lighting system so the East Gallery tenants have been moved into storage to accommodate the houseguest Progress of Love panels.

And finally... Richard Serra at MOMA! Not crowded on a Wed. afternoon. We felt dizzy walking through the curved labyrinths and involuntarily leaned to the side as the steel walls loomed over us at 60 degree angles. Definitely worth the trip! On display through September 10th if you are in town.

Last today saw Louise Nevelson at The Jewish Museum. This poignant show is coming to the DeYoung in October (10/27/07-1/13/08) so you'll be able to see it too. Nevelson (1899-1988) made totemic sculpture of found wood objects painted uniformly with a matte coating of black or white paint (never mixing the two in the same piece). After making art for forty years she was "discovered" in 1969 when she was selected to participate in a MOMA show called Sixteen Americans. Her first white piece, Dawn's Wedding Feast, was featured along side work by youngsters Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenburg and Frank Stella (whose show of recent work is down the block at the Metropolitan right now).

Nevelson's work is heavily influenced by her identity as an Eastern European Jewish immigrant and a dissatisfied society housewife who left her husband in order to pursue her art. Her delicate minimalist Holocaust memorial pieces from the end of her career were my favorite. We are lucky to have a piece of public art by Nevelson in San Francisco. On your next lunch hour take a walk to Three Embarcadero Center to see Sky Tree, a soaring structure of black Corten steel set in a reflecting pool.

7.24.07 Museums closed on Tuesday. Dinner at Lever House Restaurant in the famed Gordon Bunshaft/Skidmore, Owings and Merrill building: Evening performance of Nixon/Frost with Best Actor Tony Award winner Frank Langella as Nixon.

7.23.07 Monsoon. Today because of the deluge all we could handle was one museum and chose to see Klimt's Adele Bloche Bauer at the Neue Gallery. Much different in person than we expected. The gold is softer. We think she has a resigned look in her eye that indicates she knows what's in store for Austria. Tonight we met a friend of a friend, Suzi Matthews, at her studio in Greenwich Village. She does collage landscapes that look alternatively terrestrial or underwater. Letters and numbers of varying size and shape and color create that patterns that form her compositions.

Pilgrimage to MOMA

Stark Guide is on hiatus for the remainder of the month, traveling to New York to see the Richard Serra retrospective. Like Matthew Barney's "Cremaster Cycle" at the Guggenheim in 2003 and Christo's "Central Park Gates" in 2005, this is another once-in-a-lifetime show that cannot travel, for obvious reasons. A typical steel Serra sculpture can weigh up to 100 tons!

Back on the beat in August...

Heather Marx Gallery: Modern Day Salon

July 14 – August 18, 2007, Ominous Atmosphere, Heather Marx Gallery, 77 Geary Street @ Grant Avenue, Tuesday through Friday: 10:30 AM - 5:30 PM, Saturday: 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM, and by appointment. 415.627.9111

Heather Marx and Co-Director, husband Steve Zavattero, are early adopters of a nascent art world trend that is described in Adam Lindeman’s new book, Collecting Contemporary. In this confectionary book that proclaims itself "the most talked-about art book of the year," we learn that galleries are collaborating with collectors to curate shows.

At 50,000 feet, Dakis Jannou, Greek tycoon who funds the Deste art foundation in Athens and Jeffrey Deitch of flashy Deitch Projects in New York’s Soho district, are the most high-profile example of this trend.

Closer to solid ground, this new twist on the traditional buyer-seller relationship actually makes the otherwise mysterious if not chilly art gallery more egalitarian. Far from a cold biz-dev tactic, this trend in practice will bring more people to the world of art appreciation. Collector aquires a new skill and experience, feels a greater connection with gallery owner and as a result of the show that they curate together, introduces his own circle of friends to the gallery, expanding the customer base. A win-win situation.

HMG’s current show, Ominous Atmosphere, is co-curated by local collector Jeff Dauber. Dauber is an Apple exec whose hip art gallery- er…, home- was featured in the February 2007 issue of Dwell magazine. Berkeley architect Thom Faulders even made the ceiling into a work of art.

Once or twice a year HMG puts on a group show featuring artists they don’t necessarily represent. Heather and Steve knew Jeff would be perfect to help with this edgy show. According to the press release, “the conceptual nature of fear and the undefined ways in which we sense or unleash fear” is the focus of this exhibition. Dauber is known for taking chances on interesting local artists and his collection includes challenging pieces by Hung Liu and Rigo. In fact Dauber purchased the most important piece in the 2005 HMG/ David Hevel show titled "It's Official...Britney's Pregnant!"

Dauber was an active participant in the process, recommending artists that fit in with the theme but that HMG had never worked with before such as Christoph Draeger and Al Farrow. One innovative contribution by Dauber was the placement of Paredón (Firing Squad) by Jeanette Chávez. Installed horizontally on the wall at chest level are six bronze rifle barrels. Jeff suggested placing this work directly opposite the entrance to the gallery space in a place that is actually part of the office backroom. “We live in this space and he saw it with a fresh eye,” said Marx.

When I arrived, Heather was walking through the gallery with a Chicago-based art consultant who they had met at the 2003 Scope New York art fair. Heather and Steve’s commitment to promoting the gallery outside of San Francisco has paid off. Three to four art fairs each year are an important part of their business and are well worth the effort both from a sales standpoint as well as an intellectual one. They use this time to cultivate relationships with art professionals from all over the U.S. Next Pulse Miami (one of several satellite fairs of Miami Basel, the crown jewel in the U.S. art fair circuit), all of the dealers who are their friends and colleagues will stay in the same hotel and throw a collective cocktail party inviting artists, collectors and curators to thank them for their friendship and patronage.

Despite this jet-set lifestyle, Marx and Zavattero are refreshingly low-key. Heather is warm and outspoken. Her curvy yet petite frame sported a chic DVF wrap dress. Square red frame glasses give her the art dealer “look” even though she has the resume in spades. Many a first-time visitor mistakes her for a “gallerina” instead of the eponymous proprietor.

Heather’s strong academic background in art history (B.A. and M.A. from U.C. Santa Barbara) is combined with business savvy acquired working in the gallery business for many years before going out on her own. Her undergrad focus was on Le Corbusier and her grad work was on the 19th C. British Pre-Raphaelites. “I have a strong, feminist theoretical base that can be seen in my choices,” she says with a big smile and a cheerful laugh. “But I chose to leave academics because I wanted to be out there making art history, not studying it.”

In between college and grad school Heather worked for Los Angeles' Mark Moore Gallery and there learned the ropes: bookkeeping, installation, and the complex social relationship between the gallery and artist. During grad school, Heather worked for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Heather and Steve met sixteen years ago, a few years after college, and were married in 1996. They settled in San Francisco because he’d moved a few times for her career and it was his turn to pick. He’s a third generation San Franciscan and was ready to move home.

Heather got a job working with Hackett Freedman Galleries and there she learned how to sell. As Associate Director of Sales, she balanced out her skill set, mastering the art of P.R. and working with the press. After nearly six years she went out on her own.

Zavattero is a talkative, energetic guy who plays an important role in setting the tone of the gallery. With a combined degree in social sciences and communications from the University of Southern California’s prestigious Annenberg School, Steve brings an interesting current events perspective when the two are curating shows.

“We choose work that reflects our personality and interests.” Work that continues the dialogue of art history, “has an academic foundation, shows a strong attention to craft and contributes something to the world around us.” Political commentary, social issues, humor, and sexual themes all show up in their artists’ offerings.

Steve is also in charge of marketing, PR, the website, and much of the logistical planning that goes into the gallery’s participation in the art fairs. He has a Before-Art background in radio and television and was a part of “web 1.0,” he says jokingly. He recently began a podcast reporting on the San Francisco art scene. His reporting style is conversational and is just as much about the personalities of the artists and gallerists as the art. (See Stark Guide link under San Francisco Bay Area Contemporary Art Journalism.)

The couple is candid about the challenges of being small business owners. In 2001 the team opened HMG in the wake of the dot-com crash and 9/11. “We had signed the lease a few months earlier. When 9/11 happened, we were in the middle of demolition. We had to keep going.” It took them about three years to hit their stride as a business, not out of the ordinary for any entrepreneurial one-shop retailer.

HMG is the feisty baby of the 77 Geary family. In fact, HMG is more alternative than most of the downtown galleries, but Heather thinks the neighborhood is appropriate because she’s just as serious about her business as her neighbors are.

Heather and Steve are good friends with Greg Lind, Steven Wolf and Catharine Clark, fellow gallerists with a similar flair who feature emerging/mid-career artists. In fact they have such a strong relationship that the gang sometimes staggers their opening receptions so visitors don’t have to choose which event to attend.

Catharine Clark was the pioneer of the bunch and they were a little sad to see her move south of market to her new museum district location (Stark Guide 6/5/07). Steve does some dee-jaying in his spare time and helped out by providing the music at Clark’s opening party. Another example of their relationship, HMG borrowed two pieces (by Draeger and Farrow respectively) from Catharine Clark for the current show.

Note to collectors: Libby Black is the rising star in the HMG stable. Black creates hand made paper sculpture of coveted luxury goods like Louis Vuitton trunks, inspired by the materialism she observed while growing up in the susburbs of Dallas. She even replicated a complete Kate Spade store in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 2005 show, “Bay Area Now 4.” Black was a finalist for the 2006 SFMOMA SECA Award and was recently named the "Artist to Watch" by San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker in the July issue of Art+Auction magazine. Mark your calendar for Black's second solo show with HMG September 6-October 27, 2007. Opening reception September 6, 5:30-7:30.

Fernandez, Ana Teresa: Strong Socio-Political Statement Delivered In A Sexy Surrealist Style

June 28–July 28, 2007, Ana Teresa Fernandez: Pressing Matters, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, 430 Clementina, San Francisco, CA 94103, Located between 5th & 6th St. parallel to Howard and Folsom, Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 – 5:30 PM, Phone: 415/278-9850, Email:

Ana Teresa Fernandez is hitting a nerve and is being noticed for it, having received just the latest in a string of awards and grants this spring from San Francisco Arts Commission and Headlands Center for the Arts.

There is a lot going on in her paintings. The eternal Mexican-Catholic polemic of woman as whore/Madonna is augmented by the contemporary themes of illegal immigration, the high-class problem of illegal domestic help, and the universal dissatisfied homemaker who is slave to the never-ending cycle of cleaning up after others. Fernandez’s current show, Pressing Matters at Braunstein/Quay, is a comprehensive survey of this young artist’s work

Fernandez is a modern-day Betty Freidan. Her work is a haunting commentary on the role of women in the family, workplace and home. Beyond the overt sexuality of supermodel-shaped characters bending provocatively over ironing boards, there is hard-hitting social commentary. Her message resonates because it is softened by her velvet brush. The figures are round and sculptural, wrapped in fabric like the Greek goddesses in the frieze of the Parthenon. Long afternoon shadows make the would-be docile scene more dramatic and lazy at the same time.

The images you see in Pressing Matters are not a figment of her imagination- anymore. Fernandez stages performance art pieces that are recorded by a photographer. The brown skinned women in their little black dresses up-to-here pose like fashion models, extending their legs and arms like ballet dancers while… cleaning bathrooms. It is surprising to learn that the protagonist in every piece is Fernandez herself. In real life this scrubbed looking post-grad looks every inch the hipster art student in frayed layered tees, jeans and a heavy leather belt. Her youthful beauty is masked by angular black resin glasses frames and long brown hair tied back in a loose unruly ponytail.

Fernendez had not heard of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, but why would she have? Growing up in small town Tampico, Mexico, all the women in her life were domestics of one sort or another, either paid by wealthier families or unpaid by their own. Ana had not yet developed career aspirations at the age of eleven when her cardiologist father moved the family to San Diego in order to further his career and provide a better life for his family.

While Ana was growing up in Tampico and San Diego, her mother was a traditional stay-at-home mom. Though Maria Teresa Fernandez was a happy wife and mother and is still married to Ana’s father today, Ana observed her mother’s unrealized potential and this later became an important theme in her work. Ana's intuition was true. In the last ten years Maria has become an accomplished documentary photographer in her own right. She has spent countless hours documenting the San Diego-Tijuana border and the destitute neighborhoods that buffer it, inspiring another important theme in her daughter's work.

Fernandez was plucked from the obscurity of the San Diego Community College system the day the San Francisco Art Institute came to call. When asked to show her portfolio, the greenhorn art major didn’t know what that meant but quickly assembled snapshots of her work for the school rep’s review. She was offered a scholarship on the spot.

While an undergrad at SFAI her advisor convinced her to put aside her first calling, sculpture, and try another medium. It was during this time that Ana asked her mother to collaborate with her on the border performance-art series. No Puedo Pasar (Performance Documentation 2005, oil on canvas, 60”x72”) is made all the more impactful when you learn that the corrugated metal border fence pictured was made from recycled Gulf War airport runway strips. The border as graffiti-etched wailing wall is a character in the painting in its own right and proclaims: “I can’t stand to be indifferent amongst the pain of so many people.”

When Ruth Braunstein of Braunstein/Quay was at Fernandez’s MFA show and saw “Untitled 2,” a record of a performance art piece which took place at the border in 2006, she offered her a gallery show on the spot. “I haven’t done something like that in twenty years,” said Braunstein.

And the recognition and awards flow. After the four year undergraduate program at SFAI she was awarded another scholarship to make the MFA program possible. While doing her graduate studies, her work was shown and placed in many Bay Area juried shows. Earlier this year Fernandez received the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Individual Artist Award Grant which recognizes artists from historically underserved communities. And the most recent is a biggie: the prestigious Headlands Tournesol Award recognizes one innovative emerging painter each year. The studio facilities granted to all Headlands’ artists-in-residence is topped with an anonymously funded $10,000 grant.

All signs indicate Fernandez has only just begun her ascent.

This show: $1600-$10000