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.
Matthew Bernard Loggins installation, Creativity Explored
So. ArtPad. Definitely the hippest of the fairs, taking place as it did at the Phoenix Hotel in the Tenderloin, and fun to roam around in thanks to each gallery taking over a hotel room and often doing creative things with the space. Suffice it to say I felt a lot more comfortable here than at artMRKT. Things I especially liked:
My first stop, at Steven Wolf: Club Paint, Bessma Khalaf, George Kuchar, more. Steven has always shown the most interesting work.
Creativity Explored had some amazing work on display, but the best part of their room was the bathroom (pictured above) that was inspired by artist/author Matthew Bernard Loggins. I was reassured to observe an entire small area of the wall dedicated to snakes.
A few Oakland galleries were in attendance, and I spent a good bit of time in Swarm. I can never get enough of Jessalyn Aaland's sticker pieces, and I was very pleased to see some of Jennifer Brandon's incredibly tactile photographs in person for the first time too. What Jennifer does with a bit of cushioning, tangled thread, and a few pins is revelatory.
Also from Oakland: Johansson Projects had new wood sculptures by Misako Inaoka that show the artist still pushing her altered animals into wonderfully twisted forms. Tons of great work by Jennie Ottinger on display too, which leads me to shamelessly plug the Headlands auction and your chance to win her absolutely perfect Astronaut Family painting.
I'll be the first to admit art fairs make me a little itchy, those spectacles of art as pure commodity. Last year was the first time San Francisco attempted to compete with the glitzy destination affairs in Miami and New York by scheduling three events in one weekend, and I roundly avoided each one. However curiosity got the better of me this year when those same three fairs returned, and I made a quick pass through artMRKT and ArtPadSF in one afternoon (I couldn't face the Fine Art Fair). I'll cover highlights from ArtPad in a future post, but here are a few random notes from artMRKT, the more traditional of the pair:
The blue chip galleries got spots on the main floor of the Concourse Exhibition Center with smaller and more alternative spaces and organizations tucked up on the side walkways. You can bet I spent most of my short time there in the side walkways.
Very pleased to see a piece by Chris Fraser prominently displayed at Highlight Gallery's booth. They'll be doing a solo exhibition with him later this year, and I can't wait.
Saturday night and the Mission was seriously hopping for Lit Crawl, with every available bar, coffee shop, and store front packed to the gills with the lit faithful listening to writers read their work. I made my first stop 312 Valenica, a space you might normally know as Mina Dresden Gallery but for the month of October occupied instead by a pop-up used book store called Scanners. The Cronenberg reference is intentional I'm sure, especially considering there are entire sections inside the shop devoted to science fiction and counterculture. Curated by Matt Barruso and Nick Hoff, Scanners deals with everything from the decline of the book in the age of the iPad to the struggle of actual used book stores to stay afloat. The shop is hosting a number of events, including a conversation with Tanya Hollis and Rick Prelinger tomorrow night about the future of the archive and a discussion about artist source material at the end of the month courtesy of D-L Alvarez and Colter Jacobsen. It's also just a really fun space to browse, and everything on the shelves is indeed for sale.