This week is brought to you by this postcard I received of a giant cat in Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes. Thank you, Logan and JD!
Nate Boyce has two of his wonderfully strange constructions that combine video and sculpted metal installed on the third floor of Japantown's New People building. See them before the show closes tomorrow.
Anne McGuire was predictably amazing at SFMOMA last weekend performing alongside electronic musician Wobbly and a video doppelganger of herself. The museum's Stage Presencelive series continues to blow me away, and Cliff Hengst's performances this weekend are not to be missed either.
The Headlands talk about creating social space last weekend started late and so I was only able to stay for John Bela's and Yukiko Bowman's portions of it, but I'm sure Matilde Cassani was equally as fascinating as those first two based on what I've seen of her work. Now I'm very much looking forward to Sandra Ono's drop-in workshop on Sunday. Bioforms ahoy!
This week I finally made it to the Contemporary Jewish Museum's small-but-mighty group exhibition Do Not Destroy, worth seeing for Zadok Ben David's enchanting Blackfield installation alone. The show is themed around trees and has many other sublime moments too. It closes on September 9.
Meanwhile over in Oakland an old house at 1506 Peralta is currently filled top-to-bottom with art installations for the appropriately-named House Show. Many artists I like a whole lot are involved, including Facundo Argañaraz, Sarah Bernat, The Center For Tactical Magic, Matthew Draving, Aaron Harbour and Jackie Im, Cybele Lyle, and Zachary Royer Scholz. To say anything more would ruin some of the site-specific surprises, but do try to visit before the show closes next weekend and at night if you can.
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.
If I couldn't be up with my friends in Quincy for our recent solar eclipse, Headlands was also a pretty darn great place to observe the celestial phenomenon. Partly because it was sheer delight to watch all the artists-in-residence freak out over the eclipse, but also because earlier in the afternoon in a completely unrelated public program Laurel Braitman and Rachel Mayeri each gave fascinating presentations about their work with animals. Braitman has just finished writing a book entitled Animal Madness exploring the history of mental health issues in the non-human set, and she also talked about her experimental "Music For Animals" series in which she tries to pair musicians with animal audiences she think will appreciate their tunes. I would have paid money to watch Grass Widow perform for the gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo, I tell you what. Meanwhile Mayeri, she of the amazing Miracles and Disasters in Renaissance and Baroque Theater Mechanics installation at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, showed bits and pieces of her Primate Cinema project including footage of how zoo apes reacted when shown video of humans dressed up like monkeys. Both women play with ideas about the ways we anthropomorphize animals, but they are also genuinely interested in the ways we different species interact with and influence each other.
San Francisco's first Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW-SF) is officially wrapped up now, but I managed to squeeze in another of its many events Tuesday night when I went to go hear art critic Holland Cotter speak at the Asian Art Museum in conjunction with their opening-week celebrations for Phantoms of Asia. Cotter has long been committed to covering art from other countries, especially from those outside the so-called western world, and his criticism in the New York Times is exactly the sort of engaged and unpretentious writing I strive to accomplish even in my short pieces. His talk at the Asian inspired me all over again, especially when he spoke of bringing passion and an attitude of generosity to the acts of art-viewing and art-writing. As for ACAW-SF, even if you missed the fun this week there's still the most excellent Phantoms show to see as well as exhibitions at Frey Norris, Haines, the Art Institute, and Yerba Buena (to name just a few). We are never lacking in options 'round these here parts.