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.