Triangle Gallery: Hiding in Plain Sight

For someone who has been an art dealer for 46 years, Jack Van Hiele’s most notable professional quality may be his ability to stay in the background and let his artists speak for themselves. Mr. Van Hiele lists no personal bio on the Triangle Gallery website and nothing comes up if you google him. Out-of-print “Art in the San Francisco Bay Area 1945-1980” by the late Chronicle art critic Thomas Albright is handy on a gallery table for quick reference and will have to serve as the gallerist's calling card. (This book is a must-read for anyone who is serious about learning the history of San Francisco Bay Area art- it is the one and only text on the subject.)

Van Hiele features contemporary American, Japanese and Chinese painting, graphics, sculpture and photography. He is not new to the contemporary Asian trend that is rocking the international art fairs and shocking people at Sotheby’s and Christie’s with off the charts auction prices for yet untested Chinese and Japanese young artists. In fact, he’s been paying attention to that market and developing relationships with its artists for over thirty years.

First a note about the neighborhood because that is part of the fun of the visit. The first block of Kearny is in transition as the original San Francisco Chronicle building on the corner at Market is undergoing an astonishing transformation. It’s been masquerading as an ugly office building for years and now the Ritz-Carlton is literally peeling off the outer skin to expose the original red brick grandeur. The trade-off for another few dozen luxury timeshares and condos is that the building’s rediscovered character greatly improves the personality of the intersection.

Triangle is right there in the middle of everything. (Paule Anglim & 49 Geary are around the corner and SFMOMA just down the street.) It’s a little awkward getting in the door of 47 Kearny because a heavily cologned security guard will require you to sign in. (He was surprised to hear I wasn’t going to Dorota European Skin Care on 6.) But Triangle knows and offers its regrets from the “Contact Us” page of its website: “Our apologies: Building management requires visitors to sign in at the lobby. We regret the inconvenience.”

I regret that Mr. Van Hiele was taking his annual holiday when I visited Triangle however I really lucked-out getting to meet his understudy for the weekend, photographer Robert Hartman. The Professor of Art Emeritus from UC Berkeley (1961-1991) also happened to be one of Andy Black’s professors at Cal (see more below) and is represented by the gallery himself.

Robert showed me the dozen or so examples of his work in the back room of the gallery and explained his approach. A self described addict of low-altitude flight, Robert flies over the Bay Area recording human impact on the earth. He used to fly the plane himself but heart problems a few years ago have turned him into a back-seat flyer. “It’s not quite as good.” he said.

Photos look like abstract paintings at first because he uses infrared film. The 19” x 23” series is framed in simple unvarnished pine, a neat juxtaposition with the high-tech work. This unusal medium transforms the water of the delta, salt flats and irrigated farm plots into black or red, only once in a while do they develop into vivid turquoise. Old World hand-painted maps of not-yet-explored continents come to mind. There’s a piece in the hallway that looks like finger-painting but once your eyes adjust to the light you can make out ant-scale construction equipment decimating the landscape of San Ramon for a new housing development.

Lynn Sondag’s watercolor landscapes are beautiful- she captures the lime and marine greens that you remember from past visits to Golden Gate Park and the Legion Of Honor but won’t be there if you go back to double check. ($650-$1500). M.F.A., Painting: California College of the Arts, 1997 and B.F.A., Painting, Savannah College of Art and Design (cum laude), 1990. She teaches at Dominican and CCA.

Andy Black’s intimate oil on paper abstract expressionist pieces are noteworthy for their intense masculine colors and for recording the action of painting. You can see how the paint was pushed before the brush was pulled away leaving wake like fresh vacuum cleaner tracks. ($400-$1200). Andy is influenced by the beauty of geometry; each piece begins with a compass & straightedge construction of a Golden Rectangle. B.F.A. Drawing & Painting: CSU Long Beach, 1981 and M.A., M.F.A. (Painting): UC Berkeley, 1983, 1984.

Hope Kroll is the headliner for the show ($300-$1200). Her work would be perfect for the interior of a Tim Burton-designed gothic dollhouse. She intricately cuts up pictures from books, the topics of which range from science and medicine to mysticism and nature, giving the effect of a frozen drama or illustration for a story. M.F.A., Painting 1992, San Francisco Art Institute and B.F.A. 1990 University of Illinois.

This show $400-$1500

Through July 21, Triangle Gallery, 47 Kearny, San Francisco, 11 AM - 5 PM Tuesday through Saturday, Tel.: 415.392.1686

Hespe Gallery: How I Spent My Summer

Hespe Gallery's current show “Summer Memories” is a reminder that summer means different things to different people. Gone are the days of camp and water vacations. Summer can be a walk through steaming Times Square or an afternoon nap in a familiar year-round messy bedroom.

Charles Hespe’s new space at 251 Post has a happy, urbane personality. Walking in the door you are transported to Soho. Floor to ceiling windows look out on both a New-Yorky urban light well and a brilliantly sunny rooftop view of Geary Street neighbors.

The Hespe mission of ”fostering a high comfort level for established and novice art collectors” alike still holds true despite the new sophisticated location. Charles Hespe founded his gallery in 1993 on Union Street and moved from that more modest locale to Union Square about a year and a half ago. 251 Post is a more intimate version of behemoth neighbor 49 Geary. The lobby doesn’t look like much but the upper floor staircases are dramatic with mammoth intricate banisters supported by delicate spindles.

Despite the location over Bulgari, gallery assistant Ciara Shuttleworth does a great job of representing the egalitarian brand image. She gives a cheerful friendly welcome and has an innate talent for sensing when to offer information or hold back and wait for you to ask.

Another reason that Hespe is a welcoming place is that the work he chooses to feature is comfortingly consistent. Charles Hespe is dedicated to featuring works painted in a representational style. Be it photorealism or a primitivist landscape, a rose is a rose at Hespe.

The democratic mission statement is not just talk. Hespe is an enthusiastic supporter of Root Division, a San Francisco cooperative non-profit that rents affordable studio space in return for elbow grease. Member artist donate their time to teach free art classes and after school programs. Hespe also has an open casting-call style page on his website that clearly describes how to submit work for his consideration.

I fell in love with the show’s opening pricepoint piece, Welcome to L.A., by Glenn Ness. The sides of a dark downhill LAX escalator tunnel gleam with promise. Like all of L.A., it’s an anonymous place, except for the haunting shadow of the traveller moving uphill in the opposite direction. Every detail of this specific public space is recorded, including the teeth of the moving steps. Ness’ Boy From Oz is a spooky deserted night scene of Times Square. The riotous White Way billboards are juxtaposed by the calming influence of diamond patterned slate gray sidewalk and puddled street.

Melissa Hutton’s Waiting To Get Out is a barren snowy landscape punctuated by a few benday-dot quonset huts. The painting is actually dripping with melting ice (epoxy resin) so you can feel the determination of the snowed-in residents to escape. The partner piece is in Hespe’s office, Still Waiting shows the same landscape in Summer, huts now serenely resting on a vibrant green meadow under a fiery red sky.

The piece featured on the postcard is Robert Townsend’s Cadillac, a breathtaking technical masterpiece of watercolor, a notoriously hard-to-control paint. Every chrome shine and reflection is beautifully captured. Even the dirt is recorded in this epistle to a once-loved classic car.

Eric Zener’s Calm Before a Turbulent Sea is the requisite contemplative bather piece. An angry body of water beckons a strong female swimmer.

Tony Chimento’s Afternoon Nap is what you are doing if you’re not swimming out-of-doors.

Don't rush out too quickly. Take a moment to browse through neighbor Newmark Gallery's cozy serene gallery next door currently featuring abstract "wastescapes" by Kevin Pincus. At the opposite end of the hall, pass through the door of Meyerovich Gallery and you are instantly transported to our own Manhattan MOMA Richard Serra show.

This show $3200-$55000

June 12 to August 4, Hespe Gallery, 251 Post Street, Suite 420, Tuesday- Friday, 11:00a.m - 5:30p.m. and Saturday, 11:00a.m. - 5:00p.m, 415.776.5918,

6/16/07 Green Furniture Happening

There's going to be a "happening" this Saturday at Dolores Park (at 19th). That's a happening in the 50's performance art kind of way. Be on the lookout for an environmentally friendly "pop-up cafe" from 4:00-8:00 pm. Green furniture designers Jon Brumit and Mike Farruggia will supply the benches and tables and Ritual Coffee Roasters is bringing the fair-trade coffee. And there's a green party favor too- you'll get a reusable coffee mug. What's the Stark Guide angle? Sculpture that happens to be beautifully designed furniture made of recycled materials.

Do you remember the photo of the mayor sitting on a grass couch in front of city hall? It was taken last year for the lanch of the letsgreenthiscity program. The movement is a contemporary dichotomy of big business and green effort. PG&E is the sponsor and the purpose is to make renewable energy cool, to make San Francisco the "greenest" city in the nation. (Isn't is already?)

Jon and Mike are alumni of the prestigious Artist in Residence program at SF Recycling & Disposal (AKA the Dump). These two are talented, multi-dimensional artists who happen to be furniture designers as well. Paul Fresina, director of the program, suggested them as good candidates for the project when PG&E's PR agency, Venables Bell, embarked on assisting the energy vendor with this aspirational effort. The combination of their design skills and green art provenance was a winning combination for this project.

When you go on Saturday, you'll see 3 legged tables made of bike parts, lounge chairs from shopping carts and quite a few riffs on the ever-adaptable wine barrel. Mike and Jon collaborated on the suite of pieces and enjoyed working together on the project.

What's going to happen to the furniture afterwards? Well, they're not sure. One idea is to auction off the pieces to the highest bidder in an auction that raises money for green causes. There will be six or seven more of these "pop-up cafes" as the summer progesses so maybe you can put in an "absentee bid plus one" for after the series has concluded.,,

Market Street Gallery: ReArt, Co-Sponsored By Scrap (Not Crap)

Something unusual was happening at the opening reception for ReArt at Market Street Gallery on Friday night: people were having a really good time. Multi-generational packs of visitors were smiling and laughing and pointing at works on the crowded gallery's walls. Mike Kimball, Director of the gallery's MesArts program was mingling and chatting good naturedly with guests. All this before the wine was poured!

29 of 72 submissions using recycled materials were selected for this show by Paul Fresina, director of the Artist in Residence Program at San Francisco Recycling & Disposal, Inc., Christina La Sala, from the Lab Gallery and Steven Wolf of Steven Wolf Fine Arts.

ReArt is co-presented by Scrap, the 501(c)(3) Scroungers' Center for Reusable Art Parts. San Francisco residents and businesses are encouraged to donate their clean old stuff that could be used as found materials for artwork. And yes, you'll get a tax deduction. Museums, neighborhood centers, senior groups, summer camps, theater groups and childcare centers use Scrap materials.

Three of the artists featured in the show (Claudia Chapline, Mike Farruggia, Michael Kerbow) are alumni of the prestigious program at the dump. Don't turn your nose up, it's as hard to get into as an Ivy League school. For the sixty to eighty annual applicants there are only four to eight slots (Harvard's Fall 2007 acceptance rate was 9%). Artists are selected by a discerning bunch including Catharine Clark and Richard Newirth, outgoing Director of the San Francisco Arts Commission. Sixty-eight artists have participated in the program since it was founded by Jo Hanson in 1990.

The most successful pieces in the ReArt show are the ones that don't take themselves too seriously, giving a wink to the viewer and a nod to their humble origins. Jerry Chatham's schmaltzy but endearing bridge view called Alcatraz, Daybreak at The Gate employs rock, glass, cable, plastic, metal and wood. Michael Kerbow's Code Red suggests that Harvey lost his foot in Brisbane. The oversize clown-nose-red rabbit's foot fob is attached to a circus ring hoop loaded with hundreds of lost keys. Hilary William's soft sculpture Ferd Jardine is a two-headed, fourlegged lovable small person monster complete with a bustle.

Be careful not to miss the best piece in the show. You might think you're looking through a fun house mirror when you see Mike Farruggia's Door Table. Covered with postcards and brochures advertising all things repurposed, you'll think it's just a piece of furniture unless you notice it at the very end of the 29 item exhibit checklist. About 24" of the top and bottom of the door were removed and reattached at 45 degree angles, hinges and rubber stop still attached. The joins connecting the three pieces are so smooth you have to look twice.

This show $40-$5500

June 4th - June 29th, Market Street Gallery, 1554 Market St., San Francisco, Hours: Noon-6 p.m. Tues.-Wed. and Fri.-Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun., noon-8 p.m. Thurs., Phone: 415-290-1441

Catharine Clark Gallery: Grnad Opening

No, that's not a typo! It's the name of a piece in Catharine Clark's grand opening show at her new digs. This homegrown gallerist has relocated her eponymous space from 49 Geary to 150 Minna. Be assured, this move is a political statement. Clark abandoned her spot in the tony yet frosty A-list Union Square building in favor of the burgeoning egalatarian Museum District, carefully cultivated over the past fifteen-plus years by the San Francisco City Planning Department. Right across the street are SFMOMA and YCBA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts). The Museum for the African Diaspora around the corner just opened last year and The Contemporary Jewish Museum one block away is almost complete. Clark's timing is perfect.

The new space on the immaculate alleyway (the brand new fancy St. Regis Hotel next door may have something to do with the pristine environment) went through quite a metamorphosis. Formerly a farming equipment warehouse, LA based architectural designer Tim Campbell was in charge of the overhaul.

Clark has invited sixteen artists to participate in this auspicious show. These are artists old and new to Clark and each will be featured more in-depth over the next eighteen months. Clark’s new space is the only gallery in the City to date which features a dedicated video project room- another pitch perfect decision. She replicated the media room installed in the old gallery in 2002, presaging SFMOMA’s January 2006 decision to hire its first curator of media arts, Rudolf Frieling.

As you approach the gallery you first see Nina Katchadourian’s GRNAD OPENING Banner, 2006. This vinyl swath recreates a scene she saw in her Brooklyn neighborhood, and represents the forfeit of control in a new endeavor (perhaps the difficulty of learning a new language as well?). This is a friendly, disarming welcome. Next you are startled by Ray Beldner’s site specific work Ground Breaking or In Advance of the Broken Shovel, a nod to Duchamp’s In Advance of a Broken Arm. The upright shovels are frozen at attention and buried a few inches in the poured concrete floor. You can buy just one if that’s what you want.

Clark’s first gallery, Morphos, opened in Hayes Valley in 1991. Before getting into the business of art, she was an art journalist writing for Cambio, a weekly East Bay Marxist newspaper. It was inappropriate to write about the art market for that publication, so she established her voice and eye by examining the intellectual aspects of the work she featured. Her brand still reflects those origins.

Bordering the neighborhood on the west side are pioneering Braunstein/Quay (pronounced "key") and Hosfelt who share a duplex style warehouse space at 430 Clementina Alley. Both used to be at Union Square but made the one mile move southwest during the dot-com boom. The neighborhood's development "paused" after the crash, but is fulfilling its promise now. It's just a ten minute walk from Minna and Third to Clementina and Fifth so fortify yourself with something to eat at Caffè Museo and then stroll three blocks through the Howard Street corridor to your destination.

This show: $975-$52000

June 2 - July 7, Catharine Clark Gallery, 150 Minna, Ground Floor, San Francisco, 94105,, 415.399.1439, Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 10:30 - 5:30, Saturday, 11 - 5:30