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Greg S. Flood


Art Writing

'Confiscated': Michele Pred at Jack Fischer Gallery

Installation view of 'Confiscated' at Jack Fischer Gallery, September 2011 showing (left to right) 'Bull's Eye', 2011, 'Homeland Security Advisory', 2011, 'Untitled', 2011, and 'Fear Culture 2', 2011 (image courtesy of Jack Fischer Gallery)

In the latest show ‘Confiscated’ at the Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco, the Berkeley based conceptual artist Michele Pred has revisited a body of work that remains current in light of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks in 2001. One of the most lasting impacts of that tragic day has been the changes in air travel – specifically the items we are allowed to carry on planes.

Beginning in 2002, months after the ban was implemented on many common items and after a long lobbying effort, artist Michele Pred was able to get access to the confiscated material being collected at the San Francisco International Airport. The result has been an series of works created and exhibited by the artist over the last 10 years that are made from thousands of confiscated items. The recent most additions to this body of work can be seen in this show.

'Bull's Eye', 2011 by Michele Pred from the show 'Confiscated' at Jack Fischer Gallery, September 2011. Made from items confiscated at the airport. (image courtesy of Jack Fischer Gallery)

‘Bulls Eye, 2011’ (54 x 54 inches) is the one of the most visceral of the works on display. Here Pred has meticulously hand sorted and placed materials ranging from wrenches and lighters to tiny scissors, cork screws, and pocket knives in rings by color to form an image of a bulls eye. One is at once stunned by the orderliness of the arrangement and repulsed by being confronted by so many of these common objects that are seen as treats. Elevated on a pedestal only six inches off the ground, one instinctively looks around for small children to hold back from snatching up the items. The visual format is the newest variation on a theme that bagan with large 'stacks' of the material mounded up on the floor, showing the enormous amount and variety of material collected at airports. 'Untitled (Stack#2)' (not in the show) in the Di Rosa collection in Napa, Ca. is one of the first she made in this manner.

'Bull's Eye', 2011 (detail) by Michele Pred from the show 'Confiscated' at Jack Fischer Gallery, September 2011. Made from items confiscated at the airport. (images courtesy of Jack Fischer Gallery)

A subtle, yet very powerful peace is ‘American Red Cross, 2008’ (14 x 14 inches.) Here, Michele Pred has collected Swiss army knives in shades of red and arranged them in the shape of the American Red Cross emblem. The juxtaposition of the individual objects and the symbol they create plays on layers of meanings and cultural associations. The knife is a utilitarian object and a weapon, while the Red Cross is an international symbol of peace and humanitarian aid; the Swiss are a peaceful people known for staying neutral during major international conflicts, America is the current global military super power actively engaged in multiple armed conflicts.

'American Red Cross', 2008 by Michele Pred from the show 'Confiscated' at Jack Fischer Gallery, September 2011. (images courtesy of Jack Fischer Gallery)

The body of work is timely and still relevant today as the U.S. is still engaged in the events that occurred as a consequence of the actions take that fateful Tuesday morning in 2001. Also still relevant are the lasting social changes that have occurred in American society. We have readily given up entirely or curtailed a number of the civil liberties that we once had. To document the changes in air travel, Pred has included a video of airport confiscation stories with the show. (Viewers are encouraged to contribute their own stories as well.)

Installation shot of 'Untitled (Stack #2)' by Michele Pred at The Di Rosa Collection in Napa, Ca. Behind are 'Rhinocar' by artist David Best (left) and 'The Great Battle for San Francisco' by artist Sandow Birk (right). (Image courtesy of Jack Fischer Gallery and The Di Rosa, Napa, Ca.)

The thoughtful re-evaluation that this work offers us has been reflected by reactions to the show by the public while they reflect on the tenth anniversary itself. “All of the responses to the work have been positive. No one has been annoyed or angry about it,” says gallery owner Jack Fischer.

‘Confiscated’ is on view until Oct. 8; Closing Reception Oct. 6, 5-7:30 p.m. at Jack Fischer Gallery, 49 Geary St., Suite 418, San Francisco; (415) 956-1178; Gallery Hours: Tues. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. To see more of Michele Pred’s work, click here.

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