With surprising range, “Rituals of Devotion” explores the many languages of love.
When Amanda Nudelman started working on the show that became “Rituals of Devotion” at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts (runs through May 27), she came to the table with pandemic thoughts on rituals of care and apology. What she found in the collection addressing the subject surprised her.
“The core of that idea I was thinking about was the ways that we return to each other to care for people we love when something difficult has happened,” Nudelman said. “What I ended up finding in the collection was all of these really affirming connections in the realms of spirituality and interpersonal relationships within families. Both biological and chosen, between friends, and also the ways that we try to connect with our environment and the cosmos, and the way we imagine connections to things that we don’t know anything about.”
The result is a cornucopia of love. Examples of care between family and friends in the exhibition show up in Lee Friedlander’s portrait of his wife Maria, Nan Goldin’s images of her friends in “Ballad Triptych,” William Eggleston’s photo of girls on a couch, and a photo of Patti Smith by her friend Robert Mapplethorpe.
One catches the spiritual side of the collection via Mary Carlson’s diminutive porcelain figures, “St Catherine Reading (after Campin),” and “Virgin and Demon” along with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Hall of Thirty-Three Bay,” a print of Buddhas, and Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s series of gelatin silver prints of a hermitage, “San Esteban de Viguera, Spain (Light from the East).” The show also has an 1895 lithograph called “Madonna” by Edward Munch.
“I was so thrilled that they were open to presenting this kind of radical reimagining of the Madonna figure,” Nudelman said of this last work. “That was a really exciting thing to be able to pull in.”
The show even has space for a moment of self-care in Marina Abramović’s rose quartz “Black Dragon,” upon which visitors are invited to rest their forehead and chest.
Having such a variety of artists and topics fit under the umbrella of ritual was exciting for Nudelman.
“I felt like it allowed me to bring some of these things together, which are a bit weird or kind of idiosyncratic,” she said. “But it’s also kind of representative of the way the collection is very personal. A person chose these things because they liked them.”
A film program of short films focusing on rituals in relationships curated by her and McEvoy curatorial assistant Dylan Sherman“We Begin Again,” is in the screening room, adjacent to the gallery with the portraits. The show also features a May 17 screening of George T. Nierenberg’s gospel documentary Say Amen, Somebody.
Nudelman says visitors have an emotional relationship with the exhibition, often in ways she didn’t expect.
“People drawing this connection between those two parts of the project has been a nice thing that that I’ve seen come out of it,” she says. “There’s also a few loaned works in the show, and it’s been nice to see the relationships that I hoped would be formed, and the way that the collection is very open and flexible to have these conversations with other works.”
RITUALS OF DEVOTION runs through May 27. McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, SF. Say Amen, Somebody will screen on May 17 at 7pm. More information here.
Portia Munson, ‘Bound Angel,’ 2021; Found figurines, lamps, candles, string and rope, wedding gowns, tablecloth, extension cords, oval table. (Courtesy of the artist and P·P·O·W, New York; Photo by Henrik Kam)
Portia Munson, ‘Bound Angel,’ 2021; Found figurines, lamps, candles, string and rope, wedding gowns, tablecloth, extension cords, oval table. (Courtesy of the artist and P·P·O·W, New York; Photo by Henrik Kam)
When curator Amanda Nudelman began looking through the McEvoy Family Collection to organize her first show at McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, she noticed a pattern. During the pandemic, she had been thinking about collectivity — the different ways people come together — and, suddenly, she saw it in a new light. She saw rituals: artists forging connections with their surroundings and dealing with the unknown. She saw tools for transformation.
The resulting show, Rituals of Devotion, is on view at McEvoy through May 27. In it, Nudelman has gathered work by 25 artists across a variety of disciplines, including painting, photography, sculpture and assemblage. The show addresses the formal religious practices, mystical sites, family customs and everyday habits that give our lives shape and meaning.
Ritual is deeply connected to religion and spiritual gathering sites — where we forge feelings of divinity through worship, sometimes based on thousands of years of tradition. In San Esteban de Viguera, Spain (Light from the East), a series of gelatin silver prints, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg reveals an isolated sanctuary along a pilgrimage route from Barcelona to Santiago de Compostela.
Schulz-Dornburg’s photographs are taken from inside as light passes through the domed building’s window like a cosmological force. The images insinuate a passage of time — both historical time and the time Schulz-Dornburg spent taking photographs. It’s eerie to see a period of so many years condensed into one moment.
The profound embodiment of rituals can connect us to a timeline where, through performance, we affix ourselves to the past and the future. We create the framework for these performances by repeating certain behaviors. And as a result, the objects used during the performance become more significant — they are made special.
The connections between the artists and the objects in Rituals of Devotion are clear, and that relationship radiates out to viewers as well. Rituals transform objects, imbuing them with a sentimentality we can experience repeatedly. In Marina Abramović’s Black Dragon, for example, viewers are invited to lean against rose quartz stone cushions hanging on the gallery wall. I placed my forehead and chest against the rose quartz, feeling something I imagined to be supernatural. It was thrilling to relate to the work tactically. It felt like I engaged with it more powerfully — that I was a part of something greater.
According to social science, rituals do create more powerful feelings between ourselves and our surroundings. Researchers have found that, for example, when we perform a ritual while eating chocolate, like clapping, we enjoy eating the chocolate more. Social bonds are also found to be stronger when performing a ritual — and not just for the moment we participate in them. As I saw Abramović’s Black Dragon posted repeatedly on social media, I felt an engagement with the piece that extended well beyond the moment in the gallery, another effect supported by research into the long-lasting effects of ritual action.
Accompanying the exhibition is We Begin Again, a film program curated by Nudelman and McEvoy curatorial assistant Dylan Sherman, which shows work by Cheryl Dunye, Kia LaBeija, Adrian Garcia Gomez, Zackary Drucker, Wu Tsang, Bruce Conner, Caroline Monnet and Alicia Smith. The short films focus on how rituals are enacted through relationships: how they pass along knowledge and memory, how they’re rooted in cycles of renewal and transformation.
In my favorite moment of the program, Zackary Drucker tells the performer and drag queen Flawless Sabrina, “Because of you, I know that I exist.” There are so many times I have felt like this in my own life — where the existence of another queer person is the most transcendent experience of quiet affirmation.
Just outside the screening room, photographs from the McEvoy Family Collection show examples of profound tenderness in relationships, like Lee Friedlander’s photograph of his wife, Zanele Muholi’s images of lesbian couples and Nan Goldin’s images of her friends. These are photos that I feel lucky to have seen in my lifetime. Among the photographs is Dario Robleto’s sculpture Melancholy Matters Because of You, the bones of three hands cast from powderized vinyl records that belonged to his grandmother, his mother and Robleto himself. While the records in their original state would hold sentimental value possibly only to the artist, the intimacy of the skeletal hands was incredibly moving to me.
I found this sense of transformation throughout the exhibition, where objects once separate from us become something felt. In Portia Munson’s Bound Angel, found figurines (mostly ceramic angels) collected from garage sales were transformed, wrapped in string and densely clustered on a tablecloth made from beaded and laced silk wedding gowns. If I found a ceramic angel at a garage sale, I doubt I would be drawn to it, but in Munson’s hands, these unremarkable things became otherworldly. I felt the warmth of the sculpture’s lights on my skin, my face softened and I was more present.
I have long thought that meaning depends on someone caring about something. What Rituals of Devotion demonstrates is that meaning is also something we collectively co-produce. Through shared focus, love and care — and by attuning our behavior towards each other — we are able to suffuse the ordinary with a sense of sacredness.
Easter Morning is the title of Bruce Conner’s final film, made in 2008. It’s featured in Rituals of Devotion, an exhibition containing works from about 30 artists highlighting the devotional aspects of artistic practice, curated by Amanda Nudelman.. Easter Morning runs for a little over ten minutes. It is a spectacular re-make of an earlier film, the only one in which Conner used digital editing software to achieve and exaggerate his trademark jump-cut syncopation of filmic fragments. Terry Riley’s In C provides a haunting soundtrack, performed by an ensemble of musicians using antique Chinese instruments. The film’s camera glides about a San Francisco room overlooking the East Bay at sunrise, gathering and generating psychedelic effects.
The exhibition features several Madonna-themed images. The oldest is a famous 1895 lithograph by Edvard Munch titled Madonna, depicting a bare-chested woman who looks like a vampire, half alive and half dead. To the figure’s left are indications of sperm cells dropping down to a fetus that looks apprehensive about its prospects. William Eggleston’s Untitled (Two Girls, Memphis Tennessee) (1974-76) provides the viewer with two contrasting Madonnas, one blond and the other dark-haired, the former looking colorful and jubilant, the other dour and grim. An early 1959 photograph by Lee Friedlander captures his wife Maria looking out an open window during the first year of their long marriage, a harbinger of many such portraits to come. Mary Carlson variates on the same theme in two small porcelain sculptures with playful ceramic renditions of famous female saints, St. Catherine Reading and Virgin and Demon (both 2020). The fanciful glazing on these works makes them look like they are in a state of Tammy Fae-esque meltdown. A final Madonna-related image, Mother, Flower, Secret of the Flesh (2022) by Sahana Ramakrishnan, a large oil painting, depicts a mother figure sitting atop a flowering lotus holding a child who takes nourishment from a tree. Both are menaced by a sinister-looking crocodile at the bottom of the picture and protected by a divine mother figure at the top.
In an early photographic work from 1974, Robert Mapplethorpe sanctifies rock singer Patti Smith as the saintly subject for a small triptych, capturing her right before fame knocked on her door. The flanking wings of the triptych feature two reverse-facing prints of Smith’s visage viewed from below eye level, half-tones obscured. The central panel is tinted with a reflective, lurid purple. Nan Goldin’s 1986 triptych reprises images from her earlier series titled The Ballad of SexualDependency (initially presented in 1977), which are re-printed and tiled in groups of nine onto a trio of large format Cibachrome outputs. In this format, the original images of Goldin’s pansexual, heroin-addicted demimonde come across as a sequence of film stills adding up to a grim story of ruined lives. Susan Treister expands the idea of a singular work executed on multiple supports with 14 of her imaginative reworkings of Tarot sword cards, titled Hexen 2.0/ Tarot/Swords — Cybernetic Séance (2009-2011) — giclée prints that have been modified and elaborated upon with watercolor, bringing in additional references to such things as colonization and mass surveillance. Zanele Muholi’s Being (2007) is another multi-panel photo. Each of the three prints (two black and white, one color) features two young African women in a homoerotic embrace, almost but not completely nude.
Several works directly deal with shrines or altarpieces. The largest and most complex is Portia Munson’s Bound Angel (2021), an altar-like table covered with well over 100 porcelain angel figurines sourced from flea markets, almost all white, the majority bound. These are intermixed with disheveled piles of bridal attire and a few dozen electric lamps. It is a visually satisfying work, but I couldn’t help but think of its close resemblance to some of the late works of Ed and Nancy Kienholz. Outside of the previously mentioned Bruce Conner film and the Edvard Munch lithograph, the single most compelling work in the exhibition is Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Hall of Thirty-Three Bays (1995), a modestly sized gelatin-silver print that peers into a dimly lit shrine near Kyoto containing over a thousand statues of the Buddha in his Boddhisatva manifestation (“the Buddha of Compassion”). The image harks back to the bygone time when photographers had to earn their artistic stripes by mastering the subtle interplay of mid-tones, which
Sugimoto’s photograph does with a rare and resonant virtuosity, blending denotation and connotation with perfect elegance. A kindred group of photos by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg also evokes a commitment to the nostalgic spirituality of its subject, that being a medieval church at San Esteban de Viguera in northern Spain. With exquisite subtly, these images show the uninhabited interior of the church at different times of day, illuminated by sharp beams of sunlight that appear to be of divine origin.
Another group of works whose gestures suggest penance, deep reflection or obsessive-compulsive behavior depict the idea of ritual more literally. Baseera Kahn’s Lunar Countdown (2017) shows over a dozen clusters of five marks, each stitched upon a handmade prayer rug, looking like a record of passing days made by an incarcerated person. The work’s title tips us off: it represents the recording of menstrual cycles made under the auspices of several crescent moon shapes, a potent metaphor for the extreme tension between Islam and Feminism. Tacita Dean’s Line of Fate (2011) operates through five vertically stacked photographs of a hand clutching a pen, writing in what appears to be a journal. The hand is that of art historian Leo Steinberg, captured while writing his final manuscript in longhand.
Rituals of Devotion comes at a time when the art world seems mired in a tiresome banality camped out at the intersection of narcissism and money, pointing viewers in directions that are in no way new but nonetheless uncanny. It also revives irony, banished about 30 years ago for being exclusive and pretentious, after being elevated to an intellectual fetish during the prior decade. Three decades later, post-irony is now the thing that has become tiresome, even more so as the world falls into chaos while the post-ironic artworld insists on reprising Neronian violin sonatas. Dare we say that Rituals of Devotion points us toward a revived sublime? Obviously, it is too soon to tell, but at the very least, it puts some unusual cards on a table that match our troubled moment.
Well, the rain is back. Looking for an indoor activity to while away the weeks ahead? Good thing there’s plenty of art to see in San Francisco this month. From exhibitions by two legendary local painters to a group show raising the question of how art itself can offer a spiritual experience, here are five shows to check out in The City right now.
Dewey Crumpler: “In Space Time”
When I first saw Dewey Crumpler’s “Hoodie” paintings in 2021, it was like stepping into another dimension. This surreal world — which includes floating hoodies driving flying sneaker cars — is one that reflects our own social landscape, while offering a deft critique through a language of visual metaphor, specifically the image of the disembodied hoodie and the shadow it casts, the shape of which evokes a slave collar. Now the painter, whose murals have long graced The City, returns to Jenkins Johnson gallery for “In Space Time,” a solo exhibition of his paintings from the last 30 years, further exploring the visual emblem of the slave collar, especially how its circular form might relate to cyclical time, both in the Hoodie paintings and beyond, encompassing semi-abstract paintings of the repeating cyclical form, a meditation on Blackness and history and the potential future that comes from the void at the center of the circular motif.
Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Through April 9. Free. jenkinsjohnsongallery.com
Mike Henderson: “Chicken Fingers”
A legendary figure in the Bay Area arts, Mike Henderson’s latest solo show — his 15th at Haines Gallery — “Chicken Fingers” focuses on a turning point in the artist’s painting practice between 1976 and 1980. This period was marked by a broadening experimentation into abstraction, abandoning both his figurative style and overtly political content. Cryptic in both form and content, the paintings here range from large to small semi-abstractions, a fragment of a word or image emerging somewhere in the torrid surface of each: here, a ladder; there, a hand — the whole thing swimming with a sense of hidden meaning. “Chicken Fingers” runs concurrently with the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in 20 years, “Before the Fire,” at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, which focuses on work made between 1965 and 1985. If that show is the calm, then this one is the storm, a radical break from form that imbued each painting with the frenetic energy of exploration and redefinition.
Haines Gallery, 2 Marina Blvd., Building C, S.F., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free. Through March 25. hainesgallery.com
“Rituals of Devotion”
From the religious icon to the totem, works of art have possessed qualities of transcendence, and vice versa, in many cultures throughout time. But what about secular artworks and the experience we have looking at them? Do these works possess some transcendent quality, too? “Rituals of Devotion,” at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, pulls work from the McEvoy Family Collection and beyond that explores the theme of ritual broadly, as well as raising the questions of how making and looking at art can be practices akin to the spiritual. Standout examples of artistic examinations of religious ritual include Edvard Munch’s “Madonna,” 1895, and Portia Munson’s “Bound Angel,” 2021, a sculptural assemblage of found candles, figurines and wedding gowns. Secular entries include Robert Mapplethorpe’s venerating 1974 portrait of Patti Smith, and Nan Goldin’s documentation of friends and lovers from her “Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” By engaging in the ritual of looking at art, from the religious to the secular, viewers are invited to explore how art itself can move one beyond the physical. The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of short films in the Foundation’s screening room, as well as a screening of “Spirited Away” at the Roxie on April 12.
McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, 1150 25th St., S.F. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Opens March 10. Free. mcevoyarts.org
Hunter Saxony III: “You Have My Heart … It’s OK to Rest Here”
The first solo exhibition by the local artist who styles himself “San Francisco’s last Black calligrapher” brings new meaning to the term “illuminated manuscript.” Saxony III’s calligraphic works are often decorative to the point of abstraction, tessellating meditations on love, loss and homesickness. One series features Sankofa (Hearts) and Mpuannum (Squares), signifiers of the complexity of love and commitment, another features work made in collaboration with Saxony III’s partner, the tattoo artist Megan Wilson. The series “Nia Wilson / Say Her Name / No Silence,” blends ornamental lettering with found antique photographs of Southern gentry in response to the 2018 murder of Bay Area resident Nia Wilson, and raising questions about anti-Blackness throughout American history through a simple gesture of mourning. All four series included in “You Have My Heart … It’s OK to Rest Here,” on view at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, exhibit the artist’s breadth and technical mastery, while expanding notions of what the calligraphic form is capable of.
Eleanor Harwood Gallery, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free. Through April 15. eleanorharwood.com
In celebration of its recent expansion into the neighboring space at its Utah Street location, Catherine Clark Gallery presents “Sobremesa,” a group exhibition in the form of a dinner party that unfolds over time. The title roughly translates to “time spent at the table.” In an updated version of exquisite corpse, a classic drawing game among the Surrealists, “Sobremesa” features artists and artist duos adding leaves to an ongoing table each week throughout February and March, each responding to the one that came before. The individual installations vary from porcelain dumplings spilling out of a tanker ship, to reflections on climate change and same-sex marriage. In its totality, the exhibition reflects a democratic forum of artists in conversation, a reminder that art is always a dialogue, and one that offers the viewer a seat at the table. The final addition will be revealed March 9, by artists Reniel Del Rosario and Johany Huinac De Leon. Prior contributors include Deborah Oropallo, Michael Goldin, Amy Trachtenberg, Arleene Correa Valencia, Wanxin Zhang, Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet.
Catherine Clark Gallery, 248 Utah St., S.F. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Through March 18. Free. cclarkgallery.com
Colour is fundamental to art practices. Even monochromatic images derive meaning and create an impact from the way tones are selected, applied and combined. But where do you start on such an expansive topic? McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco, has struck a delicate balance with Color Code, diving into the collection and commissioning new work to celebrate how pigments are used to convey emotion, incite symbolism and connect people across place and time. In the show, Jackie Black’s photograph Last Meal of Charles William Bass, March 12, 1986 (2003) depicts a single sandwich on a small plate set against a stark black studio background. A strip of plastic-like cheese barely extends beyond the pale white bread, but it nonetheless reels in the viewer, contrasting with the other muted hues. The brightness conjures a surprisingly solemn feeling once viewers find out that the series is about people’s final food choices on death row. A similar yellow appears in Spencer Finch’s (b. 1962) Study for Back to Kansas (2014), an index of swatches from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy holds a bouquet of flowers after killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Here, the sunshine petals signify celebration rather than death. The juxtaposition is just one example demonstrating how associations made with palettes are always contingent, never universal. German-born Josef Albers (1888-1976) argued that colour is “the most relative medium in art” and that it “has innumerable faces or appearances.” To evidence this, the abstract artist placed various tones next to each other to see how they changed depending on context. Color Code serves a similar function, cataloguing some of the countless approaches used to evoke meaning from a spectrum of shades.
The McEvoy Foundation for the Arts has extended its fifth anniversary exhibition, titled “Color Code,” through Feb. 11. The group show explores how artists have used color and cultural associations with different hues in their work.
In addition to art from the McEvoy Family Collection by Etel Adnan, David Alekhuogie, William Eggleston, Marilyn Minter, Gordon Parks, David Benjamin Sherry and others, the four new commissions by Bay Area artists Sadie Barnette, Angela Hennessy, Clare Rojas and Zio Ziegler bring the show up to the moment.
The screening room program “Visible Light,” featuring short films investigating the relationship between light and color in the moving image, has also been extended.
Every December, we look back at all the exciting projects that went through our presses and highlight a handful that stood out. This year we printed over 2.6 million newspapers, so had plenty to choose from!
From a catalogue of punk ephemera to a 50th birthday broadsheet to a collection of stories from the Asian Canadian diaspora – here are 10 publications that show what a newspaper can be. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2023!
The here-there audio archive is a community arts project sharing experiences from the Asian Canadian diaspora. In June they hosted a pop-up ‘listening room’ exhibition at the Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto – this digital broadsheet features transcripts of nineteen audio stories alongside illustrations by Brian Jiang, Thamara Perera, and Lilian Sim.
“The newspapers were distributed for free to encourage meaningful discussions around the topics of home and identity beyond the life of the exhibition,” say designers Michelle Kuan and Emi Takahashi. “The familiar format made our exhibition more accessible and allowed us to connect with people who wouldn’t normally engage with the arts.”
As part of the Charlotte International Arts Festival, creative agency Ronin House Studios organised an exhibition commemorating North Carolina’s once vibrant ‘Black Wall Street’ community known as Brooklyn. Designer Lorenzo Diggins created this digital tabloid to accompany the show, featuring rarely-seen archival imagery of former Brooklyn residents.
“What I like most about the newspaper format is how experiential it is,” says Lorenzo. “You’re more present when flipping through it. And from a designer’s perspective, I love how the size gives me so much more liberty with the layout.”
This zine was the free catalogue for Torn Apart, an exhibition of punk and new wave graphics shown at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles this summer. It featured around 1,000 pieces of graphic design ephemera produced from 1976 to 1986, including posters, flyers, publications, clothing, stickers and buttons.
“The zine format was perfect for the fast, do-it-yourself aesthetic of punk” says designer Michael Worthington, who worked with Stephanie Lane Gage and Michelle Bac to create the digital mini zine. “We printed three different versions as each run got gobbled up really fast!” (The one shown here is printed on our salmon newsprint.)
Hip hip hooray for avid aerialist Anna, who turned fifty this year. Her pal Bob van Bekkum, a creative director, collected messages and photos from friends around the world for this special edition broadsheet all about her first half-century.
“A newspaper is such a tangible keepsake and sat well with Anna’s love of retro,” says Bob. “When she first received the stack of papers, it took a moment for Anna to realise it was all about her and not something generic about her birth year. It was quite emotional!”
“Making a newspaper was one of the most engaging and energizing parts of wedding planning,” says writer (and newlywed) Sarah Magnuson. Sarah and Ryan got married in October and used digital tabloid programmes to set the tone for their unconventional ceremony. Guests grabbed their copies from a bona fide newspaper dispenser, complete with custom Mags-Meyer Inquirer logo. On the first page was a letter from the ‘editor’ – Sarah and Ryan’s corgi, Rodeo.
“There’s so much you can do with the newspaper format,” says Sarah. “Having the creative license to include a Spotify playlist link, spreads of family photos and a crossword puzzle was ideal for our hyper-personalized wedding. I can’t tell you how big I smiled when the newspapers arrived!”
“The world’s most tasteful newspaper” is the slogan of Semaine’s newly launched print publication. Debuting with Norwegian singer Sigrid on the cover, the digital broadsheet will delve into the world of a different tastemaker each month.
“What we love about the newspaper format is that it feels like a companion as soon as you hold it,” says Semaine founder Michelle Lu. “You feel welcome to roll it up, put it under your arm, read it in bed. It encourages you to slow down and savor the ritual of reading.”
The Picaroon may look like a normal newspaper, but it’s actually filled with secret messages and clues as part of a puzzle pack from children’s magazine AQUILA. The escape room-style game puts kids’ pattern-spotting, codebreaking and lateral-thinking skills to the test as they race to save a space pirate from an intergalactic criminal gang.
“Our customers have really enjoyed looking for clues in the newspaper, but they also enjoy it as something to read in its own right,” says deputy editor Benita Estevez. Printed on our traditional tabloid.
Using all three of our newspaper sizes, designer Faride Mereb shares the life and work of Karmele Leizaola, the first woman to work as a graphic designer in Venezuela. Supported by a grant from 10×10 Photobooks, Faride studied Leizaola’s archive for over a year to produce a 3-part publication: the broadsheet opens up into a timeline and the tabloid and mini feature scans of Leizaola’s (rarely seen) work, organised by time period.
See how the newspapers come together in Faride’s flip-through video:
“Karmele Leizaola was a newspaper designer, so reproducing the work in this format was really important for me,” says Faride. “And given the current state in my home country of Venezuela – with government censorship and the military taking control over media – I wanted to vindicate the printed word.”
Faride is giving a lecture on the project next year and in the meantime the publication is being distributed to bookshops, galleries and archives (including the wonderful Herb Lubalin Study Center). She also recently held a solo show (alongside Sheryl Oppenheim’s ‘Book Related’ exhibition) in New York. “This is just the beginning,” says Faride.
The Fifth Edition is a one-off publication created by McEvoy Foundation for the Arts in San Francisco. The digital broadsheet, printed to celebrate the organisation’s fifth anniversary, features five original posters from the artists behind McEvoy Arts’ first five years of exhibition posters.
“The newspaper has given the Foundation a fun new platform to talk about their work, history and the artists in their community,” says Scott Thorpe of Macfadden and Thorpe, the creative agency that designed the newspaper. “It’s also putting in work as a promotional piece and attracting new audiences to check out the Foundation. People arrive at the gallery with The Fifth Edition already in hand and say the newspaper convinced them to come visit!”
Sydney McCourt produced this digital tabloid as part of her final major project for a Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at UAL. Through a series of intimate portraits and interviews with 10 LGBTQ+ people over the age of 60, Sydney aimed to “create a picture of queer aging and contribute to the collective queer archive.”
“I pursued a personal search for queer elders, hoping to create that community for myself,” she explains. “I chose newsprint as a response to the history of queer people’s stories being left out of mainstream media. It’s an ongoing project, so I’m planning on this newspaper just being the first iteration of it.”
Autumn is a nice time to look at art. It’s quiet and contemplative, and we could all use a little time to ourselves between holidays — or maybe you’re desperate to entertain family. Whether you want to add a few stops to your itinerary for the upcoming free museum weekend or get a head start, here are four exhibitions to check out in The City right now.
The theme of the fifth anniversary exhibition at McEvoy Foundation for the Arts — artists working with color — is far from revolutionary, but it’s a forgivably broad excuse to include as many knockouts as possible. Iconic selections from the McEvoy Family Collection, including Wayne Thiebaud and William Eggleston, mingle with four newly commissioned works by Bay Area artists Sadie Barnett, Angela Hennessy, Clare Rojas and Zio Ziegler. Entries from both the old and new vanguards offer wide interpretations of the concept of color, from the aesthetic concerns of Donald Judd’s geometric sculptures or Rojas’s color field portraits, to social issues of race in Gordon Parks’s and Barnett’s documentary photographs. And both approaches offer visitors new ways of seeing. McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, 1150 25th St. Building B, S.F. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday, Free.
Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate
This double feature smorgasbord co-presented at Casemore Gallery and Rena Bransten Gallery, both housed inside Minnesota Street Project in the Dogpatch, offers more art than some museums do in their entirety. Showcasing work from both galleries’ stables as well as private collections, the exhibition, whose title is a callback to a phrase printed on the IBM punchcard of yesteryear, brings together over 20 artists pushing boundaries with analog techniques across photography, painting, sculpture and video. Highlights include one of David Hockney’s explosive Cubist photo collages, a pair of Raymond Saunders’ sculptural paintings on wooden doors and Daisuke Yokota’s photographic prints of chemically manipulated film. There’s a wise irreverence to the whole affair, reminding us that the rules of art need not be taken too seriously and that even rigorous experimentation can be a playful pursuit. Casemore Gallery and Rena Bransten Gallery at Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. 12-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Free.
Mona Kuhn: Timeless
Mona Kuhn’s photographs, blurry and bright, feel like calling cards for a cult of beauty. Coinciding with the publication of her retrospective monograph, “Works” (Thames & Hudson, 2021), this exhibition presents a modest sampling from six series spanning the artist’s nearly three-decade career. Each series offers variations on Kuhn’s evergreen themes and techniques — soft focus, muted tones and nudes — which she developed shooting the residents of a French naturist colony and has expanded to include nature and architecture. The pictures in “Timeless” live up to the exhibition’s title: a modern take on classical principles of aesthetics. EUQINOM Gallery, 1295 Alabama St., 12-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Free.
Nudes, skulls and botanical still lifes are about as painterly as art gets, but subject matter isn’t the only way Richard Learoyd blurs the line between painting and photography. For starters, he makes his pictures using a giant camera obscura, a room-sized camera originally utilized by ancient and classical painters and draftsmen to trace projections. Now, in his fifth solo show at Fraenkel Gallery, he’s taken to drawing on his photographs with string, whether incorporating string into the still lifes or exposing it on top of the photographic paper itself. The breathtaking triptych “Drawing with straight lines,” 2021, which shows an elephant skull at different angles, includes both varieties of string to the effect of an overlaid scientific sketch, exemplifying how Learoyd’s latest technique pushes his pictures past pure representation. Fraenkel Gallery, 49 Geary St., S.F. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Free.
Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors
When Ragnar Kjartansson’s “The Visitors” first showed at SFMOMA in 2017, I went every weekend of its six-month engagement and never failed to weep. Now, the Icelandic artist’s hour-long, nine-screen video installation is back. In the achingly simple piece, a band performs a folk ballad penned by Kjartansson’s ex-wife, each musician filmed separately in a different room of a rustic Hudson Valley house. “The Visitors” captures the ineffable power of music to unify people, through a feeling of yearning connection, as the isolated instrumentalists harmonize. Even Kjartansson, who can be seen on screen, strumming his guitar in the bathtub, is moved to tears. SFMOMA, 151 3rd St., 1–8 p.m. Thursday and 10 a,m.-5 p.m. Friday-Tuesday, Free-$30.
The Asian Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have announced the creation of the San Francisco Free Museum Weekend, which will feature 21 organizations over the weekend of Dec. 3 and 4.
The two-day event is being underwritten by anonymous donors so that no participating institution will have to suffer a financial loss.
“The San Francisco Free Museum Weekend couldn’t come at a better time,” said Jay Xu, the director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. “As we re-emerge from the challenges of the past months, Bay Area museums are here to help our communities reconnect with each other and with the artists that inspire them.”
On Dec. 3, the institutions that will waive admission costs include the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s de Young Museum and Legion of Honor; Cartoon Art Museum; Museum of Craft and Design; the Walt Disney Family Museum; California Academy of Sciences; GLBT Historical Society Museum; American Bookbinders Museum: Letterform Archive; SF Camerawork; McEvoy Foundation for the Arts: Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye; Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco and the Minnesota Street Project.
The next day, downtown museums with free admissions include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Contemporary Jewish Museum; Museum of African Diaspora; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Children’s Creativity Museum ; Asian Art Museum; and Exploratorium. Special exhibitions on view that will also be free for museumgoers include retrospectives of painters Diego Rivera and Joan Brown at SFMOMA and a celebration of painter Bernice Bing at the Asian Art Museum.
“In these economically challenging and politically divided times, museums provide a critical place of discourse, reflection and inspiration,” Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, said in a statement. “Increasing access to art spaces and removing barriers to experiencing art is crucial.”
SFMOMA director Christopher Bedford called the initiative “a great testament to the vibrant, resilient and boundary-pushing arts community here” and told The Chronicle the museum is “grateful to join our peers in this communal celebration of the art, culture, and creativity that has long put San Francisco on the map.”
The free weekend comes as San Francisco’s visual arts scene has made several additions to its cultural cache, among them the opening of the new Institute of Contemporary Art in the Dogpatch neighborhood in October, the premiere of several major fall shows as well as the upcoming reveal of the Central Subway public art project.
It also comes at a time the city continues to deal with worldwide criticism about how it handles challenges of addiction, the unhoused on the streets and the overall slowdown in foot traffic downtown. In August, a New York Times article on the San Francisco art community said these issues had put the city’s museums and galleries into a decline.
San Francisco Free Museum Weekend organizers acknowledged “San Francisco is among the last American cities to show signs of recovery after the closures of the pandemic’s height” but added that they hope the event will mark “the reawakening and revitalization of a city that has long championed creativity, experimentation, and innovation.”
Color Code is an exceedingly complex and well-curated exhibition featuring works by 35 artists, almost all of whom bring a 21st-century perspective to the exploration and re-examination of color. In the words of exhibition curator Susan Miller, “Color shapes our moods, drives our behaviors and frames our humanity,” speaking to us “with clues and codes.” Scant attention is given to early 20th-century notions of color emphasizing optical mechanics, implying a universalist escape from hidebound cultural narratives. Instead, the emphasis rests on color as a signifier functioning as a wry proxy for the contestation of social space. Most of the works in Color Code were selected from the McEvoy Family Collection, with four more that were specially commissioned. Their interplays are subtle, provocative and delightful, marking a welcome deviation from other group exhibitions that often look like poorly considered flea markets.
One of the earliest works in the exhibition is an untypical piece by the high priest of color-for-the-sake of color, Josef Albers. It is not one of his famous Homage to the Square works, but a record album cover that he designed in 1960 for a musical ensemble called The Command All-Stars, graphically formulated as a dispersed cluster of subtly variated blue, black and gray circles. Two other works also functioned as album covers. One was Yves Klein’s Conference á la Sorbonne (1959), a monochrome field of blended cobalt and ultramarine blue. The other is an infrared photograph by Andee Nathanson from 1968 titled Christina Frka, the ghoulish image on Frank Zappa’s 1969 solo album Hot Rats.
The installation of Color Code sets up interesting dialogs between individual works. For example, Donald Judd’s Untitled piece from 1987 pairs well with Carol Bove’s 2016 Obsidian Mirror. Both feature material juxtapositions of hard and soft components, with Judd’s work advancing a brittle geometry that contrasts with the biomorphic grace of Bove’s sculpture. Both find a kindred spirit in Katherina Fritsch’s Golden Ball (1999), a small sphere covered with multiple layers of translucent gold paint intimating internal illumination. Etel Adnan’s Untitled work from 2013 also glows by juxtaposing a lush field of rust orange against facets of sky blue, demonstrating how a small painting can command more space than its amalgamation of materials might otherwise suggest.
Another shrewd bit of visual dialog appears in the relationship between Wayne Thiebaud’s Lipsticks (1964) and a choice untitled painting on paper by Richard Diebenkorn from 1987. Diebenkorn created it near the end of his longstanding Ocean Park series, this time with visibly different layers of colored gouache that seem to bleed through and break out from a compositional structure that appears to be collapsing.
Thiebaud’s painting is a straightforward still-life depicting metallic lipstick canisters lined up in rigid formation, sporting hues that sardonically approximate a conventional painter’s palate. Exaggerated cosmetic artifice can also be seen in Marilyn Minter’s Spyder (2006), a hyper-baroque chromogenic print based on one of the artist’s well-known paintings showing a bedazzled eyelash, emphasizing the saccharine attributes of glamour and femininity.
Works by Petra Cortright and James Welling activate the machinations of the digital toolbox to create spectacular images drenched in iridescent color. In the case of Welling’s 0075 (2006), a multi-generational image starts from interior photographs of Phillip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut, capturing and exaggerating the interplay of light refractions. Cortright’s KRNKNKSSNBTRGVRGLCH (2015) cuts, juggles, pastes and transforms a plentitude of found image fragments into a chromatic whirlwind.
Many works included in Color Coded are photographs, some vintage and others contemporary, all well-chosen. Gordon Parks’ Department Store, Mobile, Alabama (1956) sets the tone for the entire exhibition. It shows an African-American Woman and her young daughter standing outside a store in late afternoon light, both dressed as if they had come from a church service, seemingly oblivious to the red neon sign above their heads stating Colored Entrance. Bruce Davidson’s color photo, Untitled Subway (1980), shows a woman clad in a bright red dress standing in the enigmatic shadow of an outer-borough New York subway stop. Andreas Gursky, represented by a very early work from 1980 titled Gas Cooker, takes a down-market kitchen stove as its subject, surrounded by white walls to make it appear as an archeological specimen. A headshot by Isaac Julian, Emerald Portrait (Playtime) (2014), uses a photographic process called Ultra Endura to capture the calm, reassuring face of a woman set against a desert background, intimating the presence of Buddhist deities such as Guanyin or Amida.
The four largest works in Color Code, each commissioned for the exhibition, summarizes the show’s overarching premise. Works by Sadie Barnette and Angela Hennessy show skewed family trees formulated from clusters of related components. Barnette’s Family Tree II is a dispersed display of about 25 framed works: photographs, collages and typographical fantasies dealing with domestic pragmatism. They add up to something akin to a decorated scrapbook commemorating the trials, tribulations and personal triumphs of an extended post-racial, post-gender community living in a large house in Oakland. Hennessy’s nine-part work, The Crew (2022), consists of an array of circular forms adorned with configurations of synthetic hair to which the artist added black enamel and gold leaf, intimating a tale of fetishized black bodies and stolen precious resources.
Commissioned works include three paintings by Claire Rojas, all frontal portraits of the same impassive face articulated in a cartoonish style. The largest of this trio has the face split into two vertical halves, while the other two display the lower part of the face covered by broad swaths of color, topped by cryptic indications of facial features that may or may not belong to the faces pictured. Zio Ziegler’s commission, The One-Eyed Man (2022), made from colored inks and gouache, is the exhibition’s show-stopper: an undulating phantasmagoria of color and pattern whose cascades of visual incident lead the viewer’s eye through a hyperarticulated virtual space keynoted by abrupt jumps in scale.