This years ArtPadSF fair is as fashionable and hip as always. I arrived late for the press briefing, and so ended up touring the exhibition spaces as the benefit party for the SFMoMA SECA Award began. It was not an auspicious start for the fair, since I stayed through the duration of the benefit, because there was not much of a crowd. I learned later in the evening, when visiting the artMRKT San Francisco fair that their VIP party did not happen either. It is not an good way to start either fair, however I think the main reason for this is that VIP events just do not work in San Francisco very well. People are not willing to pay for them and there is not a social class of people who like to show off their wealth in this way, at least in the SF art world. This is one element that needs to be re-thought by both fairs because it is clearly not a success.
Moving on to the galleries and the art on display, ArtPadSF put on a show that was a little different than I expected this year. There were fewer galleries showing work that would be considered ‘low brow’ and more works that fit into mainstream aesthetics, be they those of refined high culture or the darker vision of mainstream counter culture. Whether this is a trend to stay or not, I am not sure, but it is one to watch. The last major economic depression that happened in the early 1990’s made way for a number of younger, edgier, and low brow artists to emerge and claim their mainstream importance. In that respect, it is a game of wait and see.
Brian Dettmer at Toomey Tourell Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Mark Paron (front) and William Edwards (rear) at Toomey Tourell Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
My journey through the rooms was sequential, from one side of the courtyard to the other on the ground floor and then up stairs in the reverse direction. My first stop was at Room No. 10, which has the Toomey Tourell Fine Art in it. On the walls were works by Brian Dettmer, who carves books into highly intricate wall and pedestal sculptures. Also on display are the works of local artist Mark Paron. Paron’s sculptures are made out of fabrics that have been folded, crumpled, and otherwise sculpted into abstract forms, much like the works John Chamberlin has created using steel.
Lyndi Sales at Toomey Tourell Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Another artist of note here is that of Lyndi Sales, who has intricately cut out works from in-flight safety brochures based on flight path maps. These works originated from the tragedy of loosing members of her family in a plane crash. Two artists whose work should not be missed are those of Edmund Wyss and William Edwards. Wyss has emerged in the bay area art scene in the last few years and has made his mark with stunningly photorealistic gouache paintings of vintage cameras and guns. William Edwards has made a name for himself employing simple ceramic forms to explore the alchemical processes within the medium.
Greg Haberny at Lyons Weir Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Greg Haberny at Lyons Weir Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Next door, in room 11, is the Lyons Wier Gallery from New York. The sign on the door says it all for the artist Greg Haberny. It reads ‘Dear Greg, What the F*ck is you PROBLUM? (Thank you for the ex-lax chocolate chip cookies….though) Your friend The Easter Bunny I pooped on the lawn!!!’ This artist is 'self taught', though he holds a degree in Media Studies/Film from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. His works take one every main stream fixture of American culture – the Easter Bunny, gay porn magazines, no smoking laws, the Christian church, among many others – and twists their meaning with a heavy dollop of dark sarcastic humor.
Fahamu Pecou at Lyons Weir Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Fahamu Pecou (detail) at Lyons Weir Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Standing out in the back of the hotel room were two large paintings by Fahamu Pecou. This artist got a job working as a graphic designer at a hip hop label after graduating from the Atlanta College of Art, and became upset that the singers who were getting the record deals were not those who were the best at their craft. Rather, it was those artists who were the best self promoters that got the deals. In response, Pecou created an alter ego and painted self portraits of himself in poses taken directly from hip hop and rap album covers and advertising, with ironic twists in the symbols used and in the titles of the works. These paintings are a direct challenge to mythologies and beliefs associated with hip hop culture, and reveal to us that much of what we see is just hype.
Tim Sullivan at Steven Wolfe Fine Arts (Image courtesy of the gallery, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Walking into the hotel room taken over by Steven Wolf Fine Arts (Rm. 13), I was caught entirely off guard seeing a video of George Kuchar, the legendary underground film maker who died on September 6, 2011. In the video we see Kuchar’s head and shoulders on the left side of the screen, a black space in the middle, and his feet on the right, both of them floating a couple of feet off of the floor. It is like seeing the magic trick where the magician puts the beautiful assistant into box to cut her in half – her head exposed on one end and her legs and feet on the other. The piece is by Tim Sullivan, who studied under Kuchar at the San Francisco Art institute, and later worked with him independently.
In Room 14 I found the Marx & Zavattero Gallery. They had a number of artists up on their walls, each represented by a number of smaller works. The ones that caught my eye were pieces by Forrest Williams in the back of the room. These works were each about 6 inches by 8 and depicted a male figure in one setting or another. Williams has made a career of painting male figures in a manner that leaves them almost suspended in the spaces they are depicted in, while at the same time showing us the rough beauty of both the clothed and disrobed male figure. His work challenges the typical depiction of the male figure in paintings – the powerful business man, the martyred religious figure, the Greek ideal of youthful beauty – by giving his figures mundane poses and by abstracting their skin in his brush strokes.
Freddy Chandra at Walter Maciel Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Robb Putman at Walter Maciel Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Brendan Lott at Walter Maciel Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Moving down the long axis of the hotel, I can upon the Walter Maciel Gallery in Room 17. Here there were works by Freddy Chandra, Hung Liu, and Robb Putnam – all of whom have well established careers. One artist whose work I was introduced to that evening was that of Brendan Lott. Lott’s paintings are replicas of photographs the artist found by searching through the hard drives of other people while he was using the file sharing program LimeWire. Choosing the most provocative ones, Lott’s has created works that challenge our notions of privacy and also reveal the vulnerabilities that we have exposed ourselves to when using new computing technologies.
Ian Huebert at Electricworks (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
In Room 18 is the booth for the Electric Works Gallery. Among the artists displayed are works by Bob Dob, Nathan Ota, Sandra Yagi, Lee Harvey Roswell, David Michael Bowers, and Ian Huebert. Surveying the room, most of the work here showed a consistent style across artists, almost to the point where I could not distinguish who did which pieces. One exception is the work of Ian Hubert. While employing the same relative aesthetic style as the others, Hubert’s works were all watercolors and his works all look like a surreal version of a vintage cartoon, with dark and humorous undertones in the compositions. This artist comes from Utah and landed in SF not too long ago. He is just emerging and is someone definitely worth watching as he develops.
One of my last stops on the ground floor was in the booth for the Mercury 20 Gallery from Oakland. One of the major highlights in the booth are the installation of bowling balls in the bathroom by the artist Charlie Milgrim. (Bowling balls are the signature material of the artist.) Ms. Milgrim has installed her work in the bathtub, which is a space she has repeatedly used to host her bowling balls over her career.
Dave Meeker at Mercury 20 Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
The other highlight is the work of Dave Meeker. Meeker is an artist who makes lighted sculptures and sculptures out of lights. Here Meeker has displayed two works, one of which is a small homage to the artist Dan Flavin. The other piece is a tall lamp made up of internally lit plastic shopping bags that slowly inflate and deflate through a series of small fans, all of which is supported on a copper pipe attached to a black cube for a base. The piece has a cool, edgy side to it that does not come through in my description of it. I highly recommend seeing this piece in person to experience it in action.
Heading upstairs, in Room 55 one finds the special project created by James Perley and Eliane Lima. Here the pair has created an installation with a video projection on the wall of the bedroom depicting a pair of actors having simulated sexual intercourse, and projections of the female actor showering in the shower and the male masturbating on the toilet in the bathroom. The experience is not complete until exiting the room, when the viewer can watch as others react and interact with the piece, through three monitors hooked up to hidden cameras in the room. The projections were made as site specific installation at the Phoenix Hotel to rethink the space and its relationship with memory, and to make homage to George Kuchar. The shower scene was inspired by George's diaries. The artists were asked to participate in the ArtPadSF fair becuase of their pieces being a part of the San Francisco Art Institutue MFA show, which was held the previous week at the Phoenix.
View of the Luggage Store Gallery booth (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Walking along the balcony walkway, the Luggage Store Gallery caught my eye in Room 56. Displayed on the walls and floor was a menagerie of works by different artists in styles ranging from graffiti to carved wood block panels to stuff animals to paintings to custom denim pants. This gallery typifies the counter culture side of the art world, which eschews what high society likes. It is work about the common experience, life on the street, and a culture in opposition, but which has demanded so much attention that it itself has become a mainstream in and of itself. This world could not exist, though, without the high society art world because it needs something to be opposed to.
Eamon O'Kane at Gregory Lind Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
Chris Gentile at Gregory Lind Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
The Gregory Lind Gallery had two artists of interest for me. One was Eamon O’Kane, whose work is new to me. O’Kane is obsessed with modernist architecture and depicting it in half imagined ways. The work on display is a painting of Philip Johnson’s glass house in Connecticut, but it is as if the house itself were not there because it is entirely in white, unlike the actual building. The surrounding landscape has been manufactured to alter it from reality as well, with the addition of a tree right in the middle of our view of the house. The other piece that caught my eye in the booth is a large photograph of what looks like a shingled wall, by Chris Gentile. The piece is entitled ‘You Can’t Win’ and at 30 inches high by 65 inches wide, it is a quite imposing work. For the series of work this come from, the artist was interested in re-rendering and re-shaping the objects in his photos to make the viewer have a hard time perceiving their shape. He has succeeded in doing so with this work, most definitely.
Ann Toebbe at Steven Zevitas Gallery (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
I found the work of Ann Toebbe to be some of the freshest I saw at the fair this year. Found in Room 41, the Steven Zevitas Gallery is showing a couple of here pieces this year. Her works are naïve and folk like depictions, in a manner not unlike that of Grandma Moses, of the interiors of apartments, in this case, created through paper cut outs, gouache painting, and graphite drawing on a panel. However, she has done this by taking all sides of the room and flattening them onto a single surface, with the furniture placed approximately where it would be in this newly flattened world. I was drawn to these works because of the simplicity the conveyed for handling visual space, as well as the sophistication they have in how they are constructed.
Matt Momchilov at Unspeakable Projects (Images Courtesy of the respecrtive Galleries, Greg Flood, and Richard Reisman)
The last stop on the gallery tour was at the Unspeakable Projects booth in Room 40. This underground San Francisco gallery is known for showing works that at once mainstream underground, and at the same time aimed to shock the viewer, whoever they may be. Walking in, one is confronted with a life size figure of Courtney Love lying passed out – potentially dead – in the center of the floor. The work is by Matt Momchilov and it is almost real when one first sees it. It is a fitting metaphor for my journey though the fair because I was very much ready to sit and have a drink.
Before I left to do just that, I took note of another work by Momchilov, entitled ‘Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall (Portrait of Jason as Milijenko Parserisas Bukovic)’. Here we see a shirtless male figure from the waist up looking directly out at us, arms cross across his chest. Covering his arms and torso are tattoos of the actress Shelly Duvall, who is most well known for her role in 'The Shining'. The figure is painted in de-saturated tones against a white background, which shows the shadow of the figure from the flash of a camera on the wall behind him. It is a haunting portrait that stays with the viewer long after they have walked away.
ArtPadSF this year proved to be a mixed bag for what was on show, with much that I have left unmentioned. However, this is to be expected with any sort of art fair that is created. In all, it was a success in terms of what was shown because established players got to show their new works and artists just coming into their own were given the chance to be seen by a wide audience. I look forward to the surprises that next year’s fair will bring.
For more about ArtPadSF and this year’s art fairs, click here.