Paloma, Kottie: Many Strangers Look Alike

“Kottie Paolma and the Daily Strangers”; April 24- May 7, 2008; Fecal Face Dot Gallery; 66 Gough St. @ Market, San Francisco, 94102; Wednesday 3-8pm and Sunday 12-6pm;

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If you can’t make it to FFDG by May 7th, check out Booklyn Artist Alliance:,%20San%20Francisco,%20CA%3C/h2%3E.php

People familiar with Kottie Paloma's work know that it is geared for, um, an adult audience. With titles like “Everybody F*cks” and “Drunk Tiger,” his book art could be described as "South Park unmuzzled." But while this show is safely rated PG, it sacrifices none of the artist's trademark edginesss.

“Kottie Paloma and the Daily Strangers” documents the people you see on a regular basis but never meet formally: the corner store clerk; the muni driver who always skips your stop; neighbors in your rent-controlled apartment building; urban campers who bed down in front of your office building.

This is the third exhibition to hang in brand new Fecal Face Dot Gallery. Though the gallery is new, the FF brand name is a stalwart of the local emerging artists scene. is a vibrant online magazine founded in 2000 that covers street, lowbrow and Mission School styles in depth.

In the bricks and mortar space, over 250 five by seven graphite portraits hang together densely like a fraternity composite. According to the artist, installation was a puzzle. It was hard to decide which of the strangers should hang next to each other.

You’re not imagining it- Paloma’s strangers do look alike. As you gaze at the funny looking people, the same patterns begin to emerge on the men and the women: straight bangs, dated-looking square framed glasses, 5 o’clock shadows, shiny bald pates. But it’s the awkward, grimaced expression on each individual that makes them all look related in this wacky family portrait. ($100 each.)

Paloma drew a few portraits a day between assigments while working for Russian Hill framing shop, Frame-O-Rama. Each canvas started out as a discarded, archival, matte board that the artist cut down in the course of the work day and would have otherwise been thrown away.

Paloma’s purposefully naïve style of drawing belies his formal training. Because he didn’t officially graduate from California College of the Arts, Paloma modestly leaves his nearly completed MFA in painting and drawing off his resume. (Scholarship money fell through with just four credits to complete.) Influences include Twombly, Bacon, Warhol, Guston, and Pettibon.

Since art school, Paloma has caught the eye of quite a few young curators who have a talent for spotting emerging talent, including Eleanor Harwood, Joyce Grimm of Triple Base Gallery, and Kerry Johnston of Blankspace Gallery.

Paloma was raised in Huntington Beach but rejected “beach culture” and came to San Francisco in 1996 for the punk rock music scene. But he had begun drawing long before that. His talent was revealed as a kid while pen-paling with his family’s Swedish exchange student. Despite the house guest’s long visit, the friends were unable to correspond in Swedish or English so they drew pictures instead.

Paloma is prolific and multi-faceted, working on multiple projects and series at once. In addition to “The Daily Strangers,” there is “Soft Sculpture” and “Flag Project,” to name just two.

The original soft sculpture guy, Claes Oldenburg, made the seminal “Soft Bathtub” in 1966. Paloma puts his trademark edgy spin on the concept, depicting subject matter that reflects the perils of his Sixth and Market address, including guns, cigarettes, a sack lunch, and whiskey bottle. (Robert Crumb’s brother happens to live next door.)

“Flag Project” gently mocks the Market Street Beautification Project. Artists and non-artists alike are invited to sew a flag and hang it from the pvc flagpole mounted outside Paloma’s third floor windowsill. No theme is required and there are no rules. Brian Pederson's contribution was "Tighty-Whities"; Joan Zamora’s composition featured familiar Sixth Street icons, including a pigeon and a chicken leg.

But book art is how this versatile artist is making his mark on the art world.

Different chapters from Paloma’s ribald, audio-accompanied “Books on Tape Series Vol. 2” were recently aquired by three prestigous institutions including UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, Stanford University Library, and most recently the Library of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria.

Marshall Weber, Director of Collection Development at Booklyn Artist Alliance (Brooklyn, NY), describes Paloma’s appeal to curators and collectors: “Kottie tells it like it is – really heartfelt work, with no pulled punches, real stories about poverty, violence, shitty romance, the crappy artworld and its dorky myths, he’s the bomb.”

Learn more about book art by attending a panel discussion this 4pm this Saturday, May 3, at New Langton Arts:

HANG ART: The Original Egalitarian Gallery Celebrates 10 Years in the Biz

HANG ART’s Ten Year Anniversary: "Then and Now," June 1- June 30, 2008, Opening Reception June 5, 2008 6-8pm; HANG ART & HANG ART annex; 556 & 567 Sutter Street; San Francisco 94102, 415 434 4264; Mon-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-5 (annex hoursTues-Sat 10-6);

When Shanna McBurney founded HANG ART 10 years ago, the idea of posting price tags next to the art was considered gauche by other gallerists, but the customers loved it.

Over the past 10 years, HANG ART has evolved to play an important role in the community as a “starter” gallery for collectors, artists, and arts professionals alike. Man-on-the-street reviews posted on are effusive: “low-key, unpretentious, nice.” For some collecting virgins, HANG is the only gallery that they can recall by name. Many a HANG artist sells enough work to paint full time.

The appeal to new collectors is obvious: a comfortable atmosphere created by friendly, down-to-earth customer service, eggshell colored walls (because that’s the color your walls are at home), a rent-to-own program, and a thirty-day full refund return policy. The average price point is $1500 with plenty of choices under four figures.

As many as 60 artists are represented by the gallery, all from the Bay Area, all painters and sculptors, all ages (currently 21-74). HANG's practice of displaying one example of each of its artists' work at all times is unique and is a great way for a rookie collector to decide what styles of art she likes. Customers are cheerfully beckoned to the enormous stock room to see more if they express interest in an artist on display.

350 artists submit their portfolios every year. Staff scour ArtSpan’s annual “Open Studios” and the local BFA and MFA shows. Each artist is reviewed by the entire staff, many of whom are artists themselves. Senior staff serve on jury panels; future participation includes Director DJ Harmon helping out at an Academy of Art show and Manager Denise Ruiz at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.

HANG benefits from heavy foot traffic on its busy block of Sutter between Powell and Mason: tourists sent over by the Sir Francis Drake concierge; students filtering in and out of the Academy of Art campus buildings; ladies-who-lunch teetering up the hill on their way to the Francisca and Metropolitan clubs; and of course the masses of regular folk going in and out of 450 Suffer all day.

Tobias B. Wolff, former professor of law at UC Davis, now with UPenn, credits HANG with getting him into collecting. “It was HANG that introduced me to the idea of collecting artwork. The staff are uniformly knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic, and they talk about their artists like family. I feel very fortunate to have found them.” Wolff has gone on to purchase 12 more pieces for his collection since his initiation in 2003 with “Kristin: Homage to Chuck Close,” by Kevin Moore. After "Kristin," nine came from HANG and four more Moores from Hespe Gallery.

Many an artist who got his first break at HANG has gone on to galleries that also feature the work of mid-career and established artists. Alums whose work will be on display at the June 10th anniversary show include Kevin Moore, who graduated to Hespe in 2004, Anna Conti, now with Newmark, and Saundra McPherson, now with Andrea Schwarz.

Nick Coley is a typical example of an artist who is hoping to join the ranks at HANG. This Beaux Arts-trained 37 year-old has been featured in group shows around town over the years but hasn't yet been able to reach the brass ring of gallery representation. His vibrant oil paintings of urban landscapes are the intimate vistas only the locals know: a look up the north flank of Divisadero; the Richardson Bay overpass; the wide expanse of asphalt parade ground at the Presidio Main Post. He’s built up a following that pays the bills from meeting collectors while out and about painting plein air. However, Coley would prefer to split his profit with HANG in the hopes of finding an even wider audience.

HANG has been good for Addie Shevlin’s business. McBurney discovered Shevlin in the continuing education program at CCAC (now CCA) in 1998. Shevlin paints abstract landscapes with an Asian influence. Over the years she has sold hundreds of pieces through HANG and has caught the eye of many local collectors, including Rick Turley and Brendan Koon, and Kim Swig. Knowing that she had a solid customer base at HANG has allowed her take risks and as a result her work continues to evolve and grow.

Unsurprisingly, Shanna McBurney, who excelled in her undergraduate elective art history classes at Pomona, was an art world outsider when she launched HANG. As a newly minted Stanford MBA with a background in marketing medical devices she decided to apply her sales know-how to selling art. At one point in the earl 00’s, HANG had four locations: 556 and 567 Sutter, University Avenue in Palo Alto (closed 2003 during the last recession), and a partnership with Canvas Café Gallery at 9th and Lincoln (shuttered 2007).

McBurney has always had confidence in her staff, and for a long time now has been completely hands-off. Current and former employees speak highly of McBurney’s empowering leadership, and many go on to positions of increased responsibility in the art world following her tutelage.

Michelle Townsend was director of the Sutter Street location from 1998-2004. She’s currently the director of Portola Valley’s SPUR Projects but soon will be managing the international exhibition of “The Missing Peace” full time and returning part-time to the consulting business she founded in 2004 called Art Scout. “Shanna McBurney gave me tremendous freedom to recruit artists and create the exhibition program. This freedom went hand-in-hand with the need to test HANG as a [place] to have a first-rate customer experience.”

Lea Feinstein, a former studio arts professor at prestigious east coast institutions before her tenure at HANG, is now a full-time artist and widely published writer in high profile art publications such as ARTnews. She was the director of the Palo Alto location from 2001-2003. Feinstein is proud of HANG’s pioneering mission and felt a great deal of freedom under McBurney to shape the programming: “I wanted the gallery to be a place where people could learn about art, and where artists could grow and develop while they sold their works...a place where any question was an OK question.”

Christian Frock, now Associate Director at Catharine Clark Gallery and also curating her own venture,, was Associate Director of the Palo Alto branch from 2001-2003. Frock sees McBurney as an important mentor in her career. “When I first was accepted to the curatorial program at Goldsmith’s, I called Shanna to let her know that I would be moving to London and, to my thinking, moving on.” But McBurney said, ”Well, that’s great Christian! But how are you going to continue your responsibilities at HANG?” Frock continued to work for the gallery long-distance for some time after that.

HANG’s business model has evolved to include a healthy rental and corporate art business and has tapped into a new corporate trend: companies abandoning their indoor landscaping programs and redirecting that money to art leasing. Some use Hang's leasing program as a reward, allowing select employees to pick the pieces that will be on display. When these employees visit HANG to make their selections, it is usually their first time inside a gallery… and often they become customers.