Yesterday I saw Chris Burden’s retrospective entitled “Extreme Measures” at The New Museum in New York. Highlights for me were “Tale of Two Cities”, an installation consisting of 5,000 toys, two miniature cities, sand, rocks, plants, amongst other objects that together create a mesmerizing aerial view of a contemporary city created with child-like imagination. I also enjoyed a film that shows dozens of commercial-building steel beams falling from the sky (dropped from an unseeable giant crane), and landing in a plotted area absorbing them, creating a massive, metal sculptural piece.
I visited Marlborougho Gallery in New York’s Lower East Side to see paintings by Wisconsin native John Riepenhoff, who exhibited works, both large and small, from a series of plein air paintings that he made under nightime skies in various locations (mostly in Wisconsin but also in Miami and other locals). The paint is thinly applied, and poured, to create an arresting, atmospheric effect reminiscent of Morris Louis’ abstract canvases.
While back in San Francisco, I visited Pier 24 with a friend of mine to see “A Sense of Place” – a group show that about how photography influences our perception and understanding of our environment and places we live. As usual, this show highlights many heavy-hitters including: Andreas Gursky, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Jeff Wall, Wolfgang Tillmans, and many more, but it was lesser known photographers like John Chiara and Todd Hido who really captured my eye.
If you’re not familiar with Pier 24 Photography Collection, its an amazing place that I highly recommend visiting if ever in San Francisco. It houses one of, if not the, best photography collections in the country that includes almost every major photographer from the past 100 years. The collection lives in a warehouse on the water near the Bay Bridge and is free but can only be visited by making an appointment in advance. They limit attendence to small groups every few hours, thus creating an extremely intimate and personal experience with the work. If you’re interested here’s the link: http://www.pier24.org
Just one floor below Jessica Dickinson’s show, Sean McFarland, a local Bay Area artist had a solo show at Stephen Wirtz Gallery. While a few images were traditional gelatin silver prints, the great majority were monochromatic dye diffusion transfer prints and cyanotypes. By using these uncommon printing methods, McFarland created small, washed-out, intimate prints – a nice contrast in an age where most contemporary photographers are printing as large and as loud as possible using digital technology. Unlike them, his quiet technique encourages the viewer to stop, look closer for details and to have a more intimate experience with his work.
Back in San Francisco, I visited 49 Geary, a building in downtown SF that houses over a dozen galleries and show many of the best artists making work in the Bay Area. There, Jessica Dickinson had a solo show at Altman Siegel Gallery, which consisted of minimalist, all-over paintings. From afar, it’s difficult to get much from these paintings, but up close you start to appreciate the effort that goes into scrapping and manipulating the surface to create a heavily textured surface.
If you’re in the Bay Area over winter break and like colorful painting, I strongly suggest seeing David Hockney’s exhibition at the de Young Museum, which runs through Jan. 20th. In it he exhibits only work from the past decade, including paintings, drawings, video and iPad paintings/drawings which show both his process and the final result. It was inspiring to see a painter of an older generation combining traditional methods like painting and drawing with modern technology like digital cameras, videos, and computers to create a unique expression. Many of the works are grandiose in scale and color intensity and are often completed by numerous paintings hung together to create one unified image of a landscape.
“Of Walking” is a group show at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, which investigates the simple act of walking. Though the subject is ordinary and focused, the works are drastically different depending on the photographer. For the most part, I wasn’t excited about the show but there were a few hidden gems mixed in that made me consider the serene moments that are so often overlooked in our busy lives.
I recently saw Sophie von Hellerman’s solo show at Greene Naftali in Chelsea. There’s a side room where she painted all four walls with trees and greenery and filled the room with portraits, mostly of women, with what appeared to me the occasional reference to Picasso and Munch’s hand. I wasn’t familiar with her work before, and wasn’t ecstatic after, but I did enjoy the looseness of her brushwork and the thinness of her paint application, which resembled watercolor application but was actually oil. The other two rooms have literal depictions of idiomatic phrases such as “As the Crow Flies” and a green house painting/installation.
If you’re in NYC this break, I recommend seeing Roni Horn’s show at Hauser & Wirth. There are three rooms, two have cast glass sculptures that are very quiet yet strong and meditative and make the viewer wonder if they’re made entirely of glass or filled with water by reflecting the light that shines in from the skylights above. The third room contains 4 large scale drawings, which appear minimalist from afar, but the detail up close is intriguing.
I went to hear Leslie Hewitt lecture at The Museum of Contemporary Photography this week. I was intrigued by the images she showed. They seemed quiet but intense. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy her lecture presentation since it consisted mainly of her reading from a thesis essay (or so it seemed), which was overly cerebral and lacked the feeling and emotion that I thought was integral to the work.