Ross Smith, Bayeté: Provocative Portraits Prove We Are What We Wear

That Bayeté Ross Smith is relaxed and easy going can be inferred from his colorful wrinkled button down shirt, oversized sport coat, and soft knitted driver’s cap. When I asked the artist if it is “fair” that people are judged by their outward appearance, Bayeté commented that this is a "very San Francisco-type of question." Fair or unfair, this is life.

The portrait series called “Our Kind of People” is a full scale expansion of work that was first shown at the artist's MFA show in 2004, then at the 2005 San Francisco GenArt juried Emerge exhibition. The four part series (six 20” x 24” light jet prints each) features regular people of different ethnic backgrounds. The subjects wear the exact same neutral expression in each image- no smile, face at rest, not even a hint of personality comes from the eyes. The photos were taken with the same lighting, from the same distance, with the same plain white background. It is this spartan combination that allows each subject to change, chameleon-like, from professional, suit wearing dilbert, to sweat-clad student, to hipster, to gangster (signified by wife-beater tank and colored bandana). Bayeté was the stylist on the shoot as well, working with his subjects (who also happen to be his friends) to pick the costumes from their own closets.

New work "Passing" (light jet prints 30" x 40") tells a similar story. A man with skin the color of creamy coffee and close cropped curly black hair is pictured on multiple passports: Brazil, Ethiopia, Israel, Sudan, Cuba, US, Netherlands, South Africa etc. The same issue is raised here- we make assumptions about people based on our assumptions about appearances, "facts," and what we do or don't know about the larger world community.

Bayeté received his Bachelor of Science in Photography ’99 from Florida A&M University. FAMU has a prestigious photography program through the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication. Although the artist has been taking photos since he became interested in the medium at age 14, Bayete picked FAMU because it was a Black College with a great business program. "My experiences as a business major, at a Black school in the South, are the foundation for much of my work about identity." The photography curriculum at FAMU emphasizes the service industry aspects of photography. "It caused me to learn about creating images that convey a narrative and could be accessible to people from a broad range of backgrounds and education levels. It has been invaluable in my work as an artist. It has allowed me to create projects that are relevant to regular people, not just 'art' people."

The Bachelor of Science was then complimented with formal training in the fine arts through an MFA in photography '04 from the California College of the Arts. Notable accolades on his resume include 25 Under 25 2003 photography show curated by Iris Tillman, New York University and the companion text 25 Under 25, Up and Coming American Photographers, by the Center for Documentary Studies and Power House Books. Bayeté is most proud of being invited to present his work at the California Judiciary Council's 2006 Conference on Language Access in the courts where he presented work from Our Kind of People, Passing, and Upwardly Mobile.

Bayeté is an active member of the community, teaching at several schools and non-profits in the Bay Area including including the East Oakland Youth Development Center, Far West High School in North Oakland, Art-Esteem in West Oakland, Southern exposure's Mission Voices program in the Mission District, McClymond H.S.'s Young Photographer's program in West Oakland, and Out Of Site center for the Arts in S.F. In addition to being a strong role model and mentor, he teaches art, photography, video, painting and drawing, collage and hip hop art & culture.

Bayete's is one of three featured photographers in this show. The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, in a programmatic partnership with PhotoAlliance, presents Lens on Life; an exhibition featuring artists involved in the exploration of place and identity from both African and African American perspectives. This special exhibition is supported by the San Francisco International Arts Festival and the Museum of the African Diaspora.

This show $475-$2500

The show is on view at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery through June 22, 2007. The gallery is in the basement of City Hall, open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For installation information, contact San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, 94102 (415) 554-6080

"Rape of Europa": Riveting Documentary Movie About Nazi Plunder & Present Day Epilogue

Rape of Europa is about power, greed, wealth and war. This movie proves that art history is sexy- anything but the staid slide lectures in darkened auditoriums you avoided in college, I promise. Using rare archival footage and first person interviews of the real life heroes, the movie documents the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and World War II.

Have you been reading about Ronald Lauder's recent $135 million dollar (the most expensive piece of art ever) purchase of Gustave Klimt's "Adele Bloch-Bauer"? You'll learn why the painting is so important to the Jewish community. The title of the movie is the name of a 1640 Polish masterwork painted for King Wladislaw. Polish/Slav culture was deemed "heathen" by the Nazis and slated for systematic eradication, though this painting and others deemed worthy were carried off to be hung in Nazi museums.

Actual Films was formed in 1998 by filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, who met while completing their graduate work in the Stanford University Documentary Film Program. Before writing/directing/producing The Rape of Europa, Director Richard Berge was a writer and producer for KQED's SPARK!, the weekly television series about the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's another Stanford guy- B.A. History and '94 Masters in Documentary Film. Many important arts organizations provided funding for this film including San Francisco's own Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation.

Actual Films was able to secure a limited run at Landmark Theatre's Embarcadero Cinema after the film's showing at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Like all quality independent films, Rape of Europa depends on word of mouth for publicity and your ticket purchase will convince Landmark (the nation's largest theatre chain dedicated primarily to exhibiting and marketing independent film) to take it national.

Not rated. 117 minutes. Now playing at the Landmark Embarcadero Theater, One Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111 Moving to Opera Plaza Friday, May 25

Electric Works: Brisbane's Trillium Press Is Reborn

What a location! This former machine shop on the corner of Eighth and arty Minna streets will be easy to find in the Yellow Pages. Former Trillium Press partners haven't changed the name from the Buzzell Building's former incarnation. Big curved orange steel tracks are suspended from the ceiling and dangle pulleys overhead; they used to hoist large motors from one side of the building to another but now serve as inspiration for a George Lucas Star Wars creature. The gallery has inherited opaque sandblasted street-facing windows from the pervious inhabitants; the result is insulation from the gritty neighborhood surroundings and a pristine art-viewing environment.

Trillium Press now Electric Works is most famous for letting the artists they collaborate with do just about anything they want. If you wanted to bring back the puffy-changey-googly-eyed sticker as fine art this would be the place to do it. Their equipment is state of the art; huge electric printing press machines shaped like coffins on legs sport sleek names like Pegasus, Columbus, Triton and Valkyrie.

Principal Richard Lang has collaborated with many famous artists since the publishing program was founded in 2000. The names Enrique Chagoya, Nathan Oliveira and William T. Wiley should whet your appetite to peruse the online gallery:
Tucker Nichols and Katherine Sherwood have the honor of the inaugural show. May 11–June 23

Electric Works; 130 8th St. San Francisco, CA 94101 (415) 626-5496, open Monday-Friday: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, Saturday: 10:30 am - 4:30 pm,

Nichols, Tucker: Brainy Placemat Doodles

This series of lunch room placemat art, “Placemats,” will tempt you to borrow your kids’ crayons at the dinner table. It will make you say out loud, “I could have done that.” Except you couldn’t, because you didn’t spend eight years total studying Chinese art history at Brown (BA '93) and Chinese painting at Yale (MFA '98). Don’t confuse the short phrases with naivete or simple- mindedness. His brainy doodles are iconic symbols of modern life and his captions are succinct poems. His past installation wall paintings are modern day ancient Chinese landscape paintings.

Tucker’s work resonates because it is a return to low tech in this high tech world. Seeing Tucker’s hand drawn pen and ink cartoons and wall drawings allows the viewer to relax, let down his guard, and be a part of the moment or a part of the joke, whichever the case may be. It doesn’t hurt that he is also a tall, handsome guy with a winning personality. At the Electric Works opening he held court with a throng of friends and fans around him all at once. Locals will appreciate that Tucker's work has been featured in McSweeny's and The Believer. He has shown a few times at his good friend Charles Linder's gallery, Lincart. Subscribe to his blog at

Confidential to Art History geeks: I felt great relief when I read Tucker’s review of the 2003 Philip Guston retrospective at SFMOMA. Sometimes a mound of giant cherries is just a mound of giant cherries.

This show $40-$750

Sherwood, Katherine: This Is Your Brain On Archival Digital Pigment Print

Katherine Sherwood’s story is remarkable. The lifelong artist and Cal Professor suffered a stroke in 1997 at the age of 44 and then her art got even better. After the stroke she taught herself how to paint left-handed and her work evolved, becoming freer and more fluid.

Amorphous, glossy vivid color dances around real medical xrays of brains and magnified genes. The bright red and noxious greens are remarkably harmonious. The mysterious organic forms are reminders of our primordial soup origins. Science geeks will not be alone in finding these works intriguing.

Well established before her illness, the awards and shows continued to flow after that: The 1999 SF Art Institute’s Adaline Kent Award for an outstanding, yet under-recognized California artist; inclusion in the Whitney Biennial 2000, and the 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship Award for contributing to our nation's educational and cultural well-being, to name a few.

She received her B.A from the University of California at Davis and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She has been a Professor of Art at Cal since 1989, now teaching an innovative course she designed called Art, Medicine & Disability. In San Francisco she is represented by the Paule Anglim Gallery.

This show $1400-$1800

6/1/07 Headlands Center for the Arts Benefit Auction

Headlands Center for the Arts’ Board of Trustees and Executive Director Gary Sangster invite you to Headlands Center for the Arts Benefit Auction, an evening of live and silent auction

Auction items include works by Thomas Campbell, Sophie Calle, Santiago Cucullu, Felipe Dulzaides, Anya Gallaccio, Rainer Ganahl, Katy Grannan, Oliver Herring, David Ireland, Hung Liu, Barry McGee, Christine Streuli, Larry Sultan, Yoon Lee and dozens more.

Supporting Galleries: Aicon Gallery, Gallery Paule Anglim, Rena Bransten Gallery, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, Catharine Clark Gallery, Paula Cooper Gallery, Gallery 16, Greenwood Van Doren Gallery, NY, Gregory Lind Gallery, Fraenkel Gallery, Eleanor Harwood Gallery, Kent Fine Arts, NY, Heather Marx Gallery, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Trillium Press, Queen's Nail Annex, Steven Wolf Fine Arts

Time: 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM, Tickets $100. Herbst International Exhibition Hall in the Presidio, 385 Moraga Avenue San Francisco CA, For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit

Proceeds from Headlands’ Benefit Auction provide direct support for Headlands Center for the Arts programs.

Fisher, Don: Cal Alumnus of the Year 2007

This memory of Don Fisher, Gap Inc. Founder and Chairman, was mailed in to the corporate archives department by me as part of a company project to honor his status as the University of California at Berkeley's 2007 Alumnus of the Year.

"I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Fisher for sharing their breathtaking art collection with the Gap Inc. community. Their collection is second only to MOMA in New York for its breadth, depth and quality of 20th Century art. Our buildings hold works by the most important artists of 1950 to the present. Many rooms in the Two Folsom galleries are mini-museums in thier own right dedicated to one artist, with pieces that are representative of every style and period in that artist's career.

I have taken many, many friends on tours of the galleries over the years so that as many people as possible can benefit from this treasure. Thank you for making Calder, Serra, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Richter (to name just a few) a part of my daily life! Go Bears!"

Auerbach, Tauba: Typeface Can Be Groovy

Just as Alexander Calder started out working for the circus and Richard Serra in steel mills, Auerbach’s first job after graduating from college was sign painter. Like Calder’s mobiles and Serra’s monoliths, Auerbach’s works are indebted to their maker’s early workaday life. Tauba’s pencil, ink and gouache drawings are made up of carefully drafted letters, numbers, lost and arcane alphabets, calligraphy and wordplay.

Her latest gallery show, an anagram title “THE ANSWER/WASN’T HERE” just opened at Jack Hanley Gallery on May 4 on the outskirts of the Mission (closer to Flax Art & Design than La Taqueria). Jack Hanley (locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles) has been showing young and more established conceptually based artists since 1990. When I visited on opening night, 8 of 13 works had pre-sold.

Tauba is a perfectionist- a bellwether in our 80/20 culture. Her work is best when there is a blend of her signature sculptural typeface, harmonios bright color and either humorous or didactic subject matter. “Uh-Huh II,” “Yes and Morph I,” and “Subtraction (Startling)” are examples of this winning combination. This time Tauba has also done a video piece to compliment her work, “Telephone” 8 minutes, is a visual example of how her mind jumps and could translate "startling" into starting, staring, string, sting, sing, sin and finally, I. Work that was new to me featured pure intricate geometric design, now without any letters or symbols. It is large scale and breathtaking in its exactitude; ink on paper is an unforgiving medium.

I first saw Tauba Auberbach’s work with my fellow members of SECA when the artist was being considered for the 2006 SECA Art Award. Her friends at the Luggage Store Gallery had allowed her to set up her work for my group’s review one Saturday morning in the Spring of that year. The biennial award, sponsored by SFMOMA's Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art, recognizes local artists of exceptional promise.

Locals will appreciate that Tauba is a native San Franciscan. She attended SF Day School and University High. She earned her BA in Studio Art from Stanford in 1999. She grew up in the Marina but told me she thinks the neighborhood has changed irrevocably. She is wistful for an earlier time, before chain stores took over the mom-and-pops, the kind of stores that would have hung her signs. During her tenure at Damon Styer’s New Bohemia Signs, she worked on some noteworthy projects: Far West Fungi and Miette in the Ferry Building, Stinking Rose and Calzone’s in North Beach, Mollusk Surf, the gold leaf windows at Cable Car Clothiers, as well as smaller businesses like chiropractic offices and psychics.

It is impossible to write about Tauba without mentioning the accolades she has received so early in her career. There has been impressive scholarly art world press about her and noteworthy galleries in San Francisco and New York have shown her work. Her highly original subject matter and beautiful execution makes her one to watch.

This show $3000-$18000

Through May 26. Jack Hanley Gallery, 395/389 Valencia Street, San Francisco 94103, tel: 415/522.1623, fax: 415/522.1631, email:, hours: tuesday - saturday, 11am - 6pm

Guinness, Hugo: Whimsical One-Of-A-Kinds at Kate Spade

There is an established tradition of buying art from high end retailers such as Neiman’s or Barney’s. Now Kate Spade San Francisco jumps into the mix. Hugo Guinness’s iconic subjects are just as quirky as the material he uses to make them. G rated prints titled “banana,” “greyhound bus,” and “tractor” sit side by side with PG “panties,” “panties again,” and “rubber.” He no longer uses linoleum blocks for his work; he’s discovered Speedy Cut’s eraser-like material, much easier to work with. The designs in black ink on handmade Indian paper are simple and universal. He’s cagey when asked if the pieces on display are part of a print series or if they really are one of a kind, and let’s me know in a friendly way that I am missing the point. He's right. $550 for a work that is framed (floating mount on wood panel) and godparented by the Spades is a bargain.

The May 3 launch party at the store happened to be First Thursday, the night when the A list galleries of Union Square stay open a little later so students and 9-to-5 folk can get in to see what’s featured. John and Gretchen Berggruen saw the party from the second floor windows of their gallery across the street and made their way over to introduce themselves to Hugo. The guest-list party was multi-purpose: introduce Hugo's work (only for sale in the San Francisco store) to the SF set, raise money for the Fine Arts Museums’ Junior Committee, and show off the Hugo-Kate clear plastic op-art tote that New York Magazine helpfully points out is a legal airplane carry-on:

Hugo Guinness (along with fellow alum Vivienne Westwood) is a graduate of Harrow College of Art in London. Like most artists, his school emphasis (ceramics) is not what he currently practices. In addition to the charming prints at Kate Spade and John Derian's Bowery boutique, he contributes “spots” to the New Yorker magazine (those little drawings in between the paragraphs) and is an AIGA award winning book-jacket illustrator.

Note to the speculator: 29 of 65 pieces sold that night at the party and prices have gone up 60% since Kate Spade recommended Hugo's work to Time Magazine's Style & Design "The Best of 2004" list.

This show $550

Kate Spade, 227 Grant avenue, San Francisco, 94108, tel: 415.216.0880 fax: 415.216.0878 Hours M-Sat: 10-6, Sun: 12-5, Stefanie Strickland, Manager