From the Archives: Instability

August 6 2013


August 6, 2013. Art produced on the West Coast often eludes easy definition. Its slipperiness does not stem from a lack of clarity or rigor, but rather from an embrace of the unstable. Its iconoclastic resistance to simple legibility springs in part from the unyieldingly sublime western landscape, which simultaneously underpins and threatens every westerner’s existence. California, and particularly the Bay Area, amplifies this unstable potential by combining a cacophonous cultural confluence with the most volatile and majestic aspects of nature.

This unique dynamic drew me west and away from the more stable environs of New York and Europe. I came to California because it contained more space to breathe, an open-minded optimism, and a fearless embrace of the fragility of existence. I saw it as a place to take risks and do things not previously attempted.

I was equally enticed by San Francisco’s history of idiosyncratic innovation. San Francisco is a crucible of global influences. It is a place where eastern philosophy and western aesthetics have merged and seeped into a particularly American form of idealism, a place where art, poetry, literature, and music are familiar bedfellows. While San Francisco is currently not the most financially advantageous place to be an artist, it is a place that still produces work that is almost unimaginable elsewhere.

The following selection of features and reviews (though not all specifically about San Francisco or San Francisco–based artists) sketch some of the unique methodologies and conceptual frameworks that I feel underpin the West Coast—and particularly San Francisco’s—artistic production. My selection is by no means exhaustive; if anything, it intends to serve as an open-ended focal point within ongoing conversation. –Zachary Royer Scholz


Art Practical has invited its regular writers to guest edit thematic issues of content from our archive this summer as we prepare for the launch of our new website in September. These issues highlight the breadth of subjects we've covered over the past four years and some of the notable interests that catalyze artistic practice in the Bay Area. And here's a sneak peek of what is coming up for Art Practical. 


Drifting and Navigating: Part 3

Drifting and Navigating: Part 3

By Anthony Marcellini

The view that I am recoiling from is an individualistic view, which presents us as radically separated from each other and from the world around us. As if we are submariners locked out of being at one with the world around us because we are stuck inside a ship and all we can read are the signals on our dashboard.

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Hooshing and the Nexus of Clothing: A Conversation with J. Morgan Puett

Hooshing and the Nexus of Clothing: A Conversation with J. Morgan Puett

By Scott Oliver

Mildred’s Lane is a collaboration, between Mark Dion and myself, in which we’ve turned our 92-plus-acre property into a new contemporary art complexity, which is another way of saying, an interesting experiment as a museum. But it’s not really a museum, although it’s produced all of this history.

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Interview with David Ireland

Interview with David Ireland

By Terri Cohn

These introductory words, which I wrote as part of an essay about David Ireland’s work that was published in Sculpture in March 2005, grew out of a series of conversations we began in 2002. The first interview we did was part of a series I completed with sixteen artists who were central to the genesis of the Conceptual art movement in the San Francisco Bay Area during the early 1970s,

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