Through August 4 - Dashiell Manley at Silverman Gallery. Your first hint that something is a little unusual about Manley's paintings is how they're installed in the gallery, propped on small shelves instead of hung flush against the wall. This allows the barest peek at the other side of his works, as he does indeed use both sides. Indecipherable codices of numbers or barely-perceptible words flip over to abstractions of layered color that seem to melt and drip down slick surfaces. The paintings are joined by projected animations incorporating textual elements again that seem reproduced almost past the point of legibility, leaving ghosts of forms flickering on the wall. One line from the Silverman website sums it all up perfectly: "We see everything at the same time even though this is impossible."
Through July 20 - You Must Change Your Life at Krowswork. This is not a traditional exhibition as such but rather a series of performances and actions spread out across three weekends here in July. I was able to make it to last Sunday afternoon's installment, "Double Bodies", which offered many moments of spine-tingling inspiration perfectly in line with the Rilke poem whose last line gives the series its title. Artist duo Hannah Ireland and Annie Vought of Double Zero had set up a project in one room of the gallery called A Letter a Year Later that encouraged two friends to sit across from one another at a table and write each other a missive, to be held by Ireland and Vought until a year has passed and then mailed to the respective recipients. I loved the time capsule aspect of their piece as well as the way it made me think about how some human connections are so strong and others so fragile. The theme of pairings continued in an installation by twin sisters Amy and Hannah Buckley consisting of the matching dresses they wore as little girls, and then the sisters themselves danced together in a performance that was enabled by Skype. Amy was with us in Oakland while Hannah was several time zones away in England, her image superimposed onto the wall behind Amy. The stutters and stops of the Skype video feed lent an immediacy to the performance as the women appeared to overlap and intertwine through their virtual connection. Finally we watched dancer Laura Marsh face her own video double in Daniel Konhauser and Maxine Moerman's piece Spoonfed, in which Marsh at first matched the movements of a projected version of herself before the doppelgangers veered off into different directions entirely. The Krowswork series wraps up tomorrow night with a different set of artists, and there is a healthy heaping of poetry, theater, and painting as performance on the agenda. If you want to see why Oakland is one of the most exciting places to be in the world right now I recommend heading on over.
Through July 20 - The Marianas* (Stephanie Syjuco and Michael Arcega): Montalvo Historical Fabrications and Souvenirs (A Pop-Up Shop) at Montalvo Arts Center. If you browsed the Shadowshop installed at the back of the fifth floor galleries of SFMOMA during early 2011 you have already experienced the work of Stephanie Syjuco, mastermind of brilliant art market subversion. She and partner Michael Arcega have literally taken residence in the Project Space Gallery at Montalvo with a fully fleshed-out souvenir shop they staff in front and their fabrication area in back. I spent a delightful hour with the artists last Saturday afternoon as they hawked their wares to random passers-by and intentional visitors alike. At first glance the shop looks like any other, rows of carefully arranged knick-knacks and neatly packaged items in cellophane bags, until you start looking more closely at the descriptive text that accompanies each souvenir. In the hands of Syjuco and Arcega a bug zoo becomes Insect Alcatraz, a wry commentary on the history of incarceration in California, and Syjuco reported that their Invasive Species Potpourri (eucalyptus detritus, natch) and Chinese-made dream catchers were also flying off the shelves. I bought the special collector's box, a veritable jackpot of Genuine Faux Fool's Gold, Mystery Wood ("never identified!"), an official Villa Montalvo Hiking Patch, some Mist of Montalvo, Wild Griffin Feathers, a pin ("I went to Montalvo and all I got was this lousy pin"), and an East/West Diplomacy Kit. That last item is a packet that contains a tiny American flag crossed with a cocktail umbrella and supplemented with loose confetti, all to commemorate Villa Montalvo's founder James Phelan and his campaign to keep Asian immigrants out of America. Syjuco and Arcega have a ton of fun with history and mythology as they purposefully confound the two, but their work has a refreshing bite to it too.
The San Francisco Art Institute is one of my very favorite spots in the city for its courtyard fountain and the resident fat koi, for its amazing views across the entire Bay, and for its massive Diego Rivera fresco tucked away in a side gallery. Last Thursday I was able to attend the second day of a symposium organized by SFAI and the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco that examined Rivera and other Mexican muralists with an eye to modern views about art and activism. Sara Daleiden did not talk about Rivera specifically but instead shared documentation from the brilliant How Many Billboards? project she co-organized down in Los Angeles, where since 2002 it has been illegal to paint a mural on private property due to a confusion about what constitutes art or signage. For a couple months in 2010 the MAK Center took over 21 LA billboards and installed specially-commissioned work by contemporary artists, further enriching the dialogue about art versus commerce. Daleiden's talk was meant to be followed by one by artist Ala Ebtekar, but in an eerily appropriate twist Ebtekar had missed his flight back from LA because he had been in court due to charges stemming from one of his public art projects. Julio César Morales stood in and presented Ebtekar's talk about the dangers of being a muralist in the public sphere after Universidad Iberoamericana professor Karen Cordero Reiman gave a paper entitled "Whose Body? Corporeal Discourse in Muralism and Contemporary Art" that contrasted historical images by Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros with more recent work by Silvia Gruner and Gerardo Suter. The evening wrapped with a roundtable discussion involving all the symposium participants, newly inspiring me to seek out the other three Diego murals in the Bay Area (at the SF City Club, at City College, at Cal). I also once again have deep appreciation for our own rich street art culture, where murals are often as much about community-building as they are about artistic expression.
Recently closed - Dennis Oppenheim: 1968: Earthworks and Ground Systems at Haines Gallery. When Oppenheim passed away last year I saw scores of friends online expressing loss, posting pictures of his 1997 sculpture of a tipped-over church Device to Root Out Evil, and paying tribute to his influence as both a conceptual and environmental artist. The exhibition at Haines picked as its focal point a moment relatively early in his career, shortly after he'd moved to New York from the Bay Area and also the year of his first solo show. Oppenheim left literal marks behind on the earth when he was doing things like cutting a one-mile line along the U.S./Canada border or laboriously dragging his body backwards across a sandy beach. Ultimately his ideas and his unapologetic approach to art-making have left the most lasting impression however.