Josh Faught: BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For

Review

Josh Faught: BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For

By Jeanne Gerrity November 12, 2013

BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For, Josh Faught’s vibrant textile work, spans two of the three stories of the Neptune Society Columbarium’s central atrium. The weaving is one of three site-specific works seamlessly integrated into this idiosyncratic final resting place in San Francisco’s Richmond district, and formally and thematically it echoes its surroundings. The title is a hackneyed adage that nevertheless rings true, a fitting phrase to encapsulate an installation that, like Faught’s earlier work, combines irreverence and solemnity, kitsch and sincerity. Faught was one of four artists, along with Zarouhie Abdalian, Jonn Herschend, and David Wilson, chosen for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) Award in 2012, which features off-site projects during the museum’s closure and expansion.

Josh Faught. BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For, 2013; installation view, site-specific installation; hand-dyed and hand-woven textile. Commissioned by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy of the Artist and Lisa Cooley, New York; © Josh Faught. Photo: Ian Reeves.

Lapel buttons and fake plastic snacks punctuate the rectangle of handmade pink and mauve fabrics in the rotunda. The colors of the tapestries mirror the hues of the architectural details of the columbarium, as an eclectic soundtrack of mix CDs, ranging from classical music to 1980s pop, plays in succession. In the upper-right corner, a crocheted clock echoes the circular decorative elements on the adjacent columns and suggests the passing of time—certainly, a nod to the site itself. On the left side, a six-inch-wide strip of fabric includes tasseled pockets with greeting cards that acknowledge aging and disease with humor and inevitability. The faux cookies, pretzels, and even nachos attached to the cloth are a nod to the offerings left at the niches of the deceased. On the day I arrived, a visitor had laid out pork, tofu, and candy with a napkin and cup of water for a loved one near Faught’s piece, unintentionally drawing a direct connection to the artist’s incorporation of food into his weavings.

Josh Faught. BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For (detail), 2013; site-specific installation; hand-dyed and hand-woven textile. Commissioned by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy of the Artist and Lisa Cooley, New York; © Josh Faught. Photo: Ben Blackwell.

The legacy of three-dimensional collage and 1970s feminist and queer art practices is evident in BE BOLD For What You Stand For. An artist like Robert Rauschenberg intended to bridge the gap between art and life with his combines, which often incorporated everyday objects—a quilt, a tire, or a taxidermied eagle—that could be interpreted as ambiguous symbolic elements. Similarly, Faught’s installation includes quotidian items, such as a VHS cassette of 9 to 5 (1980), that act as signifiers in narratives both historical and personal. Faught is also conceptually indebted to artists like Faith Wilding and Miriam Schapiro, who insist on fabric not only as a viable material, but also as an expression of activism. The politics of BE BOLD For What You Stand For are not overt, but they are still present, subtly marking the shifts queerness has undergone as a marginalized status. For example, one button reads “End Homosexual Privilege” intersected by a rainbow bar. The context of the columbarium as a site of mourning for the gay community during the onset of the AIDS crisis1 also inevitably puts Faught’s large, hanging fabric in dialogue with the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a project connected to the craft movement.2

Josh Faught at the loom in his former studio in San Francisco (in background: work-in-progress to be installed in the Neptune Society Columbarium, San Francisco). Photo: Andria Lo.

Faught’s engagement with the history of assemblage and craft has resulted in a highly successful site-specific work that expertly engages with its utterly unique surroundings. With BE BOLD For What You Stand For, he continues his exploration of sexual politics and personal and collective memory with an engaging blend of humor and respect, much like the Columbarium itself. In a city that lacks a strong public art program, the 2012 SECA Award projects have been an exciting glimpse at the possibilities of presenting work in unconventional places around the Bay Area.

 

Josh Faught: BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For is currently on view at the Neptune Society Columbarium in San Francisco through November 17, 2013.

2012 SECA Art Award is on view at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, through November 18, 2013.

Notes

  1. See Robert Glück’s personal narrative on the Columbarium on SFMOMA’s Open Space blog.
  2. The AIDS Quilt has previously impacted Faught’s practice more directly. His 2012 solo show at New York’s Lisa Cooley Gallery engaged with the AIDS Quilt.

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