Silverman Gallery: Shades of Fluxus

Mini Market through August 30, 2008; Silverman Gallery; 804 Sutter Street at Jones; San Francisco; 415.255.9508; Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm;;

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This is a great time to visit Silverman Gallery. "Mini Market," on view through the end of the month, brings “the art of shopping and shopping for art” under one roof. It follows in the summer tradition of a group show, which is timed to give the gallery and its loyal collectors a respite after a spring season of solo exhibitions, as well as to take advantage of a city-tripping audience.

A plywood booth dominates the gallery floor, crammed with hard-to-find items: canvas totes branded with the word “shoplifter” by exhibition collaborator CITIZEN:Citizen ($27); lace jewelry from Airya Rockefeller’s May in December line ($40–$60); and ceramic butt plugs by California College of the Arts MFA and MA grad Eric Scollon ($100), whose work is also featured in Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s Bay Area Now—if you have to ask, you don’t need one. Acrylic on panel cereal boxes by '08 CCA MFA grad, Luke Butler, are a steal at $800 each. Mini Market was co-curated by Carolina Aramis, Silverman’s partner on this project and in life.

Jessica Silverman is serious about curating. She has had art on her mind since she was a kid hanging out with her grandparents, renowned Fluxus collectors Gilbert and Lila Silverman. Her exposure to the most important private collection of Fluxus art in the world gave her a big head-start among her art-world peers.

The Fluxus movement is advanced stuff—not found in Art History 101 like Impressionism or Cubism. This arcane yet influential conceptual art movement was active from 1962–1978. Fluxus artists often blended different artistic media including music and literature, in fact, the name implies movement and a flow of ideas. Fluxus work is simple, short, and often humorous. Note to civilians: Yoko Ono, John Cage, and Joseph Bueys are identified with this movement.

Silverman’s exhibition program is unique in that she often borrows important works from private collections and encourages her artists to create new work for their Silverman Gallery shows based on the influence of these pieces. New work is then displayed side by side with the inspiration piece, an art history lesson for the viewer, and for the artist it's a chance to grow from the exposure to important historical work. Silverman also has relationships with galleries abroad and sponsors an exchange program of sorts, introducing emerging international artists to San Francisco and facilitating the same for her artists in other countries.

When Silverman moved her gallery from edgy Dogpatch to the border of Union Square earlier this year, it was as much a political statement as a business decision. Artists and curators loved the old location for being underground—literally—but there was simply no foot traffic. So Silverman relocated to this upper block of Sutter just four short blocks away from Sak’s, where the Academy of Art students fade out and a hipster crowd fades in for HUF’s sneakers and Canteen restaurant.

Silverman’s c.v. proves that she’s been using her time wisely since entering L.A’s Otis College of Art and Design (class of ’05) as an undergrad majoring in painting. In 2004 she spent the summer at flashy Deitch Projects in New York as the curatorial assistant dedicated to electroclash performance art band Fischerspooner. In 2005 she was the assistant to Andrea Feldman Falcione, curator of the art collection of entertainment mogul Michael Ovitz.

She arrived in San Francisco in the fall of 2005 for the Masters in Curatorial Studies program at California College of the Arts. Armed with an introduction to Steven Wolf, she guest curated “International Waters” in his gallery in June 2006, mining her connections to borrow work by Nam June Paik and Ed Ruscha for the exhibition. Now, just two years later, Silverman sits on the board of venerable non-profit New Langton Arts and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. This summer she is guest curating a show called “A trip down (false) memory lane” at Lexington Club, “your friendly neighborhood dyke bar.”

In her own gallery, Silverman works with a few queer artists exploring queer themes, but this is a coincidence. As a professionally successful, queer, female gallery owner, she is often approached by artists who may not feel welcomed by more conservative curators. Silverman artists include critically acclaimed Bay Area based artists, including Desiree Holman who won this year’s SFMOMA SECA award; and Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough, ‘08 SECA finalist.

Silverman’s mix is a dynamic, intellectually challenging program—San Francisco art history in the making.