1.21 / Review

Best Of: Genevieve Quick

By Genevieve Quick August 18, 2010

Best Exhibition Featuring Collage Works: Gwenaël Rattke, “Oktogon,” April 16-May 14, 2010, Ping Pong Gallery.

While John deFazio, Johnny Ray Huston, and Jose Alvarez exhibited stunning collage works this year, the most outstanding collage show was Gwenaël Rattke’s show “Oktogon” at Ping Pong Gallery. In Rattke’s show, his Xerox collages draw upon early modernist futuristic architecture; the homoerotic imagery of Tom of Finland; the gothic; surrealism; Viennese Art Nouveau; and psychedelic optical ornament. By using Xerox copies, many of Rattke’s images have spaces that suggest the infinite emergence and descending of fun house mirrors. In addition, Rattke’s limited palette of black and white is accented with a color palette reminiscent of late ’60s and early ’70s movie and concert posters. Rattke’s amazingly executed works draw on the establishment of mainstream popular culture, marketing, and the emerging visibility of queer identity.  

Best Mid-Career Re-Introduction of a Local Artist: Stephanie Syjuco.

While Stephanie Syjuco had a meteoric rise in the Bay Area in late ’90s and early 2000s, most of her exhibition activity in the last several years has existed outside the Bay Area (Frieze Projects, London; P.S.1, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum, New York; and James Harris, Seattle). This April with “Beg/Borrow/Steal,” Catharine Clark Gallery began a series of three shows (the following two are scheduled for September 2010 and June 2011) that has reintroduced Syjuco’s practice to the Bay Area. “Beg/Borrow/Steal” featured a varied selection of Syjuco’s work over the last nine years.

In the earliest and most direct work, Comparative Morphologies (2001), a series of Victorian encyclopedic images composed from computer cables and components establishes the double take involved in Syjuco’s practice. As the artist’s practice has evolved over the years, issues of counterfeit and underground economies have lead to more socially engaged works like Black Market (2005) and Gucci Bag from the 2006 Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy) series. Moreover, “Beg/Borrow/Steal” teased us with a sampling from Syjuco’s most recent investigation of authenticity in the art world and intervening on the gallery and museum distribution system in FGT Satellite Distribution Point (Accumulation/Dispersal/Situation) (1992/2010) and Lounge Chair and Ottoman (Charles Eames and Ray Eames), from the notMOMA Permanent Collection Series (2010). In addition to allowing the Bay Area to catch up with Syjuco’s practice, “Beg/Borrow/Steal” signals Catharine Clark’s dedication to championing Syjuco’s work locally and the artist’s commitment to the Bay Area.   

Best Farewell Show: “Jigsawmentallama,” November 12-December 19, 2010 at David Cunningham Projects

This April we saw the greatly publicized closing of Jack Hanley Gallery, while in November 2009, David Cunningham Projects closed rather discreetly with its final show, “Jigsawmentallama.” Marking the end of the three-year-old gallery, the show, with its dark humor, edgy imagery, and uncomfortable ambiguity, culled works from local provocateurs Keith Boadwee, Margaret Tedesco, and Scott Hewicker, and introduced us to the stunning work of Sonja Nilsson (Sweden). 

Sonja Nilsson. Silence of the Lambs, 2008; mixed media installation; ed. 4; dimensions variable. Courtesy of David Cunningham Projects, San Francisco. © Sonja Nilsson.

Gwenaël Rattke. HAMBURG, 2009; collage on museum board; 29 x 21 1/4 in.  Courtesy of Ping Pong Gallery, San Francisco.

In Nilsson’s Silence of the Lambs (2008), a projected transgender figure dances to Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” inside a miniature diorama of Buffalo Bill’s lair from the film Silence of the Lambs. With the firing of a strobe, Nilsson makes the projected figure disappear from the diorama, but produces an afterimage in the viewer’s retina. The ambiguity of Nilsson’s piece pulls the viewer into its many layers of illusion, both in terms of content and execution. As the gallery’s final show, “Jigsawmentallama” stunningly wrapped up three years of thoughtful programming and dedication to the media arts in San Francisco.

Best Re-emerging Art Organization: Southern Exposure.

In the last year, New Langton ended its thirty-four-year legacy and Southern Exposure (SoEx) entered their thirty-sixth year with an incredible new space and new programming.1 While the inaugural exhibition, “Bellwether,” refrained from prognosticating a specific future, it featured works that delved into the past and future, including emerging and more established artists, and set the course for SoEx in their new space. Since opening there, SoEx has been able to combine their initiatives to create exhibition opportunities and community events to foster and maintain the area’s cultural vitality.

Best Blog Post and Follow-up: Renny Pritikin’s “Artists Who’ve Left Town and Brion Nuda Rosch “The Grass is ALWAYS Greener.

This year Renny Pritikin (also a regular contributor to Art Practical) was a blogger for SFMOMA’s Open Space. Most significantly, his post Artists Who’ve Left Town initiated a rarely publicly accessible dialogue about how San Francisco’s arts community measures up to or relates to the larger art world. It boldly acknowledging the strengths and deficiencies in the Bay Area for fostering and sustaining artists. While a few of the responses to Pritikin’s post were justifications for leaving and glib dismissals of the Bay Area, most provided a sense of the deep commitment and vitality in the Bay Area that is frequently overlooked. 

In addition to Pritikin, Brion Nuda Rosch, a visual artist, blogger (Something Home Something), and curator (Hallway Projects), has inventively been creating projects, rather than just texts for his Open Space blogs. Bringing to mind Mike Kelly’s work on memory and institutional architecture, Rosch invited the artists on Pritikin’s list of sixty artists who have left San Francisco to create drawings of SFMOMA from memory. In response, Melissa Pokorny and Anthony Aziz produced two drawings that created a connection for those of us who remember people who have left, and for those who themselves have left San Francisco. As many of the response posts stated, the strength of the San Francisco arts community will lie in its ability to create and maintain connections to artists, institutions, and curators outside the Bay Area. 



1 Disclosure: I was honored to be able to exhibit my own work in SoEx’s new space and Art Practical is a recipient of the 2009 Southern Exposure Alternative Exposure Grant.

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