The very first mixtape I ever made was for a crush I had in junior high, where I had the tape sitting in my boombox and every time a sappy song came on the radio I would quick hit record and get as much of it as I could. I genuinely hope to all the gods he never listened to that thing. As the years went by my technique got a little more refined, and if you've known me for any length of time I've almost certainly made you a mix at some point. I even think of my radio show as a giant three-hour weekly mix. So I don't know why it took me two years to finally attend one of the quarterly sessions of the SF Mixtape Society at The Make-Out Room, but I sure had a lot of fun recently when I did. Everyone who brings a tape (or CD or data stick or whatever) leaves with a stranger's mix as determined by raffle, and the audience and judges also vote on their favorites. The Make-Out Room provides adult libations while the music geekery abounds. The theme this time was "Under the Covers" in honor of Valentine's Day, and I put together a CD that traced a relationship from beginning to hopefully-not-end with a few random tunes thrown in for fun. I'm afraid the CD I received in return took the "covers" part of the theme quite literally and was none too creative with it, but every aspiring mixtape master has to start somewhere I suppose. I'll hope for better luck next time.
Recently closed - Tim Craighead: Dos Mundos at the San Jose ICA. If you ever find yourself in San Jose (on your way to dinner in Santa Cruz, for instance) take a moment to stop in at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and see what they have on display. It will be worth your time, guaranteed. Their exhibition of paintings and prints by Santa Cruz artist Tim Craighead served as an oasis of calm for me one recent afternoon. Even though he includes enticing references to organic and scientific forms in his work (Bucky Fuller is an influence) his pieces also succeed on a purely abstract level for me, the smeared and manipulated paint of their backgrounds as striking as any shapes he lays on top.
Recently closed - Katherine Westerhout: At Long Last at Electric Works. This is the second show of Westerhout's photographs I've seen at Electric Works, and I was struck this time again by the simple beauty of her work. She is certainly not the only photographer to capture urban decay, but I like how she doesn't use a flash, doesn't move stuff around. Her images also fill me with a kind of optimism brought on by projects like the High Line in New York, where neglected space is revitalized with care taken to preserve original architecture where possible. Who knows, with a little bit of creativity maybe some of the places she photographs will find their own second life.
Recently closed - Oceans and Campfires: Allan Sekula and Bruno Serralongue at the SF Art Institute. No joke, Allan Sekula changed my life when he came to speak in my History of Photography class my senior year at UC Santa Cruz. I had already had my epiphany about modern art in England the year before, and then my professor for this class was blowing my head wide open again by having us read Benjamin and Sontag and watch Antonioni. For his talk Sekula brought along some of his photographs documenting the aerospace industry in southern California during the '70s in which he focused on his family and on his engineer father. Not only did those images strike so very close to my heart but they moved me equally as art and as journalism. Sekula is still creating amazing photos, and he was well paired with fellow photographer Bruno Serralongue in this exhibit. Both are concerned with contemporary social issues as they capture protests in France, workers on container ships, everyday life in independent Kosovo, migrant workers in China. Eye-opening and mind-expanding all over again.
I'm woefully behind in my blogging thanks to some other sizeable projects and a day job that has been eating my brain, but I'm determined to get some things written up even if the shows have already closed. Stay tuned for those posts. And while you're waiting please visit Jennifer Steinkamp's site and ogle her gorgeous projection installations. I got to hear her speak at Mills last week and was delighted to learn she is the artist behind the light show that takes place above Fremont Street in Las Vegas that has blown the minds of more friends than I can count on two hands. I also love her undulating fields of flowers and dancing trees, all painstakingly crafted in Maya 3D software. Technology is rarely put to such divine use.
"For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when the taste is refracted into so many hues and savours of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing - the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries." --Marilynne Robinson, from Housekeeping, USA, 1980