1.21 / Review

Best Of: Brian Andrews

By Brian Andrews August 9, 2010

Best Gallery That Closed Its Doors: David Cunningham Projects.

This year David Cunningham Projects shut the door to its exquisitely crafted space on Folsom Street. Unfortunately, the gallery was forced to vacate because of circumstances beyond their control—the landlord wanted the real estate back for his own business. Cunningham’s technology-savvy programming frequently featured densely hung group exhibitions of international and local artists. This diverse roster embraced artworks riskier and more engaging than those usually seen in the repetitive echo chamber of many Bay Area exhibition spaces. One such exhibition was “Interrupting a Beam of Light,” curated by Rachel Adams, which brought together artists such as John Opera and Adéla Svobodová in an exquisitely crafted conversation, earning it the title of Best Group Exhibition.

Jack Hanley Gallery’s recent closure earns it the silver medal in the Best Gallery That Closed Its Doors category; the space is inseparable from San Francisco’s cultural history of the past two decades, and its departure is a definite loss to the local art community. This closure, as well as the previous shuttering of his location in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles, now seats Hanley firmly in New York. Interestingly, his New York gallery’s current exhibition, “Cosmicism and Forestry from Northern California,” by former Survival Research Libratory artist Kal Spelletich, has a distinctly Bay Area sensibility and an aggressive vitality that seemed to be lacking from Hanley’s Valencia Street storefront for the past few years.

Best Solo Exhibition You Probably Didn’t See: "Either in a Million Years or until the Bitter End," November 3- December 1, 2009, Adobe Books Backroom Gallery.

Adobe Books Backroom Gallery has been an incubator of local talent for decades, but all too often, its unique exhibition architecture at the back of the bookshop keeps it off the beaten path of the contemporary art audience. Tara Lisa Foley’s stunningly intricate solo show, “Either in a Million Years or until the Bitter End,” was a gem that took advantage of the recently renovated back-room gallery space. Foley’s large-scale, intricately rendered drawings of forests and castle windows are deeply compelling and restore a sense of wonder and craftsmanship to the medium.

Best Art Event Outside of the Gallery Scene: The Edwardian Ball, January 23, 2010, The Regency Ballroom. 

This January commenced the tenth annual Edwardian Ball, a collaborative event between the pagan jazz ensemble Rosin Coven and the Vau de Vire Society of cabaret dancers and circus performers. Two thousand costumed revelers packed into the Regency Ballroom, which was complete with a croquet garden and steampunk-obsessed vendor bazaar, to witness the reenactment of Edward Gorey’s The Evil Garden set to haunting music and acrobatic stunts. The crowd, decked out in Edwardian-era clothing, as if staged in a naughty Jeunet and Caro film, fully embraced the participatory nature of the event, where a waxed false mustache and bowler hat were not exotic, but the barest baseline for entry into the revelry. Get your ticket early for next year’s extravaganza, as the event routinely sells out well in advance.

Tara Lisa Foley. "Either in a Million Years or until the Bitter End," installation view, Adobe Books Backroom Gallery. Courtesy of Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, San Francisco.

Best New Place to See Contemporary Art: The Oakland Museum of California

While not actually new, the recently completed renovation of the Oakland Museum of California provides an exhilarating new platform for contemporary exhibitions in the East Bay. Under the direction of senior curator Rene de Guzman, whose work at his previous position at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts evolved the center into a cultural lynchpin of local and international contemporary art, the museum’s programming has received a much anticipated upgrade. Look out for the Marc Dion exhibition opening in September, a timely choice that will expose the oddities of the institution’s general collection and enmesh the rapidly evolving contemporary art program within the broader context of the museum as a whole.

Best Blockbuster Museum Exhibition: "Birth of Impressionism," May 22-September 6, 2010, the de Young Museum.

Amid the world-class museums of the Bay Area, the collections of European master paintings are comparatively thin. “Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay” at the de Young Museum fills that gap admirably, exhibiting a dizzying array of early European Modernist oil paintings from the notable Paris museum. Canvases of note include Portraits at the Stock Exchange (1878–1879), by Edgar Degas, and The Floor Scrapers (1875), by Gustave Caillebotte. You can navigate though the throngs of suburbanites and middle-school field trips through September 6. The de Young will follow this show with an exhibition focused on the Post-Impressionist works of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cezanne also from the Musée d’Orsay; the show will run through the end of 2010.

Best Artwork That Always Makes Me Laugh Until I Cry (But That’s Not Related to the Local Community): This Video

Don’t discount this video because of its popular reach and corporate ties, as those irrelevant criteria would taint much of the art world, too. Be sure to watch it in HD and crank up the sound.

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