March 09, 2018
What’s New in Photography?
Humanism, MoMA Says
A new group show called “Being” moves away from last year’s navel-gazing digital obsession to explore reality-based portraiture, politics and gender.
By Arthur Lubow
March 9, 2018
At the last survey of new photography at the Museum of Modern Art two years ago, the atmosphere was so self-referential and hermetic that a visitor panted for oxygen. Often, the photos were images of images, taken off a computer screen or digitally created in the studio. It seemed as if photography, which continued to engage with the world after modernist painting and literature turned inward, had finally crumpled into solipsism.
A lot can change in two years. In response to the last exhibition and to the intervening political upheavals, the show “Being: New Photography 2018,” which opens on March 18, offers a broader and more stimulating range of work. The rubric of “Being,” which is defined as “notions of personhood and identity,” proves capacious enough to include portraiture, reportage, fashion, and pretty much everything you can turn a camera on. (The museum decided in 2016 to present exhibitions with a theme rather than simply highlighting promising photographers.) The show includes the work of 17 artists — two of whom collaborate as a team — all under 45.
The exhibition was orchestrated by Lucy Gallun, MoMA’s assistant curator of photography, who worked on the last one and agrees that this year’s represents a departure. “The strongest takeaway from the last show was about the dissemination of images and the way images circulate,” she said in a phone interview. “Here it’s a much more personal, intimate approach.” She added that she “tried to emphasize the diversity of approaches.” A sampling of artists included indicates she succeeded in that.
Although questions of racial and gender identity and politics perfume the air, the best photography in the show touches lightly, if at all, on these subjects. One artist who squarely addresses the political predicament is Stephanie Syjuco, 43, a Bay Area resident who was born in the Philippines and immigrated to this country when she was 3. Ms. Syjuco employs diverse formats — installations, performance and photography — to investigate such subjects as the distribution of goods under capitalism and the persistence of neocolonialism.
Her large black-and-white photographs, in which she appears in costume, bring to mind the work of the Samoan-born photographer Shigeyuki Kihara, who also stages self-portraits in the pose of native women in the Pacific islands, reprising how they were depicted in studios decorated with ethnic props by 19th-century photographers.
March 02, 2018
Impact of Jim Hodges, Kara Maria gallery shows impossible to reproduce
By Charles Desmarais
March 1, 2018
I have a friend — a well-known artist and critic for whom I have great respect — who says that all people make judgments about paintings based upon what they see in reproduction. I do not, and I am quite convinced others shouldn’t, either.
Reproductions can be useful tools. They remind us of works we have seen in person; they hint at what is in store.
Considered in the light of works we know from direct engagement, they can suggest themes and patterns in an overall body of work. But trying to understand or appreciate art — particularly painting, which relies so heavily upon texture, color and scale — by looking at its photographic likeness is like tasting food from a TV screen.
Kara Maria’s exhibition “Post-Nature” at Catharine Clark Gallery (through March 17) and Jim Hodges’ “Silence Stillness” at Anthony Meier Fine Arts (through March 23) have little in common but their utter irreproducibility in print or pixels. You need to get yourself in front of the actual works.
Both artists do have old-fashioned painterly skills. Maria employs hers with what at first appears to be wild abandon, applying brilliant color using a range of abstract strategies. Upon more careful consideration, however, it’s clear that what looks untamed is precisely planned.
On a single canvas, she might combine daubs and smears, aerosol bursts, and broad, featureless swaths of paint contained within precise hard edges. Forms loop, streak and explode across the picture plane, giving here an impression of flat design, there the illusion of storyland dimensionality.
The visual metaphor of feral versus restrained is suited to the subject of her exhibition. That theme dawns upon us as we pick through the abstract tangle to discover minutely detailed portraits of animal representatives of endangered species. Some are very shy, like the wolf lost in a work on paper called “Moondance.” But even the big-eyed primate (a lemur?) staring out from the center of “Mayday” is lost at first amid the painter’s frenetic sensual assault. It is telling that the animals, in every case, occupy the calm and still moments in a frenzied, decidedly unnatural environment.
September 16, 2017
In the Future, Warehouse Robots Will Learn on Their Own
By Cade Metz
Jeff Mahler, left, and Ken Goldberg have studied ways to help robots figure out tasks on their own at the University of California, Berkeley. Credit Jason LeCras for The New York Times
BERKELEY, Calif. — The robot was perched over a bin filled with random objects, from a box of instant oatmeal to a small toy shark. This two-armed automaton did not recognize any of this stuff, but that did not matter. It reached into the pile and started picking things up, one after another after another.
“It figures out the best way to grab each object, right from the middle of the clutter,” said Jeff Mahler, one of the researchers developing the robot inside a lab at the University of California, Berkeley.
For the typical human, that is an easy task. For a robot, it is a remarkable talent — something that could drive significant changes inside some of the world’s biggest businesses and further shift the market for human labor.
Today, robots play important roles inside retail giants like Amazon and manufacturing companies like Foxconn. But these machines are programmed for very specific tasks, like moving a particular type of container across a warehouse or placing a particular chip on a circuit board. They can’t sort through a big pile of stuff, or accomplish more complex tasks. Inside Amazon’s massive distribution centers — where sorting through stuff is the primary task — armies of humans still do most of the work.
The Berkeley robot was all the more remarkable because it could grab stuff it had never seen before. Mr. Mahler and the rest of the Berkeley team trained the machine by showing it hundreds of purely digital objects, and after that training, it could pick up items that weren’t represented in its digital data set.
“We’re learning from simulated models and then applying that to real work,” said Ken Goldberg, the Berkeley professor who oversees the university’s automation lab.
The robot was far from perfect, and it could be several years before it is seen outside research labs. Though it was equipped with a suction cup or a parallel gripper — a kind of two-fingered hand — it could reliably handle only so many items. And it could not switch between the cup and the gripper on the fly. But the techniques used to train it represented a fundamental shift in robotics research, a shift that could overhaul not just Amazon’s warehouses but entire industries.
Rather than trying to program behavior into their robot — a painstaking task — Mr. Mahler and his team gave it a way of learning tasks on its own. Researchers at places like Northeastern University, Carnegie Mellon University, Google and OpenAI — the artificial intelligence lab founded by Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk — are developing similar techniques, and many believe that such machine learning will ultimately allow robots to master a much wider array of tasks, including manufacturing.
“This can extend to tasks of assembly and more complex operations,” said Juan Aparicio, head of advanced manufacturing automation at the German industrial giant Siemens, which is helping to fund the research at Berkeley. “That is the road map.”
Physically, the Berkeley robot was nothing new. Mr. Mahler and his team were using existing hardware, including two robotic arms from the Swiss multinational ABB and a camera that captured depth.
What was different was the software. It demonstrated a new use for what are called neural networks. Loosely based on the network of neurons in the human brain, a neural network is a complex algorithm that can learn tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data. By looking for patterns in thousands of dog photos, for instance, a neural network can learn to recognize a dog.
Over the past five years, these algorithms have radically changed the way the internet’s largest companies build their online services, accelerating the development of everything from image and speech recognition to internet search. But they can also accelerate the development of robotics...
September 16, 2017
Artist Nina Katchadourian Has a Keen Eye for the Overlooked
by Sheryl Nonnenberg
September 8, 2017
Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #12, from the series Seat Assignment (2010–ongoing)
Nina Katchadourian sees art in the least likely of places. And the least likely of those places, it can be assumed, was in an airplane bathroom.
It was there, during a 2011 flight from San Francisco to New Zealand, that Katchadourian, the Stanford-born artist, started messing around with the paper towel dispenser. She draped facial tissues, paper towels, and toilet seat covers over her head, and fashioned them into a sort of Tudor-style collar. Then she covered the bathroom mirror with a black shawl and posed for a series of cell phone selfies, all taken in the style of 17th-century Flemish portraits. The result is part of an ongoing series of airplane-related works—born of what she calls “curiosity about the productive tension between freedom and constraint”—called Seat Assignment, which will be shown beginning this month in a mid-career survey of her work at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center.
Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser, organized by the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, and opening on September 15, is her largest solo museum exhibition to date and includes Katchadourian’s video, photography, sculpture, and sound art, underscoring both her cross-disciplinary interests and her appreciation for life’s minutiae. “I like to put my attention on things that are generally familiar to a fairly wide audience,” Katchadourian says, “so that there might be some initial moment where a viewer thinks, ‘I know what that is.’ But it’s also important to me, in almost every case, to undermine that or second-guess it so that something I bring to the situation prompts a reconsideration or a double take.”
That attention to detail tends to produce a lot of humor. Consider her series Sorted Books (1993), in which she stacked books together so the wording on their spines told a miniature story (How Did Sex Begin? placed atop Uninvited Guests placed atop Human Error). Or take Katchadourian’s Mended Spiderwebs (1998), a series of color Cibachrome prints taken in Finland during a family vacation. Katchadourian found several broken webs and, using red thread, repaired them. By the next morning, the spiders had completely removed the red thread and restored the webs.
Catharine Clark, who has represented Katchadourian since 1999, recalls first meeting the artist through her sister in New York. “It was just this instant love affair,” she says. Katchadourian’s work is “so satirical, but in a way that’s so thoughtful and processed. I love her really sophisticated use of humor to get at issues that are really complex.”
Clark points to one of Katchadourian’s Sorted Books images in particular: “It’s two books: What Is Art? and Close Observation,” Clark says. “I feel like that’s her self-portrait.”
In addition to being her biggest show so far, the Stanford retrospective is also a homecoming of sorts for Katchadourian, who was raised on the farm, where her father, Herant Katchadourian, was a professor of human biology. Nina also served as an artist in residence at the Exploratorium from 2013 to 2016, where she created Floater Theater, a miniature theater in which viewers can see their “eye floaters” dance before them. However, most of her artistic development came on the East Coast. In 1996, Katchadourian was accepted into the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum. Her first big New York show was in 1999, and since then she’s exhibited around the world, including at SFMOMA, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Palais de Tokyo. In 2015, she was part of a group show from the Armenian diaspora in the Venice Bienniale.
Much of Katchadourian’s work has a playful side, though some pieces are more direct social commentaries, like The Genealogy of the Supermarket (2005), a sculptural family tree created out of the likenesses of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Gerber baby. Other series include Natural Car Alarms (2002), in which the sounds of birdcalls replace alarm sounds, and Dust Gathering (2016), an examination of dust found on artworks and windowsills at the Museum of Modern Art.
And what to make of Talking Popcorn (2001)? The sculpture connects a computer to a popcorn machine and translates the sounds of popping kernels into Morse code. “Something can be very funny and still be very meaningful,” Katchadourian says. “If you want to cast the funny against the serious, the challenge for me is to get both those experiences to happen within the same piece.”
June 16, 2017
Political art comes to the fore at Catharine Clark Gallery
By Brandon Yu
June 14, 2017
Stephanie Syjuco’s “Phantom,” created after President Trump’s travel ban, hangs at the entrance of the show “Juncture.”
While all corners of art now seem unavoidably shadowed by politics following the presidential election, the Catharine Clark Gallery was initially unsure about assembling a show focused on political response.
“For us, we were thinking, ‘Well, does it really make sense to have a show that is dedicated to that when so many of our artists are already thinking about these themes?’” says Anton Stuebner, the San Francisco gallery’s associate director.
Yet the seemingly daily intake of “fresh horrors” since President Trump took office, Stuebner says, indicated that many of these existing concerns had come to a head, the culmination of which is now reflected in the gallery’s current exhibition, “Juncture.” The show runs through July 22, featuring work, old and new, in various forms by several artists reflecting on an open-ended theme of politically engaged art.
To start, take Stephanie Syjuco’s “Phantom,” a blackened, thinly transparent American flag that hangs at the front of the gallery’s entrance, created after Trump’s travel ban to express the pall cast over American ideals of inclusivity.
Subsequent works don’t all deal in such political immediacy — though in the Trump era, the tide shifts quickly.
Deborah Oropallo’s “Smoke Stacked,” a video montage depicting a progression of superimposed photos of oil refineries, set to a terrifying score, for instance, adopts an added omen following Trump’s recent move to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.
Then there’s Oropallo’s “Made in USA,” a nylon rug lined with images of war weaponry and phalluses that considers not only the hand of patriarchy in warfare, but also the changing history of the Afghan war rug it imitates. The Afghan people “started making these rugs with our weapons in them,” Oropallo explains. “Our drones, our air force, and all of that. And what was happening was, the soldiers were then buying them as souvenirs to take back to America, which I find disturbing.”
On a local scope, Indira Allegra’s “Woven Account” features newsprint detailing Bay Area hate crimes (“People think it doesn’t happen here, but it does,” she says) hand-spun into a stretch of cloth. Another featured Allegra work, “Blackout,” uses a similar form of weaving, but with digital rendering, to explore police violence. The specter of politics in her art, however, saw no dramatic shift following the election, she says.
“My world hasn’t changed,” says Allegra, an African American artist based in Oakland. “The only thing that’s changed is that more people believe me now.”
While “Juncture” might have been spurred by the current Trumpian moment, it is not purely framed by it. The takeaway, Stuebner says, is to consider the ongoing nature of these political struggles and conversations.
Brandon Yu is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]
“Juncture”: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Through July 22. Catharine Clark Gallery, 248 Utah St., S.F. https://cclarkgallery.com
April 18, 2017
SF Weekly Spring Arts Guide: Art
April 5, 2017
By Jonathan Curiel
Jonathan Curiel writes:
A Nina Katchadourian video project is worth the wait, because the wait often results in laughter and visual hijinks. In In a Room Full of Strangers, Katchadourian — using toilet-seat covers in the bathroom of an airplane — filmed herself as a medieval Flemish subject who lip-syncs to the Bee Gees’ “Nights on Broadway.” That project made its way to Catharine Clark Gallery in 2014. This time at Catharine Clark, it’s The Recarcassing Ceremony, a 25-minute work that uses Playmobil figures and Katchadourian’s remembrances of a childhood ritual she had with her brother. Some of the figures die. In one scene, we see close-ups of the happy, colorful girls with this caption: “I was overcome with grief.” Katchadourian is adept at odd juxtapositions. As she told SF Weekly in 2014, she loves “this idea of what can you make out of nothing.”
March 28, 2017
Edge of Alchemy, the new film by Stacey Steers, will screen at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival as part of the program "Shorts 3: Animation." The film will be featured at two screenings at the historic Roxie Theatre on Sunday, April 9 at 8:30pm and Sunday, April 16 at 3:15pm.
You can purchase your tickets through SFFILM here.
March 22, 2017
Don't miss Nina Katchadourian's Curiouser on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX, March 12-June 11, 2017.
"The Blanton presents Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser. This mid-career survey will explore approximately ten major bodies of work by celebrated Brooklyn-based artist Nina Katchadourian (b. 1968), including video, photography, sculpture, sound art, and a live performance. Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser is organized by Blanton curator of modern and contemporary art, Veronica Roberts, and will be the first touring museum exhibition of Katchadourian’s work. Accompanying the exhibition is the first substantial catalogue devoted to the artist’s career, to be published in partnership with UT Press.
Katchadourian’s practice is at once conceptually rigorous and alluringly accessible. Her work reveals the creative potential, to use the artist’s words, that “lurks within the mundane” and underscores the remarkable freedom and productivity that can come from working within limitations. Using ingenuity and humor, her work encourages us to reinvigorate our own sense of curiosity and creativity, and to see our everyday surroundings as a site of discovery and possibility."
March 14, 2017
March 07, 2017
Curiouser and Curiouser: The Art of Nina Katchadourian
i-D: The Fifth Sense
March 6, 2017
By Jodi Bartle
"Remember those aeroplane selfies of a woman draped in paper toilet seat covers and collared by hand towels looking uncannily Vermeer-esque that went viral a few years ago? Those portraits by American conceptual artist Nina Katchadourian are part of an ongoing project that uses only objects available on a flight to examine boredom, time and constraints, documented via her mobile phone. Seat Assignment (2010) also takes in covert photos of sleeping co-passengers, peanuts rephotographed to look like giant public sculptures, packaged salt spilled onto magazines to resemble Victorian phantasmagoria and photographs of a sweater shaped into a gorilla. In Katchadourian’s other works, she has pioneered the art of reworking book titles into pithy phrases, delved into dusty MoMA corners, DJ’ed at on-hold music dance parties using only music sourced from when she’s been stuck on hold, and mended broken spiderwebs with red thread."
February 28, 2017
Catharine Clark Gallery at Art on Paper NY 2017
Art on Paper 2017 | Booth C4
Pier 36 | 299 South Street | New York City
March 2 - 5, 2017
NEW YORK: Catharine Clark Gallery is pleased to announce its participation in Art on Paper 2017. The gallery’s presentation at Booth C4 will feature new and recent works by Josephine Taylor and Stacey Steers that expand the boundaries for works on paper.
Booth C4 features stunning acrylic and graphite works from Josephine Taylor’s 2016 exhibition, Teenagers are Beautiful. Inspired by everyday scenes near a public San Francisco high school, these drawings explore the physical proximity, sense of place and intrinsic beauty of teenagers. With a nod to adolescent tagging and graffiti, Taylor’s portrays her subjects with acrylic inks sprayed through an airbrush gun, using both freehand technique and hand-cut stencils.
Many of the figures are rendered at life size, lending a sense of gravity to a world of backpacks and purses, dirty corners, clutter and wild messes of an adolescent milieu. Taylor’s new body of work illuminates everything adults forget about teenage life. The hierarchy of needs is narrow: sex, romance, friendship, drugs and music. The desire for intimacy reigns supreme. Experience trumps landscape, and love eclipses logic. Instead of criticizing teenage desire, Taylor’s work encourages viewers to be galvanized by the potential of living in a more purely visceral, emotional space, and her works on paper depict a glimpse into the raw and beautiful landscape of contemporary adolescence. For Taylor’s presentation at Art on Paper, Catharine Clark Gallery will also debut a series of new limited edition monoprints produced in collaboration with master printer Paul Mullowney.
Booth B4 will also feature a new film by Stacey Steers, Edge of Alchemy, as well as a series of handwork collages used for the film’s production. A Creative Capital project with additional support from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Edge of Alchemy concludes a trilogy of films including Phantom Canyon (2006) and Night Hunter (2011) that examine the psychological terrain of women’s inner worlds. By way of a painstaking and labor-intensive process, Steers assembled over 6,000 handworked photo collages, re-imagining American silent film actors Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor in a phantasmagoric narrative of creation and monstrous hybridities inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Fragments of historical etchings and photographs are combined to construct surreal settings: dreamlike topographies where barren fields are covered with dead bees and chartreuse flowers, and dark recesses where laboratories lost in time are outfitted with strange ironwork and ominous red beakers.
Steers’ collage technique is layered, intimate and suggestive, and the fantastastical lifeworlds her collages embody reflect upon “the way we process experience and form memories subliminally,” as noted by the artist. Edge of Alchemy also reveals the startling emotional immediacy in early silent film performances by lingering over “fleeting expressions and extend(ing) them in a way that” richly expands what Steers cogently defines as “a state of interiority.” The film is accompanied by an original score by Lech Jankowski (Brothers Quay). Catharine Clark Gallery is also pleased to exhibit a series of curtains and scarves produced in collaboration with OPEN EDITIONS, which incorporate floral motifs from Edge of Alchemy.
February 16, 2017
Deborah Oropallo @ Catharine Clark
February 10, 2017
by David M. Roth
"Since taking up digital painting in the late 1990s, Deborah Oropallo has developed an arsenal of visceral imagery that grabs viewers and leaves them questioning whether her intent to terrorize, enlighten, empower or all three. Where fairy tales once served an equivalent function, Oropallo’s art, which draws on modern and ancient fables, warns of dangers lurking in the darker recesses of the Internet. More recently, with the right-wing takeover of American government, her work has turned pointedly political, all the while retaining the tantalizing visual provocations and post-feminist themes that have elevated her to her present position. All are thrillingly encapsulated in her current show, Bell the Cat."
Read the full article here.
January 31, 2017
"Floating Realities" explores globalization
The Daily Titan
January 30, 2017
Goliath snakes and pale ghosts fill the space of Masami Teraoka’s watercolor painting “Makiki Heights Disaster” in his “Study for AIDS” series.
Using snakes as a symbol of fear and taking inspiration from the flood that hit close to home, Teraoka was able to depict the effect AIDS was producing in 1980s culture in this 1987 painting.
Teraoka’s art is displayed in the CSUF Begovich Gallery “Floating Realities.” Teraoka took inspiration from the Japanese wood block art called Ukiyo-E.
January 18, 2017
Catharine Clark Gallery will be closed on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington.
To participate in a Women's March in the Bay Area, click here.
January 05, 2017
Oropallo breaks mold of happily ever after
By Charles Demarais
January 5, 2017
Unlike many artists who achieve regional and national notice early in their careers, then copy themselves forever after, Deborah Oropallo, at 62, continues to push herself and her process.
Oropallo was first celebrated for her facility as a painter — her work was included in the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 1998, and a retrospective organized in 2001 by the San Jose Museum of Art traveled to two other West Coast museums. She has since adopted a hybrid technique of digitally tweaked photography and hand-worked paint that answers questions — about real and image, depiction and imagination — that we didn’t know we had.
The artist will give a talk about her work this weekend in conjunction with the opening of her latest exhibition, “Bell the Cat,” at Catharine Clark Gallery.
“‘Bell the Cat’ draws inspiration from fairy tales like Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood,” says a gallery press release, “as iconic texts that have shaped how we relate to ‘femininity’ in our culture.”
From all appearances, it will be the perfect foil for this inaugural season.
The show, which also includes the artist’s first work in video, “White as Snow,” runs through Feb. 18.
January 04, 2017
Top 10 visual arts events of 2016
San Francisco Chronicle
By Charles Desmarais
December 23, 2016
“Stephanie Syjuco: Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime)”: When Stephanie Syjuco showed at the Catharine Clark Gallery, she pretty much took over. Her (faux) carpets were on the floor, her (rigged) photographs on the wall, her (two-dimensional) sculpture in the middle of the main room on a large platform. The media gallery in back? Yes, that became hers, too, to screen a new video work. The commandeered space referenced the takeover of colonial cultures by modern commercialism, American- and Western European-style. Sardonically funny, the exhibition prompted guilt and giggles in equal measure.
December 21, 2016
Catharine Clark Gallery Holiday Hours
The gallery will be closed from Saturday, December 24, 2016 to Monday, January 2, 2017. We will re-open on Tuesday, January 3, 2017.
Happy holidays and have a wonderful new year!
September 08, 2016
Dancing Around the Art at Catharine Clark Gallery
San Francisco Chronicle
by Sam Whiting
September 7, 2016
An exhibition of photographs and video inspired by dance marathons of the Great Depression will be accentuated by a modern dance marathon on a spiral platform built in the center of her gallery. The art is by Kambui Olujimi, whose sculpture and works on paper provide a backdrop for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Together they will present “Box Blur: Dance Word and Performance in Concert With Kambui Olujimi’s ‘What Endures.’”
August 30, 2016
Catharine Clark Gallery special hours
Closed: Saturday, August 28 - Friday, September 9
The gallery will be closed as we prepare for Kambui Olujimi's site-specific installation What Endures. The gallery re-opens during regular hours on Saturday, September 10, 11 am - 6 pm.
Open by Appointment only: Saturday, September 17
The gallery prepares for a Margaret Jenkins Dance Company ticketed performance Site Series (Inside Outside): A Response to the Work of Kambui Olujimi. The performance is on Saturday, September 17, from 3 - 6 pm. Tickets available on Eventbrite. Please call ahead if you would like to make an appointment to visit us: 415.399.1439.
August 13, 2016
Tickets on Sale Now
Dance Programming at Catharine Clark Gallery
September 12: Words on Dance and Catharine Clark Gallery co-present Beyond the Proscenium
Time: 6 - 8 pm
Purchase tickets : $75
In concert with the Kambui Olujimi's exhibit, What Endures, on view at Catharine Clark Gallery September 10 - October 29th, Words on Dance and Catharine Clark Gallery co-present a conversation with dance professionals on the topic of dance outside the theatre. We are delighted to engage Damian Smith, My-Linh Le, Margaret Jenkins, Julia Adam, Amie Dowling, Weston Krukow, and Kristine Elliott in conversation on Beyond the Proscenium, a compelling topic that highlights dancers and choreographers who have stepped outside the theater to create performances and experiences in unexpected places. This event is part of Box Blur, a six week program of dance, word, and performance in response to the work of Kambui Olujimi. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served prior to the conversation between the dancers.
As quoted by Lin Manuel Miranda, “the ability of words to make a difference," gives reason, and resonates the notion of why Words On Dance was created. What happens beyond the stage and beyond the theater? How do dancers relate and react to life transitions? With their performance life often constrained by the proscenium, the boundaries of time and space are restricted. Box Blur explores the themes that these circumstances present, and the beauty of stepping out of the idea that dance performance only happens in a theater. Beyond the Proscenium gives dancers and observers a new and unique understanding of the art form in an expanded field.
Proceeds from this special evening further Catharine Clark Gallery's ability to collaborate and present future programming in dance at the gallery.
500 Capp Street Foundation: The David Ireland House, Julia Adam Dance, Words on Dance, Mud Water Theatre, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, The Gugulethu Project, Athletic Art Productions
Image: Julia Adam Dance, The Woodland Project, David Briggs, 2015
September 17: Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and Catharine Clark Gallery co present Site Series (Inside Outside): A Response to the Work of Kambui Olujimi
Time: 3 - 6 pm
Purchase Tickets: $75
Catharine Clark Gallery and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company present a commissioned performance in dialogue with Kambui Olujimi’s exhibition, What Endures. Inspired by dance marathons of the 1930’s, Olujimi’s work, in part, serves as the stage for multiple encounters during Box Blur, a six-week program of performance, word and dance, which includes this unique event.
Commencing at 3pm with a prologue in the main gallery space, the choreography unfolds organically with a series of dance solo, duets and trios performed on Olujimi's platforms and amidst the audience.
The event promises an exceptional afternoon of art and dance, complimented by hors d'oeuvres and wine, and is an opportunity to witness the conversation between MJDC and Olujimi's What Endures, on view at Catharine Clark Gallery September 10 - October 29, 2016.
Photo composite: MJDC Dancers, Site Series (Inside Outside) and Kambui Olujimi, "Just Because We're Magic Doesn't Mean We Aren't Real," from What Endures, 2016.
July 21, 2016
"Political Art in a Fractious Election Year"
The New York Times
By Randy Kennedy
In 2008, when the artist Shepard Fairey created the graphically striking “Hope” portrait to support Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, it seemed as if a rich tradition of American political imagery reaching back at least to the middle of the 20th century — on posters, buttons, bumper stickers — was still very much alive. The art critic Peter Schjeldahl called the “Hope” poster “epic poetry in an everyday tongue.” Read more.
July 15, 2016
Benefit Evening | Hillary for America
San Francisco, CA: Join us for an evening in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, featuring a talk by Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, a video stream of work by the artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese (LigoranoReese), and more.
Tuesday, July 19, 7 - 9 pm
Click here to RSVP
Catharine Clark Gallery
248 Utah Street
San Francisco, CA
Former Ambassador to Hungary, Eleni Kounalakis, will speak at 8:00 pm. Appointed in 2010, Kounalakis was sworn into office by Hillary Clinton while Clinton was serving as Secretary of State. Ambassador Kounalakis has served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention four times. Additionally, she served for nearly 10 years as a trustee of the World Council of Religions for Peace, and was awarded the medal of St. Paul by the Greek Orthodox Church in recognition of her work. Appointed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Kounalakis has also served as a trustee of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.
In conjunction with the talk by Ambassador Kounalakis, the evening will feature a streaming of The American Dream project, a 30-foot wide public art installation of words carved in ice by LigoranoReese. The American Dream will be melting on the grounds of Transformer Station, minutes away from the sculpture site, during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. More information on the artistic duo's temporary ice sculpture installations here.
Any level of contribution helps the campaign. If you would like to contribute but cannot attend the event, you can do so here.
$5000 Co-Host (includes invitation to a future event with Hillary or President Bill Clinton)
Donors who give $500 and above will receive a gift from Catharine Clark of a gallery tote, designed by artist Charles Gute and produced by Open Editions, as well as a selection of LigoranoReese and HumanKindCo postcards.
June 21, 2016
Syjuco discovers the colors of ‘neutrality’
By Charles Desmarais
San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, June 10, 2016
There is a technical concept in photography and film of “neutral gray,” a tone that most of us would perceive as halfway between black and white. Stephanie Syjuco wants you to know that, physics aside, images are never neutral.
Born in the Philippines — first a colony of Spain and then of the United States — Syjuco has shown in her work a continuing interest in the kind of cultural subjugation that inevitably accompanies colonialism. That would include both historic, military imperialism and the current form of, mostly, economic neocolonialism. Rather than preach or harangue, however, she brings to her art a sense of humor and an acute understanding of the often barely visible remnants of those systems.
In “Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime),” a tightly structured exhibition at Catharine Clark Gallery, Syjuco examines the notion of neutrality from, literally, various angles. A large installation in the central room is a sculptural paradox: a three-dimensional structure built up, you soon realize, mostly of overlapping cutout pictures, propped up together on a platform. The images become characters — some human in form, others not; in flat monochrome, black-and-white or full color; ranging from life-size to minutely reduced — all actors together on a stage.
From the entrance it seems substantial. Walk around to backstage, though, and you see how flimsy it all is: a child’s toy theater; the proverbial Potemkin village. From the rear, everything is coated with paint of the same 18 percent gray — neutral gray.
The falseness of it all so blatantly exposed. What were those actors purported to be? The exotic. Oriental. Ethnic. Worn-out words for tattered notions of difference, matched here by the artist’s choices of found examples and images of sculpture, carpets, furniture, plants. Visual material that once had authentic cultural value, stripped of spirit and genuine function, demeaned by its ubiquity in inhospitable settings, lifted from Internet posts and auction sites, recopied from loss-y reproductions.
May 31, 2016
"SANDOW BIRK’S FEARLESSLY POLITICAL ART TAKES ON ISLAM'S HOLY BOOK"
BY ALEXANDER NAZARYAN
POSTED ON 5/30/16 AT 9:04 AM
Read full article: newsweek.com
It is audacious for any artist to treat as his subject the sacred texts of a faith to which he does not subscribe. It is especially so if you’re an atheistic Southern California surfer who decided he would create an illustrated version of the Koran, despite the long-standing Islamic tradition of not depicting the human form. But that is precisely what Sandow Birk set out to do. And did. His American Qur’an, recently published, is an unbeliever’s tribute to the message of Muhammad.
A few years ago, it occurred to Birk—who lives in Long Beach, California—that Americans knew very little about Islam, even while many of his countrymen bore so much enmity toward it. His search for the perfect break had taken him to Muslim countries like Indonesia and Morocco, and left him with the awareness that Islam wasn’t the religion depicted on Fox News. He knew he wanted to say so with his art, but he didn’t know how. Then came a 2004 surfing excursion to Ireland and, while there, a visit to the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, where a number of illustrated Korans were on exhibit. There, in a Catholic country, Birk realized what his Islamic project would be.
Published this fall after nine years of toil, The American Qur’an is Birk’s take on what he calls “the most important book in the world” in the past two decades. Though he readily concedes that he is “not an Islamic scholar,” Birk worked from nearly a dozen translations of the Koran, transcribing each of its 114 suras, or chapters, by hand. The text is in English, the font borrowed from both Islamic tradition and the famed graffiti culture of Los Angeles. Each page is illustrated with a scene from modern American life, fusing the words of Muhammad with contemporary tropes in a way that is unique and transgressive, especially considering the aniconism that marks Islamic art (Birk never depicts Muhammad in the book).
“I got sick of people telling me what Islam was,” Birk said one recent afternoon during a presentation at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. In front of me sat several fashionable blondes, including Birk’s gallerist. Next to me were several women in the hijab, listening as Birk—who looks well-kept and healthful, more Los Angeles than La Bohème—spoke about their faith. Worlds were colliding, in the famous words of George Costanza. But in a good way.
Birk says he studiously avoided Islamic scholarship while working on his American Qur’an. “I’m in the wilderness, and I receive this vision,” he told me over a beer after his museum talk. And wherever the vision took him, he went. For example, for the sura concerning Noah’s Ark, he drew a scene of Hurricane Katrina; another page shows the Oklahoma City bombing; yet another (Sura 44: “Smoke”) has the World Trade Center aflame on 9/11. But there are everyday scenes too, of ordinary Americans, Muslim and not, going about their works and days. For example, a sura on the Resurrection shows a busy operating room; part of the story of Joseph shows an immigration raid near the Mexican border.
Birk says he wanted to create a “Pan-American book” that represents all 50 states. So there are images of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia (Sura 18: “The Cave”) and of religious Jews in New York City (Sura 45: “Kneeling”). There’s even a NASCAR-style race. This is a holy book that is very much lowercase-c catholic, challenging the notion of Islam as a foreign, inscrutable faith.
Most of Birk’s work has focused on wars both foreign and domestic, real and imagined. In Smog and Thunder: The Great War of the Californias (2000) was an installation “depicting an imaginary war between San Francisco and Los Angeles,” with paintings, maps and even a 45-minute mockumentary. The relentlessly referential Birk created war posters that harked back to patriotic World War II imagery (“Bomb the Bay!”); one painting is an obvious reference to Jacques-Louis David’s Intervention of the Sabine Women, thus tying the fate of California to that of ancient Rome.
A page from Sandow Birk's illustrated American Qur'an. CATHARINE CLARK GALLERY
Birk can be accused of an algorithmic approach to art: the depredations of American life today filtered through the tropes of yesteryear, with his draftsmanship leaning on the vocabulary of painters past. Reviewing a show of his in 2002, New York Times art critic Ken Johnson warned that Birk “risks imprisonment by his own conceptual formula.” This critique ignores the fact that the formula is extremely effective and its results immensely pleasing to behold. In 2001, for example, Birk exhibited a series calledIncarcerated: Visions of California in the 21st Century, for which he painted all 33 of the state’s prisons. The faux-bucolic paintings recall the dramatic landscapes of 19th-century naturalists like Albert Bierstadt, except the eye inevitably drifts away from fields and streams toward the barbed wire and guard towers of the Pelican Bay State Prison or the California Institution for Women. The point is obvious, but the paintings are too pretty to be preachy. (He subsequently executed a project on the prisons of New York, which was the subject of Johnson’s tepid review.)
Birk was disgusted by the presidency of George W. Bush and its forays into Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, he exhibited The Depravities of War, 15 woodcuts he created at a studio in Hawaii. Recalling The Miseries of War by Jacques Callot and The Disasters of War by Francisco de Goya, the woodcuts depict the burning oilfields of Iraq, the humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and injured American veterans waiting for help outside a medical center.
“It would be fittingly ironic to say that more planning went into this project than into the invasion it chronicles,” Birk wrote, “but it was actually equally spontaneous.”
During his San Francisco presentation, Birk showed a photograph of an exhibition of several of his suras from The American Qur’an at the PPOW Gallery in Manhattan. In the image, a group of Muslims have genuflected, praying on the gallery floor, a show of faith that also, more subtly, has turned into performance art.
Not that Birk has any self-serious illusions about his work, which is art about religion, not religious art. For example, he had his wife, Elyse Pignolet, a ceramic artist, fashion a mihrab, or prayer niche, in the shape of an ATM, thus honoring the notion of faith while subverting it. If this art is blasphemous, it is respectfully so. As Islamic scholar Zareena Grewal says in her introductory essay to The American Qur’an, “Birk’s aesthetic sensibilities are simply too weird and too different” from that of many Muslims “for them to enjoy his work.” Grewal wrote that reading The American Qur’an “is a thought-provoking and enjoyable experience, but not exactly a religious one.”
When Birk first started to exhibit completed suras in 2009, some Muslims were skeptical, with a spokesman for a Los Angeles mosque telling The New York Times, apparently without having seen the work, that Birk was “misrepresenting the Koran.” Birk says that such concerns quickly subsided and that he’s received many thanks from American Muslims, who have felt maligned as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz compete to out-demagogue each other. In The American Qur’an , Birk says, these modern adherents of Islam find affirmation and inspiration, a surprising and welcome guidepost for their faith.
After his presentation at the Asian Art Museum, Birk stayed behind to sign copies of The American Qur'an. Later, he and I walked to the SFJAZZ Center, where he and Pignolet created three murals paying homage to the history of jazz, with its sorrowful themes of oppression, migration and homeward longing. The experience of black Americans escaping the Jim Crow South was far from Birk’s own. But that wasn’t going to stop him.
May 13, 2016
KVIE ARTS SHOWCASE
Discover more questions than answers in the secret details of artist Al Farrow’s creations, designed to capture the audience’s attention and inspire them to look deeper. From reliquaries made of weapons to sculptures in different styles, unlock hidden treasure in the artist’s collection.
May 03, 2016
In San Francisco, the art tribes and clans celebrate
San Francisco Chronicle
By Leah Garchik
May 1, 2016
Full article here
Installation photograph, Under Pressure, by Nina Katchadourian, at SFMOMA.
No T-shirts and fanny packs for these visitors. European spectacles perched on their noses, suitcases stuffed with architect-designed glad rags, art dealers, artists and art lovers from all over the country converged in San Francisco over the weekend, mostly for festivities surrounding the opening of the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (In my next column, I’ll write about the bash Friday night, April 29, at the as-yet-unopened museum — see story by Tony Bravo and Carolyne Zinko.)
There were so many artist/gallerist/curator parties around town on Thursday night, April 28, that many guests arrived at Jeffrey Fraenkel’s Mission Bowl soiree in cocktail attire. Some switched identities upon entering, rising immediately to the challenge of re-utilizing skills that had peaked in middle school, doffing high heels in favor of bowling shoes. Artist Katy Grannan, whose photo portrait of President Obama would be on Sunday’s New York Times magazine cover, was one of those in heels, which she gamely removed for barefoot bowling. In Big Lebowski circles, this would no doubt be taboo; in art circles, however, flouting the rules is mandatory.
Barry McGee, whose early career was about tagging, bowled too; so did designer Stanlee Gatti; art dealer Jessica Silverman; art collectors Cathyand Ned Topham, Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein and Randi and Bob Fisher; restaurateurs Lindsay and Michael Tusk; and Berkeley Art Museum Director Larry Rinder and David Winton, president of the San Francisco Film Society board, who claimed that he had the top score not only of anyone in his lane but of anybody there. Who was to argue?
The individual “players,” that is, anyone who stepped up to the lane for a whole game or a few frames, were artists; they stayed up there all evening, no matter who stepped up to the alley. On the lane in which I was to bowl,Tiffany Harker of the Fraenkel Gallery had good reason to take pride in bowling a strike. She was bowling in behalf of “Diane Arbus,” and it’s her job at Fraenkel to be a liaison to the photographer’s estate.
P.S. As to the non-bowlers, it was said that the father of Helen Schwab, pillar of the San Francisco art community, owned a bowling alley in Midland, Texas.
For weeks, events quiet and splashy have given fellow travelers/cousins not often in touch the chance to clink glasses or share a meal as part of the art family. At Fort Mason Center for the Art Market San Francisco preview on Wednesday night, April 27, which benefited the Fine Arts Museums, I learned that Max Hollein, set to become museums director on June 1, had been in town the week before and had attended a donors’ dinner at SFMOMA, accompanying museums board chair Dede Wilsey.
The Art Market, at which so many local and out-of-town galleries were together in one place for the weekend, enabled visitors in one fell swoop to visit the galleries that have migrated from the once-centralized Union Square district to the Tenderloin and DoReMi (Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, Mission).
At Wednesday’s preview, many of the San Francisco galleries (Ever Gold, Brian Gross, Rena Bransten, Nancy Toomey, Catherine Clark, one of the first to migrate) were exultant about their new digs. Some artists were doubly represented, by San Francisco dealers and New York galleries. (In one multi-institutional example, the artist Hung Liu was shown by Rena Bransten and by the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York, which in September will exhibit her work based on Depression photographs, many of which she found in the Dorothea Lange archives at the Oakland Museum of California.)
We paused for Michele Pred’s “My Body My Business” vanity at Hoffman; Dave Eggers’ “Crucial Artwork Involving Animals and Politics,” droll drawings at the Jules Maeght Gallery; and Nina Katchadourian’s “Under Pressure,” a selfie video installation shot in an airplane restroom, in which the artist, posed as an image from a Flemish portrait, responds to the Queen song of the same name. Strolling through the exhibition, it was inevitable to cross paths with grim-faced Stephen Whisler, walking the aisles pulling a cart on which rested a brushed metal sculpture of a bomb.
Early in the evening, Whisler refused to respond to stares from surprised onlookers. Later on, he loosened up. “I’m sort of trying not to break character too much,” he said, pausing to reflect on that challenge. “But who cares?”
April 26, 2016
Catharine Clark Gallery celebrates Art Market San Francisco's 6th season at Fort Mason/Festival Pavilion. Look for our curation of water and reflection themed work in Booth 401, On The Sea & The Mirror. Work by Sandow Birk, Rob Carter, Kevin Cooley, Chris Doyle, Scott Greene, Julie Heffernan, Nina Katchadourian, Ellen Kooi, Kara Maria, Deborah Oropallo, Masami Teraoka and Wanxin Zhang features in our booth. Please email the gallery if you need a VIP pass: Allison Stockman, [email protected]
March 24, 2016
CATHARINE CLARK GALLERY
248 Utah Street
February 27–April 16
Posted March 24, 2016
View of “Anthony Discenza Presents a Novel: An Exhibition by Anthony Discenza,” 2016.
Anthony Discenza’s meta-exhibition takes up the literary trope of framing devices and translates it into a problem of material information. The conceit of the show is an artist namedAnthony Discenza attempting to curate an exhibition based on an unrealized exhibition by another artist with the same name. To add an additional layer of complexity and uncanniness, the unrealized exhibition was, according to the catalogue essay, based on a novel called The Disappointments that does not in fact exist.
The works in the show are suggestive of the documentation of an artistic practice as it stalls out—either being literally blocked, as in Floor Study: Impedance, a floor installation of wheel chocks used to prevent movement, or remaining hypothetical, as in the vinyl wall text Materials List for an Unrealized Artwork No 2, both 2015. The convoluted heft of the exhibition concept, in contrast with the ontological flimsiness of the actual work, generates surprising pathos around the real and the fictionalAnthony Discenza, who seem to be drowning under its weight.
What pushes this show beyond an exploration of fictional identity is the way that the artist grafts these motifs onto his long-standing interest in the flow of information. Here, the focus is on its decay and degradation, literalized in the form of fading found posters of lost cats, as in the 2015 “Lost Cats” series and washed-out ink-jet prints in Composition 010, 2016. Even the exhibition catalogue is printed on newsprint, a dissipating medium that makes the disappearance of the artist’s half-realized ideas seem like a foregone conclusion.
February 26, 2016
Anthony Discenza Presents a Novel: an Exhibition by Anthony Discenza opens this Saturday, February 27 from 3:00 - 5:00 pm. Exhibit walk through at 2:30 pm. San Francisco Chronicle teaser review.
February 05, 2016
San Francisco Chronicle
January 28, 2016
By Kimberly Chun
January 26, 2016
"American Qur'an Is An Old/New Masterpiece"
By G. Willow Wilson
January 22, 2016
Images are the easiest way to lie. Images enter our minds as infallible: Few of us wonder whether the carpet on the floor is true or false, whether the person who smiles at us on the subway is real or unreal. Daily life would be impossible without this visual credulity. But the same instinct that tells us everything we see is true makes us intriguingly vulnerable to distortion and suggestion in art.
It is this visual vulnerability that prompts most schools of Islamic thought to prohibit images of sacred figures — prophets, angels, Allah — and in a few extreme cases, images of any living being whatsoever. In a religious context, images tempt us to worship the concrete rather than contemplate the abstract. It’s far better — or so the bulk of Islamic thinking goes — to leave the unseen, unseen.
That being the case, artist Sandow Birk’s massive, richly illustrated “American Qur’an” would seem, at the outset, to represent a contradiction. Birk prepared for this project — a full-size Koran, transcribed entirely by hand according to the exacting medieval tradition, but in English instead of Arabic — by carefully studying the rules of the art form. The margins must be a certain width; the medallions that mark one’s progress through the holy book placed at specific intervals.
But rather than leave the margins empty or decorate them with abstract geometric patterns, as is customary, Birk frames each page with lush, mural-like depictions of American life: farmers in their fields, clerks at their checkout counters, congregants at Sunday church; migrant workers, homeless people, hunters, surfers, men, women, children, along with cars, garbage, floods. An undertaking that could veer easily into sentimentality or cynicism does neither. Birk depicts the beauty and mess of Americana with the detachment of a photographer. And he marries the result — in a way that is at once baffling and oddly intuitive — to an English interpretation of the holy book of Islam. It is a masterpiece, and its flaws only serve its virtuosity.
December 11, 2015
Sandow Birk's 'American Qur'an' Makes a Sacred Text Familiar
By Katharine Schwab
Posted November 6, 2015
Read Article on Atlantic.com
Sandow Birk spent the last nine years creating an illuminated manuscript of the Koran in English. He didn’t do it for religious reasons—he’s not a Muslim. Instead, the American artist wanted to undercut cultural prejudices about one of the world’s most important religious texts, which Americans tend to associate with the Middle East and with violent extremists like ISIS. (The situation hasn’t been helped by negative portrayals of Muslims in the media.) Birk’s American Qur’an, which was exhibited in several gallery shows before being released this week in its entirety as a book, places translated passages next to cartoon-like illustrations, connecting the work with some of the most quotidian of American experiences: shooting hoops after school, fixing a flat tire, burying a loved one.
“You could make the argument that the Koran is the most important book in the world right now, and it has been for the last 20 years,” Birk says. “And for Americans to not know what it says is a mistake.” While Christianity is seen as a universal message, he says, despite its Middle Eastern origins, Christian Americans don’t see Islam in the same way. The urge to unpack this paradox ignited Birk’s interest in the Koran. His version can’t be considered authentic because it’s not in Arabic; but his main goal was to create a cultural, not religious, text. He hand-transcribed the entire book using a calligraphy inspired by graffiti from his neighborhood in Los Angeles. But he kept the traditional formatting and structure, including margin size, ink color, page headings, and the medallions marking each verse. For the illustrations themselves, he flouts one of the fundamental laws of Islamic art: no representations of humans or animals. Instead, his illustrations feature an array of people who reflect the diversity of America.
For Birk, maintaining harmony between his own drawings and the passages was one of the most vital aspects of the project. To do that, he had to focus on the words themselves. He found that many of the Koran’s stories and morals resonated with his knowledge of the Bible, which he studied in art history class. or Birk, maintaining harmony between his own drawings and the passages was one of the most vital aspects of the project. To do that, he had to focus on the words themselves. He found that many of the Koran’s stories and morals resonated with his knowledge of the Bible, which he studied in art history class.
For Birk, maintaining harmony between his own drawings and the passages was one of the most vital aspects of the project. To do that, he had to focus on the words themselves. He found that many of the Koran’s stories and morals resonated with his knowledge of the Bible, which he studied in art history class. As the Yale professor Zareena Grewal writes in an essay that opens American Qur’an, Birk is driven in part by the question, “Why can’t Islam be an American religion?” In one illustration, two Muslim men kneel on prayer rugs on the street in New York next to a vendor selling “I Love NY” t-shirts. Their faces are hidden, their ethnicities ambiguous. With this scene, Birk asks his audience to disentangle stereotypes of racial and religious identity. As Grewal notes, “Birk insists that we cannot know who is or is not Muslim just by looking at the people who populate the American Qur’an; the same holds true for the people who populate America.” Other illustrations comment on American foreign policy. Birk paired parts of the Koran that discuss preparing for war—passages often cited as proof Islam is violent—with scenes of Americans invading Iraq or of prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay. In doing so, Birk wanted American readers to recognize the double standard implicit in the assumption that Islam condones fighting more than any other religion. Another particularly haunting image depicts the Twin Towers on 9/11—Birk acknowledged that the project wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t address the attacks.
The chapter, titled “Smoke,” includes a passage about “a day when the sky will bring forth a smoke which will overwhelm the people,” and focuses on the reactions of people on the ground. The scene, one of his earliest drawings, stretches across two pages. “I’ve been more hesitant and self-doubting about this project than anything else I’ve ever done,” Birk explained to The New York Times in 2009. “I think the consequences of it being misunderstood are extreme.” Now, however, he’s less worried because the project has been generally well-received in the Muslim American community, especially among teenagers and young adults. He recalled how a group of Muslims was looking at his work in a gallery during mid-day prayer time, so they prayed on the floor beside his illustrations.
Still, some Muslim religious leaders have spoken out against the project, including Mohammad Qureshi of the Islamic Center of Southern California, who refused to visit the California gallery where Birk was showing several pages of American Qur’an in 2009. “The Koran is accessible the way it is,” Qureshi told Art Daily. “It's been accessible for 1,400 years.” Usman Madha, the director of public relations at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, told The New York Times in a critique of Birk’s work, “There is no such thing as an American Koran, or European Koran, or Asian Koran.” But for Birk, the project is more than just a conversation starter or political statement. It fundamentally questions the role of a painter in the 21st century: to create something that is meaningful, relevant, and thought-provoking.
“The idea of making an entire illuminated manuscript like the monks did in the Middle Ages—it’s something that only an artist can do,” he says. “My occupation is 500 years old: All my neighbors work in Hollywood, and here I am transcribing ancient texts. I’m very aware of the irony of that.”
December 04, 2015
"American Qu'ran by Sandow Birk"
Posted September 25, 2015
Review by David D'Arcy
San Francisco Chronicle
Sandow Birk’s new book makes the Quran look like familiar territory. The scenes that surround the text on its huge pages show ordinary people at ordinary tasks — harvesting fields, boarding planes, cutting apart sides of beef, visiting the dentist, unloading snowboards and surfboards from cars. There are Hasidic Jews in the streets, and political protests. There are NASCAR races. There are also tanks and troops in the desert, and a street scene from the 9/11 attacks. Given the ecumenical spirit, you could call “American Qur’an” a Noah’s ark of images. The figures in those images look inspired by the early years of San Francisco’s underground comics, minus the sex and satire. The calligraphy — if that’s the word — reaches for the feel of a graffiti scrawl. Yet this is the Quran, the sacred scripture of Islam, although Birk’s illustrations, organized by suras, or chapters, are populist, and pop. Reach for your descriptions — an odd cocktail, a contemporary vessel for a venerable text, a gimmick? It’s a bit of each. This ambitious book, a project of 10 years, is also an exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art, where Birk’s original pages are on the walls.
Mix project and place, and you have an odd cocktail indeed — odd, but deeply respectful toward the text, and toward the believers who honor it, although we shouldn’t expect all of those believers to agree. “American Qur’an” is also the farthest thing from what art-speak calls appropriation — the deployment of objects, imagery and language in the service of another work of art. Birk’s version is modern, however, depicting women as undiminished people and pairing an ancient text with scenes of contemporary life. And, as its title says, it is American. The assumption here is that Islam is at home and, if not integral, at least integrated into the America that Iranian mullahs used to call the land of “the Great Satan.” (In the Islamic world, you’ll hear far worse terms than that.) Still, Islam is in America and, despite the fiery rhetoric from some of our presidential aspirants, it’s here to stay. Birk’s soft landing (so far) with mostly gentle images confirms what is already a demographic fait accompli. Acceptance of Muslims, especially now, is another thing. Looking at “American Qur’an” from our nativist other side, that gentleness feels like naive wish fulfillment. Birk has lived for years with the label “visionary.” It fits here. The reader who doesn’t open “American Qur’an” out of devotion will be drawn to its images. Birk has created pictures to accompany classic texts for years, and these painted scenes seem like real America, circa 2015 — more America than Quran. When you look closer, the same ordinary scenes pull on your attention like delicate illuminated manuscripts from the 14th century. The landscapes are detailed, but dreamy. The ordinary figures are iconic, as they would be in Persian miniatures or in a late-medieval Book of Hours. More humane than heroic, they build on the notion that the divine reaches into every aspect of life. But whose life? On the adjoining pages dealing with divorce, a man stands by his truck on the right, and on the left a woman, presumably his wife or ex-wife, holds a baby by the hand. The picture could be an album cover for a Nashville duo, but the inscription reads: “When someone is conscious of God, God provides him with a way out of unhappiness, and provides for him in unexpected ways.”
For better or worse, Muslim Americans do just about everything that other Americans do. That said, “American Qur’an,” published just in time to put under the Christmas tree, is full of paradoxes to savor. It’s the art of a surfer from red-blooded Orange County, where the Rev. Robert Schuller created his drive-in Church of Tomorrow and the airport is named after John Wayne. Text dominates its picture planes, so most of the images are partially blocked from view — the unfulfilled promise of peace? And those images, standing by themselves, would give you no clue that there’s anything Islamic about them. Birk forces the connections on readers and viewers. And the ambiguities of any work of art won’t always sit comfortably with revealed truth. Fortunately, as Reza Aslan notes in his brief preface, “there is no Muslim Pope, no Muslim Vatican, no single source or authority who defines who is and is not a Muslim.” Bear in mind that the worst ferocity of the Islamic State has fallen on other Muslims who preach what zealots view as heresy. Birk, who says he is not particularly religious, spoke in interviews of watching the 9/11 attacks, and finding that he knew nothing about Islam, the religion in whose name the attacks happened. Eventually, after long thought and travel, he made the Quran the subject of an ambitious project, as he had done with Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and Jacques Callot’s series of prints, “The Depravities of War,” which Birk situated in Iraq in his version. His hope here seems to be to take the reader on a similar journey.
Yet at $100 and what feels like 100 pounds (much less, actually), this is a book whose impact will be felt more in the debate that it generates than in the readers who spend the time that it demands. All that reassuring talk and imagery go only so far in the shadow of the recent Paris attacks and other killings in the name of Allah. Birk’s olive branch is sure to be attacked by those who take a proprietary view of Islamic teaching, from jihadis who preach violence to scholars and those in the faithful who believe that the only legitimate version of the book is in Arabic. Don’t tell Amazon. There are dozens of Qurans available in English on Kindle, many of them for free. From the Washington side, Birk will be pummeled for his lack of toughness in a time of threat. But if a surfer dude can’t be tolerant, who can? Think of Woody Guthrie or of Frank Sinatra’s warmhearted 1945 rallying cry against bigotry, “The House I Live In” (later sung by Paul Robeson). Will America warm to Islam in an American idiom? Now it’s time to pray.
David D’Arcy is a correspondent for the Art Newspaper, a London monthly. E-mail: [email protected] American Qur’an By Sandow Birk (Liveright; 443 pages; $100) |
December 01, 2015
New York Times Gift Guide | November 2015
"HEFTY AND BULKY, these are not books that travel well. But that doesn’t mean they won’t transport you to places you will want to visit time and again. This year’s crop of art books includes a detailed analysis of Picasso’s sculptures, an examination of Africa’s early cultural exchanges with Renaissance Europe and handy volumes on two American originals, Helen Frankenthaler and Agnes Martin. The New York Times’s art critics weigh in about these and other gift ideas.
BY HOLLAND COTTER AND ROBERTA SMITH
November 19, 2015
Happy Holiday Season to you and yours. The following is a list of our Holiday Hours and Special Closings.
CLOSED 11/26 & 11/27 & 11/28
CLOSED EARLY 12/18: 2:00 pm
CLOSED 12/19 for Private Event
CLOSED 12/24 through January 1, 2016
OPEN January 2, 2016
November 06, 2015
Sandow Birk's epic project, American Qur'an opens in a solo exhibition at Orange County Museum of Art tomorrow, Saturday, November 7. The exhibit, coinciding with the W.W. Norton publication, a full-color and to-scale reproduction of the entire project, is generating buzz in the press. This week:
Publisher's Weekly named American Qur'an one of the Best Books of 2015 (Nov 2)
Feature in ARTILLERY Magazine (Nov 3)
Review in The Atlantic (Nov 6)
Copies of American Qur'an availble now at the gallery. Join us for a book-signing with Sandow Birk on November 21, from 5 - 7 pm.
October 23, 2015
Join us for the opening of Sandow Birk's exhibit, Imaginary Monuments, Saturday October 24, from 3 - 5 pm. Our media room features Urbanism, three videos by artist Rob Carter. Kimberly Chun reviews Sandow Birk in SF Gate.
October 15, 2015
Join us tonight // 248 Utah Street // 5 - 7 pm
Closing Celebration with Kara Maria, Andy Diaz Hope and Jon Bernson
Drop by for a drink and a tour!
September 25, 2015
Kara Maria @ Catharine Clark Gallery
by David M. Roth
September 24, 2015
San Francisco painter Kara Maria has long used the graphic language of comics to air her views on world events. Mixing it with abstraction and realism, she’s developed an enviable (and sometimes epic) body of seriocomic works that have pitted man-made maladies against cataclysmic natural forces. These she renders in a pastiche of art-historical styles.
Read the full review here
September 24, 2015
Don't miss Kara Maria's exhibition, Haywire, on display in our Viewing Room at CCG. Take advantage of our late hours every Thursday (we are open until 7:00 pm) to see Kara's new paintings, inspired by her Recology Residency, earlier this year.
Kara Maria and collectors at the opening of Haywire on September 12, 2015.
In addition, Kara's paintings are currently on display at the restaurant Aatxe, part of the Ne Timeas Group Restaurants, which include the outstanding establishments Flour + Water, Salumeria and Trick Dog. Aatxe is located at 2174 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114.
September 17, 2015
September 09, 2015
Join us this Saturday, September 12, from 2 - 5 pm for the opening for Andy Diaz Hope's exhibition, Content Void Content, and Kara Maria's exhibition, Haywire. Both artists will be present for the opening reception, and will give an artist talk and walk-through at 3:00pm.
Kara Maria, Western Lowland Gorilla (2015), acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches.
Andy Diaz Hope, Beautiful Void: Entropy (2015); mirror, glass, solder, brass; 42 x 42 inches in diameter.
September 01, 2015
Catharine Clark Gallery is closed to the public through September 7 for gallery inventory. From September 8 - 10, the gallery is open, but engaged with installing upcoming exhibitions, featuring the work of Andy Diaz Hope and Kara Maria, which will be up and ready for preview on Thursday, September 10, from 5 - 7 pm. The gallery will be open for regular business hours on Friday, September 11, 2015. The opening reception for Andy Diaz Hope | Content Void Content and Kara Maria | Haywire will be Saturday, September 12, from 2 - 5 pm.
August 27, 2015
Join us this Saturday, August 29, 2 - 5 pm for the closing of Scott Greene's exhibit, Deep State, and Kevin Cooley's exhibit in the media room, Fallen Water.
Scott will be joined by artists Kara Maria, Deborah Oropallo, Chester Arnold and Don Farnsworth from Magnolia Editions who will discuss various issues related to scale. We look forward to seeing you, and toasting the end of these engaging exhibits with a cold glass of rosé this Saturday, August 29, at 248 Utah St.
Image Caption: Scott Greene, Timberline (2015), Oil on canvas on panel, 22 x 18 inches.
August 14, 2015
This summer our interns had the opportunity to visit several art spaces in San Francisco, including Alter Space in SOMA and Fraenkel Gallery at 49 Geary. Both galleries were kind enough to give CCG staff and interns a tour of their current exhibitions--thank you to both Kevin Krueger, Owner/Director at Alter Space, and Emily Lambert, Associate Director at Fraenkel Gallery.
As part of our program, our interns were asked to complete write-ups on their experience, focusing either on the content or media presented in the exhibitions.
Originally from Los Angeles, Bonnie Mata is a recent graduate from University of California, Berkeley where she majored in English and Comparative Literature.
Two seemingly unrelated San Francisco galleries offer comparable provocations in both of their latest shows. At first glance, the 18-artist exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery’s cozy yet refined photography space couldn’t be further removed from the mere 3-person show at Alter Space, itself a converted BDSM club fit with an underground jail cell now used for artist residencies. Despite obvious initial differences, Fraenkel’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Alter Space’s Awkward Threesome both present powerful displays of creativity from a diverse range of artists largely concerned with issues of performativity and intimacy, desire and vulnerability, and artistic production. To read the full article, click here.
Originally from Berkeley, Lesdi Goussen is a Senior at New York University where she is majoring in Art History.
While an artist’s vision is inherently informed by the medium in which the artist works, the consideration that the medium is the backbone both conceptually and physically of an artwork is often overlooked by the viewer. When confronted with a work of art, one is often preoccupied with interpreting the figurative representation of a composition, rather than stepping back to consider how the medium of the work informs its meaning. However, by considering the medium, the internal, emotional, and upmost personal underpinnings of an artist’s practice are revealed. To read the full article, click here.
August 04, 2015
This past weekend marked the inaugural Seattle Art Fair. Catharine Clark Gallery earned notable press coverage from local and national publications. Below is a selection of articles that featured Catharine Clark Gallery at the Seattle Art Fair.
The Seattle Art Fair Arrives, with Dealers on the Hunt for Tech Money
By Erin Langner
"San Francisco dealer Catharine Clark deliberately picked works for her gallery’s booth with a connection to either the West Coast or to the fair experience. Among the most compelling was Nina Katchadourian’s Under Pressure, a video the artist created of herself lip synching to the Queen song of the same name inside an airplane bathroom. “It points to the anxiety of travel,” Clark said. While fairgoer travel doesn’t bring much pressure in most cases, all of the tensions flying now evokes—threats of attack, racial profiling, immigration restrictions—still permeate any trip, making Katchadourian’s piece move quickly from the lighthearted to the deeply serious."
Read the full article here
Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders
By Melena Ryzikaug
"Catharine Clark, a dealer from San Francisco, had her eye on infiltrating the Seattle market. “Like many people, we were hoping to educate the growing number of people involved in art and technology on the West Coast,” she said. “Everybody’s curious about this money.”
Read the full article here
Inaugural Seattle Art Fair opens to public Friday
By Michael Konopasek
"It's really important for the work to get out of the region in which it was conceived," said San Francisco art historian Catharine Clark.
Read the full article here
July 31, 2015
Catharine Clark interviewed by Seattle's Channel 5 News at Seattle Art Fair.
July 29, 2015
Join Catharine Clark Gallery for Seattle Art Fair, opening this Thursday, July 30 at CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle's SODO district. Booth 209 will feature work by Wanxin Zhang (below), Chester Arnold, Nina Katchadourian, Deborah Oropallo and Masami Teraoka. Follow us on Instagram to see the latest photos of install, opening night, and the satellite pop-up show, A Singularity, at Living Computer Museum, featuring work by Chris Doyle and John Slepian.
July 23, 2015
Catharine Clark, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by Cherie Louise Turner
Continuing through August 29, 2015
Apocalyptic, trash-laden, desperate landscapes make up “Deep State,” a solo exhibition of new paintings and prints by Scott Greene. These narrative works — one can’t help but immediately begin to create the backstory that renders the worlds we’re looking at — are somewhat loosely painted, which adds to the sense of things falling apart, being oh so tentatively, just barely, held together.
The large, horizontal (144 x 48 inches) “Trading Post” features a cell tower camouflaged like a tall pine tree that’s leaned over (thus the horizontality of the work, which adds to its off-kilter feeling) and filled with supplies such as gas cans and animal pelts. A man toward the top of the “tree” is stashing wood and a lamb is falling to the ground. The rest of the landscape appears chaotic, disheveled.
Providing an element of comic relief to the serious subject of our compromised environment, which is the central focus of the show, is “Cavalier,” which depicted a Napoleon-like figure raising an arm up and forward, a sign that says, “Let us go forth and conquer!” He is astride a sheep, rather than a horse, and our Napoleon has a smiley-face plastic grocery bag stuck to his head, covering part of his face, and a large brown blanket covering his blue and gold uniform, which peaks out beneath. The sheep rears up, a surprised look on its bridled face, on a trash-strewn cliff overlooking the landscape below.
These works exemplify the feel of the show: the “advanced” world (wo)man has created or is attempting to create via technology or bravado and ambition comes with a cost. The natural world, which feeds us and makes our lives healthy and abundant, will ultimately deliver us back to times of primitive hunting and gathering and extreme filth, times we’re worked long and hard to advance from. Green environmentalist nightmare is that the world we take for granted will revert as a result of humanity’s hubris. These works depict an unpleasant yet possible future; they’re beautiful to the eye even, as a political statement, they mean to help sound a serious warning. - See more at: visualartsource.com
July 02, 2015
Seattle Art Fair: July 30 – August 02, 2015 (Booth 209)
Still photograph, Under Pressure from the series Seat Assignment, 2014
Edition of 8; 1/8
Catharine Clark Gallery is pleased to announce participation in the inaugural Seattle Art Fair seattleartfair.com from July 30 – August 2 2015, at CenturyLink Field Event Center, in Seattle, Washington.
A collaborative project between Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen and Art Market Productions, Seattle Art Fair builds on the region’s existing momentum by creating a truly unique, innovative art event that will further establish Seattle as an influential player in the global art landscape. Catharine Clark Gallery (Booth 209) features work by five gallery artists working across disciplines and media:
Seattle Art Fair | Booth 209
July 30 – August 2, 2015
CenturyLink Field Event Center Seattle, WA
July 30, 6 – 10 pm (ticketed)
Regular Fair Hours:
Friday, July 31 11:00am to 7:00pm
Saturday, August 1 11:00am to 7:00pm
Sunday, August 2 12:00 noon to 6:00pm
Contact Catharine Clark Gallery at the fair: 415.519.1439, [email protected]
June 23, 2015
by Kimberly Chun
Thursday, June 18, 2015
In the hands of San Francisco Art Institute alum Scott Greene, dystopian grotesques are both elegantly wrought — and black-humored. The artist, who now lives in Bernalillo, N.M., bends the imagery of Romanticism — its epic landscapes and aggrandizing portraiture — to his own ends, to make lacerating points about the nature of power and its devastating effects on the environment.
In “Deep State,” Greene’s fourth solo turn at Catharine Clark, the devil’s in the details and debris of the paintings and prints, as plastic gyres whirl and obsolete technologies teeter against sickly blue skies. Satellite dishes set sail in “Clear Channel,” shredded wads plug a skyscraper’s gaps in “Corporate Cutback,” and a pants-free, clown-nosed Mitt Romney overlooks a realm of rubble in “How You Like Me Now?” How indeed.
— Kimberly Chun
Scott Greene: “Deep State.” 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday. Through Aug. 22. Catharine Clark Gallery, 248 Utah St., S.F. (415) 399-1439. www.cclarkgallery.com.
June 16, 2015
Join us this Friday in Palo Alto where we'll be celebrating with artist Walter Robinson. His exhibition, Home Grown, opens this Friday evening with food truck fare and speciality cocktails at the Palo Alto Art Center. Follow us on Instagram to see pictures from the evenings festivities. Details, address and directions to Palo Alto Art Center.
June 11, 2015
Anthony Discenza and Peter Straub—nationally renowned horror novel author—delve into the history of the obscure 19-century artists' movement known as Das Beben. The duo researched this movement for their collaborative "In That Case" installation, "Beyond the Veil of Vision: Reinhold von Kreitz and the Das Beben Movement." Click the picture below to link to a youtube video interview with the two artists. Visit Discenza's exhibit in person at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, through July 14, 2015.
June 09, 2015
June will bring us a much anticipated visit and show by our beloved gallery artist Walter Robinson.
Home Grown: Walter Robinson is the largest solo exhibition of paintings and sculptures by the native Palo Alto artist to date. The show features works created during the past ten years from public and private collections throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Opening Celebration is Friday June 19, 7 - 10 pm. Address: 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303. Free and open to the public.
June 03, 2015
Join us for an artist walk with Scott Greene and Kevin Cooley this Saturday at 2:30 pm. Cocktail reception from 3 - 5 pm.
How You Like Me Now?
Oil on canvas on panel
May 28, 2015
Just two more days left to see Kal Spelletich | Intention Machines. Show closes Saturday at 6pm. Visit us at 248 Utah Street for a walk-thru of this interactive exhibit.
May 19, 2015
There's been a flurry for press for the opening of Drifting in Daylight : Art in Central Park, a free exhibition of eight site-specific works installed in the north-end of Central Park in New York City. Catch all the exhibits, including Nina Katchadourian's Lampost Weavers on North Drive (pictured below), through June 20th, 2015.
May 15, 2015
Wave Hill Puts Spotlight on Art to Celebrate Its Gardens and Lure Visitors
By WINNIE HUMAY
May 13, 2015
Summer has come early to a public garden in the Bronx: Dragonflies skim over clusters of lily pads in a lush aquatic garden in full August bloom. But only at night.
In the evening, an outdoor installation at Wave Hill brings the garden to life with vivid animation and ethereal music. But during the day, the aquatic garden returns to its barren, postwinter state.
The installation by Chris Doyle is the centerpiece of a new $250,000 exhibition, “Night Lights at Wave Hill,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hudson River estate in Riverdale that is celebrated for the artistry of its gardens. “Night Lights,” which runs through May 24, pays homage to the destination art shows that Wave Hill was known for in the late 1970s and ’80s, when works by Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi and Keith Haring were displayed on its grounds.
The new exhibition aims to raise the visibility of the 28-acre public garden and cultural center, which for the first time is holding regular night hours, three times a week, for the exhibition. Though the number of visitors to Wave Hill has been growing steadily — reaching a record 155,000 last year — it is often overshadowed by its neighbor a few miles away, the 250-acreNew York Botanical Garden, which has 900,000 visitors annually. Or as Wave Hill’s supporters like to say, it is like the Frick Collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Read more
May 07, 2015
CCG artist Nina Katchadourian is one of 18 established and emerging artists from the Armenian diaspora featured in Armenity at this year’s Venice Biennale.
The Financial Times (online)
Armenia in Venice: The past and the furious
By Gareth Harris
May 1, 2015
One of several politically charged biennale displays this year, the country’s pavilion explores its violent history
For the Damascus-born artist Hrair Sarkissian, the issue of the Armenian genocide of 1915 always dominated family discussions. “For as long as I can remember, the massacre influenced almost everything we did,” he says.
According to the Armenian government, more than 1.5m of its citizens were killed when they were deported by Ottoman forces from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian Desert in 1915 — the centenary was marked on April 24 of this year. Turkey has never accepted the term “genocide”, but it acknowledges that vast numbers of Christian Armenians died in conflict with Ottoman soldiers during the first world war, when Armenia was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
Sarkissian’s grandparents were among the deportees and this bleak, and bloody, heritage underpins his practice. Now based in London, he is one of 18 established and emerging artists from the Armenian diaspora featured in the exhibition Armenity at this year’s Venice Biennale.
The exhibition’s location is far removed from the frenzied main show venues, in the Mekhitarist monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni. There could hardly be a better backdrop for the Armenian narrative. In about 1715, Mekhitar, an Armenian monk, retreated to the island when under attack from the Ottoman army in southern Greece, and built there a complex for 17 monks. The Mekhitarist order thrived in this Venetian idyll, setting up a printing press and a library which today houses more than 4,000 medieval Armenian manuscripts.
Sarkissian’s 2012 photographic series “Unexposed” focuses on the descendants of Armenian nationals forced to convert to Islam under the Ottomans. Even today, for fear of Islamic authorities, he says that having rediscovered their roots and reconverted to Christianity “these descendants conceal their newfound Armenian-ness”.
Disguising one’s nationality is at the root of another work, Aram Jibilian’s photographic series “Akh Gorky” (2010). Jibilian created masks based on Arshile Gorky’s portrait “The Artist and His Mother” (1926-1936), which were worn by himself, his friends and family.
“This act of masking and reinventing continues to exist in contemporary Armenian-American traditions that I witnessed growing up in California, from concealing one’s inner desires out of fear of rejection to adopting an Americanised pronunciation of an ethnic name,” says Jibilian.
Meanwhile, Thessaloniki-born Aikaterini Gegisian will unveil 65 collages under the title “A Small Guide to the Invisible Seas” (2015), made from found images, some of them tourist paraphernalia. These assemblages explore romanticised visions of life in Soviet Armenia, Turkey and Greece during the 1970s and 1980s. “I’m exploring how new national identities are shaped by photographic images,” she says.
Adelina Cüberyan von Fürstenberg, a Swiss citizen of Armenian origin and founder of the non-governmental agency Art for the World, was asked by the Armenian culture ministry to curate the exhibition. The quality of the work is her main priority, she says. “In the last hundred years, despite the Medz Yeghern — an expression that Armenians use to denote the period of massacres and deportations that peaked in 1915 — Armenian culture has survived, and artists of Armenian origin have remained genuine citizens of the world,” she writes in a statement posted online.
In the last hundred years, Armenian culture has survived — its artists are citizens of the world
One highly controversial move is the inclusion of the Turkish-Armenian artist Sarkis under the Armenian umbrella. Sarkis is simultaneously Turkey’s official representative at the biennale this year, creating his “Respiro” installation in the Arsenale under the auspices of the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs. The directorate of press, which represents the Turkish government, declined to comment.
Nevertheless, Sarkis will show four works in the Armenian pavilion, including “Danseuse dorée en haut du toit” (2012), and “Atlas de Mammuthus Intermedius” (2014). “It is very important for me to keep the dialogue open. We are the link between two pavilions,” Sarkis says.
The issue remains a highly contentious one between the two countries. Last month, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Turkish government to recognise the mass killings as genocide. The move prompted the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, to tell reporters in Ankara that “this issue is now beyond the Turkish-Armenian issue. It’s a new reflection of the racism in Europe”.
Should these issues be aired at an art exhibition? “I think the concept is a very creative one that ably captures the manner in which the Armenians have been scattered throughout the world as a consequence of the collective violence they faced in the Ottoman Empire,” says Fatma Göçek, professor of sociology at the University of Michigan and author of A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire.
Von Fürstenberg, meanwhile, says that the experience has made her reconsider her own life experiences. “I escaped to the arts,” she says. “Perhaps it’s time for me to reassess everything.”
May 01, 2015
Our talented photographer, John White, took installation photos yesterday at Fort Mason. Find them all on the Art Market entry of our website.
April 30, 2015
Pictures from install day and the VIP Opening Night event at Art Market 2015. Huge thank you to our staff for their exhaustive efforts, and congratulations to our artists for an amazing exhibit of work. The first night concluded with sales of Wanxin Zhang's work to Pamela and David Hornik, and Dorothy Saxe, as well as placement of a Deborah Oropallo to a private collection in San Francisco. More pictures and updates to come. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for the latest shots from Art Market 2015.
April 25, 2015
In the Studio | Julie Heffernan
by Alex Rojas
The process of creation is an adventure in itself for artist Julie Heffernan. I had the pleasure to speak with her about this adventure on a recent visit to her studio located on the second floor of her Brooklyn brownstone.
Heffernan, who has been painting since the 1980’s, has a preoccupation with discovery. “I see myself as hiking through my paintings to their completion,” states Heffernan as we discussed the process she takes in creating her work. When viewing Heffernan’s multi-dimensional paintings, your eyes are first drawn to a female figure, who is always a representation of herself and is central to her work. Heffernan pointedly positions herself amidst all of the action, grappling with some form of struggle within the work.
While Heffernan refers to this female figure as the “glue” that binds the elements of each painting together, the surrounding composition is where the real adventure for both the artist and the viewer occurs. Heffernan uses the female’s surroundings to explore imaginary worlds, pushing into alternate realities. In some cases Heffernan throws herself into a lush and ornate forest-like environment, while in others she dives into a dystopia of sorts, attempting in a Bosch-like fashion to conceptualize and experience the contemporary world. Within these backdrops sits the true intrigue of her work, the surreal and small subtleties.
The complex world of Heffernan’s work proves that injecting art with references from one’s own experiences and dreams can produce rich, meaningful narratives that function as both surreal and true-to-life. Heffernan takes her viewers on an adventure that is full of alternate realities through which she explores femininity, the environment, and the human condition. Come visit Art Market SF, April 29th – May 3rd, to see two of her newest pieces that just arrived from her studio.
April 11, 2015
In the Studio | Kal Spelletich
by Alex Rojas
“What can I do? There is no excuse. I need to step up, do my life’s work, and do something important.”
Kal Spelletich has devoted himself to his life’s work through discovering the fourth dimension, a space where one can achieve his or her outlet for purpose despite the distractions of the world. The artist discovered in the late 80’s his purpose was to create radical, hybrid art full of soul, stating “Every piece I make should be as though it was the last piece I will ever make.” By cultivating and incorporating the latest technology, Spelletich responds to the world around him by creating innovative kinetic robotic sculptures, which he refers to as “intention machines” or “praying robots.”
Prior to Kal Spelletich’s first exhibition at CCG, I was fortunate enough to receive a behind the scenes tour of the artist’s studio and a preview of the works in his upcoming exhibition, Intention Machines, opening on April 11th and continuing through the end of May. As we wandered through his expansive warehouse studio, Spelletich explained to me his ideas and inspirations behind these works.
Spelletich’s Intention Machines exhibition pays tribute to seven friends and mentors. Through medium and movement, each embody specific individuals such as poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti or Black Panther activist Emory Douglas. These robots hold value not only for their role in Spelletich’s life, but also for the greater roles they have played in affecting and transforming our society.
Spelletich specifically requested the unwashed, worn-in, work clothes of these individuals, which he explained as an important component of each sculpture, acknowledging that the items we use or wear in our daily lives hold a part of ourselves within them: “Clothes are like a battery… It’s holding your essence in them and I thought ‘Can I bring that essence into the sculptures?’”
Because of his constant drive to push the boundaries, Spelletich’s sculptures are a combination of unlikely media. “I am obsessed with materials,” he says. This is evident from his studio, which is an incredible cabinet of curiosities, made up of items some may consider as junk, while others may consider as treasure. It is clear he has an abundance of materials to choose from when crafting his robotic sculptures, but he explains to me the intentional process that he goes through when selecting material. For example, the wood that the sculpture Kay Miller (2014-2015) sits on originates from a pipe organ, which created songs and music in its past life. By drawing on materials with a previous history, resonance, and energy, Spelletich builds another dimension of meaning to his work that honors the past.
As the artist and I continue to meander through his studio, we come across his Mark Pauline (2014-2015) sculpture sitting on a coffee table. I remark on the beautiful craftsmanship in this work, and he explains the intention behind the incorporation of the coffee table. “Where I grew up in Iowa they used to say if you were to stand on a coffee table and proclaim your love for a girl that was serious stuff… it holds value. This one, I was riding on my bike one day and saw it on the street. This beautiful thing, I knew someone would grab it if I didn’t, I bet it would last 2 more minutes, so I stood there for a while …. Decided fuck it - and I put it on my back. I thought if I wreck, I wreck, but I am riding with this thing on my back.” It is Spelletich’s stories such as this that truly make these robotic sculptures transform from static metal rods and mechanisms to spiritual and genuflecting kinetic robots, each steeped with special moments of history.
While the history of these materials partially bring these works to life, Spelletich uses technology to enable his robots to have physical movement. The artist uses interfaces, in an attempt to metaphorically or physically the movement of each individual portrayed- conjuring his or her spiritual energy. Specifically, Kay Miller, based on a mentor of Spelletich, moves in a spinning motion inspired by the powerful meditation of Sufi whirling dervishes. As an ardent feminist, activist, and artist, Miller had an impactful effect on shaping Spelletich today. “She schooled my ass,” Spelletich states. Further, for the viewer to experience the movement within each sculpture, they must interact with each robot, which reacts uniquely to each viewer’s presence or touch. All of the robots’ movements are spiritual and intentional, whether it is bowing or genuflecting.
Interaction has always been key to Spelletich’s art practice. During college he experimented with a whole spectrum of media, but continued to come back to kinetic live art that required audience participation, desiring to tap into the unseen by combining disparate mediums and interaction. Looking at artists like Chris Burden and Pyro Manzoni, Spelletich attempted to challenge the traditional forms of art.
With Spelletich’s Intention Machines we are faced with a multi-faceted experience, a collective energy made up of not only the artists aspirations, the subjects past, but our own intentions as well. While we interact with each piece, we give it life, and it gives a response. Spelletich states, “This is a practice of giving. This is my life’s work. This is why I am on the planet.”
Please join us for the opening reception for the exhibition on Saturday, April 11th, from 5- 7pm! Spelletich will be present and giving a guided tour of the show at 4pm.
April 07, 2015
"By trying to reconcile the gap in intentional systems science with sculptures that challenge and upend the human intelligence and artificial intelligence divide, Spelletich looks to the messy realm of “intentional imperfection” to keep machines and humans, human."
Natasha Boas reviews Spelletich's Intention Machines in SFAQ.
Read the full article here
March 31, 2015
DoReMi: Creating an arts oasis in a forbiddingly costly city
By Sam Whiting
March 28, 2015
“In a way it doesn’t matter what we call it,” Clark says. “It just matters that we call it.”
Catharine Clark discusses the new booming DoReMi arts community in SF Chronicle.
Read the full article here
March 26, 2015
A series of videos launching Wednesday features contemporary artists in the galleries at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's the first of five seasons that will ultimately feature a hundred artists talking about some of their favorite works and inspirations.
artnet News got a sneak peek at the three-minute videos featuring Nina Katchadourian, Kehinde Wiley, and Xu Bing.
March 21, 2015
"Arnold seems to be asking us to consider what the consequences of a failure to act might be, for all of us."
Read Maria Porges' review of Chester Arnold's solo exhibition Mad Abundance in Art Practical: http://www.artpractical.com/review/mad-abundance/
March 13, 2015
Chester Arnold will give two artist talks this month
Crocker Art Museum on March 18, 2015 at 1:15 pm
Closing Reception and artist talk: Chester Arnold | Mad abundance at Catharine Clark Gallery on March 28, 2015 at 4pm.
Chester Arnold, A Hawk's Attention, 2015, Oil on linen, 46 x 54 inches
March 10, 2015
We had a great week in New York City at our first exhibit at art on paper. Click on the link above for some highlights from the fair.
March 03, 2015
In anticipation of the exhibition of Sandow Birk's work at art on paper art fair (New York City | March 5 - 8 | thepaperfair.com), Catharine Clark Gallery Senior Intern Alex Rojas interviewed the artist about his Imaginary Monuments series.
On close inspection, the depth of artist Sandow Birk’s work is fully revealed to be much more complex than initially meets the eye. Addressing themes such as war, religion, politics, and incarceration, Birk speaks to the current global climate. His most recent series “Imaginary Monuments,” which will be on view at art on paper this weekend, deals with police brutality, human rights, and the Iraq War. I briefly spoke with Birk about his creative process and the inspiration behind these new pieces.
Proposal for a Monument to the NYPD from the series “Imaginary Monuments,” 2015
A: How would you describe the content of your work?
S: In general terms, I would say that my way of working usually involves looking to works from the past. I use them as the basis to create new works that deal with contemporary social issues and relate to the history of art in a broader sense. I’m interested in art history and in current events. I’m especially interested in what the role of an artist in the 21st Century can be and how it can be relevant in the contemporary world.
A: You explore politics and production. Can you say more about the themes and ideas that lie behind your work?
S: I usually begin a series of works that grow into larger and larger projects than I originally anticipated. The germ of the ideas for these large projects can come in different ways. Sometimes it can be a reaction to current events, like the L.A. riots. Other times it can come by a random chance encounter with “The Divine Comedy,” or it can come from prolonged thinking about something that leads me to investigate and research it further, such as my project with the Qur’an. The unifying thread through the various ways projects start is that, however they begin, they usually tend to get bigger and more complex than I ever intended at the outset, as I dig deeper and deeper into the ideas.
A: Does your personal history infuse itself into your practice?
S: My personal history is integral to my work. I travel a lot and I’ve spent a lot of time in Latin America, so I have an extra interest in that part of the world. My social viewpoint comes from my time spent traveling and living in Brazil and other places, as well as living in inner-city, Hispanic neighborhoods in Los Angeles. So I follow my interests in the world, in my neighborhoods, and cities. They usually lead to artworks. I really strive to say something in my works, so the content of my work is about something important and meaningful to me.
A: What inspired and fueled the “Imaginary Monuments” Series?
S: Like most of my projects, the beginning was humble but grew and grew. I began this series of “Imaginary Monuments” when I had an Artist Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, in 2007. I spent two months exploring the behind-the-scenes collections of the Smithsonian. I ended up doing a huge, wall-sized drawing of an imaginary monument to the Constitution of the United States, which was based on Durer’s “Triumphal Arch” from the 16th Century, which I was able to see in storage at the National Gallery. That project led to more research about important documents in world history, and also tied into Piranesi’s 18th Century etchings of Rome and fictional prisons, which I had looked at a lot years earlier. The combination of things that I had been interested over the past decade - prisons, documents, fictional monuments, social issues - all started to come together in this latest series of drawings and prints.
A: You have been working relentlessly it seems, on both “American Qur’an” and “Imaginary Monuments.” Now that some of that is done, do you have any new projects in mind?
S: I’ve just finished many years of learning, researching, and creating an illuminated manuscript about the Holy Qur’an. It has been fascinating, constantly interesting and relevant. It has also been very focused and very repetitive, as far as the actual painting of the images and transcribing the text. Now that that’s completed, I’m very much looking forward to doing larger paintings again, and I’m interested in doing more “History Painting” paintings, of current events. Working bigger seems refreshing and exciting again.
A: Do you have any words of wisdom or a motto?
S: "Cogito Ergo Faciam". I’m not sure that’s correct Latin, but for years and years I’ve had it over the door of my studio. I hope it correctly translates as, “I think, therefore I make.” Luckily, I don’t have it tattooed on myself anywhere, but it’s my personal motto.
A: Do you see your work in conversation with any artist in particular?
S: That depends on the project, but despite the fact that I’m not totally as involved in the art scene as I used to be able to be, and that my work is never really cutting edge in the technical sense, I really hope my work is part of the contemporary art dialog and not in some backwater. I really see myself as a contemporary artist and I believe I’m part of the discussion, even if my works resemble something from times past. And then, obviously, I hope they are in conversations with those artists and works from the past that they draw from, from Dante to Piranesi to Durer to Gericault to Ed Ruscha to the Chapman brothers, etc. Hopefully, they are part of a bridge between what art used to be and to what art can be today, in our times, now.
To see these works and others by Birk visit our booth at art on paper, New York Booth 405 | Pier 36 | 299 South Street, Lower East Side, NYC or meet the artist at a special cocktail party Saturday night, March 7th from 8pm to 10pm at our NY Pop Up Space located at 313 W. 14th St.
February 26, 2015
Visit us in New York, March 5 - 8, for a whole week of fair activity and off-site events in New York City. Check your inbox for an email with everything you need to know, or sign up for our mailing list here.
New work by Sandow Birk, Monument to the Free Seas (2015) in the series Imaginary Monuments.
February 17, 2015
This week, we're busy getting ready for our exhibition of Chester Arnold's work, Mad Abundance, which opens this Saturday, February 21, from 4 - 6 pm. Our media room will feature Kurt Stallaert's 'moving stills' work, Man with Lamb. Follow us on Instagram to see what's happening this week (including our favorite install snacks).
January 29, 2015
“Garble” @ Catharine Clark
Posted January 28, 2015
When conceptual art first reached a mass audience in the late ‘60s, it shocked by asserting that standalone text could be visual art. Today, text is ingrained in so many types of art (video, installation, drawing, sculpture, painting and photography) that it doesn’t elicit so much as a raised eyebrow. Garble, a text-heavy show featuring seven gallery artists doesn’t challenge that state of affairs. Instead, by offering a kind of core sampling of current practices, it affirms a key principle of Conceptualism: that ideas, not their delivery systems, are what matter. As for garble itself, there is little; the artists in this exhibition deliver messages that for the most part are quite clear. But if, by using the word garble, the show seeks to demonstrate how artists mess with codes of visual and linguistic communication, well, there’s plenty of that going on.
The strongest example is Anthony Discenza’s A Sculpture (Reclining Figure), a roped-off, blank canvas mounted a few inches off the floor. It appears in a darkened room near the back of the gallery. Enter and you hear, broadcast from speakers, the plummy, recorded voices of two actors (male and female), reciting bits of text sourced from the Internet. Affecting stuffy erudition, they describe, in purely formalist terms, a work of art we can’t see. But when you listen and stare, things change. Sensory deprivation and suggestion conspire, and before stupefaction sets in, the canvas at your feet – a literal smackdown of painting — becomes a kind of “screen” onto which we project our own visions of the object described. It's an elegant demonstration of how and why ideas needn’t be affixed to objects to become concrete. The artist makes that point again with snippets from seven gothic/horror novels, all self-penned and displayed on yellowing paper with foreboding titles (The Visage, The Tomb, The Goddess Plague). They, too, light up pictures; only here the effect rests entirely on words, a tribute to sharp writing and to genre parody of a very high order.
January 24, 2015
If you have not seen Kara Maria's recent work from her residency at Recology, you have one more chance! The last day to see the work in the Recology galleries is Tuesday, January 27th from 5-7pm.
We visited the Recology program last week and got to see Kara Maria and Imin Yeh as they prepared for their openings. Our new spring interns, Denise di Zazzo and Maddie Fuller wrote up their thoughts from the visit and Maddie shared some of her photos.
Denise Laxen di Zazzo:
Many artists seem to be truly conscious and dedicated to incorporating recycled materials into their work, fighting for the larger cause by utilizing art as a medium to express their beliefs. This is a delicate balance as art materials are often mass produced and sometimes even environmentally hazardous.
Last week, Catharine Clark Gallery staff and interns visited the environmentally friendly Artist in Residence program at Recology San Francisco. A program that has been running for 25 years, the residency provides six artists annually with studio space and unlimited access to items at the “dump”.
When we arrived on-site, Director Deborah Munk and her colleague Sharon Spain welcomed us to the facility, beginning with a presentation on past artists in the program, the facility's goals, and the success and future of the artist program. Even amongst the surroundings of San Francisco's discarded trash, flying seagulls, dirt, and pungent smells, the whole environment felt very friendly and welcoming, hiding numerous gems throughout the facility such as a beautiful sculpture garden.
As we toured the artist's studios, they each were so unlike the other. In the first one, we met Kara Maria who is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery. She had such a neat and tidy space – clean and organized – with her paintings already installed on the white walls in preparation for the upcoming exhibition presented at the end of the residency. She spoke to us about process, specifically how she collected colors during her months in the program. She had to search in the dump for all the colors she needed, yellow being the most tricky to find. She also found discarded canvases, including some mass produced prints from IKEA, of which she painted over to create her latest works of art.
Imin Yeh was the next artist we met. Her studio seemed to be the opposite of Kara's – a real creative mess with sprawling samples of different media, materials, and ideas. Although she had created sculptures from many different types of materials, each artwork maintained it's own concept and purpose.
In addition to being really inspired by the whole project and the consistency of the program, I was also interested in how the artists individually picked up on the impulses and ideas of the objects found on-site. Being influenced by the found objects, both artists brought forth and revealed some of their deepest thoughts and experiences through this residency, while simultaneously remaining true to their respective techniques and styles.
A truly inspiring day!
The San Francisco Recology Center is located just a couple miles from Catharine Clark Gallery. In a city wide effort to reduce waste and recycle, The Artist in Residence program was founded 25 years ago and has worked with over a hundred Bay Area artists ranging in mediums from traditional painting to sound performances. Complete with access to a full studio and any materials that can be scavenged from the dump, this residency is the perfect place for innovation and creation of unconventional works of art.
The Recology center itself is one of the more bizarre places to visit in San Francisco. After you throw something away, it is transported to this man-made eco system where it is moved through the center like a ballet, twisting and turning through the strange choreography on trucks and machines. After being sorted, the waste leaps to its resting place where it waits to be discovered by an artist or animal.
Recently Catharine Clark Gallery staff and interns took a visit to Kara Maria’s studio at Recology in anticipation of her upcoming show. Kara found her inspiration in the discarded mass-produced digital canvases and posters, which she repurposed as a place to begin her paintings. Sometimes, Kara used gesso over the entire canvas in order to cover all the scars of the previous artists work. Other times, she used the found imagery to begin her artistic exploration, appropriating whatever she could find to create the abstract craziness that is the Recology center. In addition to San Francisco’s trash, the Recology center is home to local wildlife searching desperately to find food and shelter. In order to keep the wild animals safe, the Recology center has implemented a few animals of their own. The Falconer Wade Neely safely and effectively uses animals to keep unwanted guests out. With his team of falcons and his dog, Neely is able to control the seagull swarm. Her work references the mountain-high piles of waste with psychedelic colors that are paired with hyper realistic depictions of the animals who have found homes in the waste.
January 23, 2015
Don't delay: Visit Trash Menagerie, open for only 3 days!
Opening Reception for Kara Maria's Artist in Residence exhibit at Recology, SF will open Friday, January 23, from 5 - 9 pm with Saturday viewing hours on January 24, from 1 - 3 pm. Address: 510 Tunnel Ave, San Francisco, CA 94134. Additional viewing hours Tuesday January 27 from 5 - 7 pm, with a gallery walk through with artists at 6:30 pm. Meet at 503 Tunnel Ave for the artist walk through.
January 14, 2015
Tune in to WNYC for a piece featuring Nina Katchadourian. Read more below and on the web.
WNYC’s Data News Team and New Tech City are on a quest to bring back boredom. In our second annual Digital Detox event, join us as we get ready to launch our weeklong Bored and Brilliant Challenge in The Greene Space. Take part in a semi-scientific experiment to test your creativity. We'll also help you track and reclaim the time you spend on your phone and use it instead to let your mind wander – and see what brilliance it may lead you to. Did we mention drinks will be served? Make 2015 the year your rethink your relationship with technology!
Hosted by New Tech City's Manoush Zomorodi and featuring guests Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, Kevin Holesh, maker of Moment, the app that lets you track your iPhone use, Nina Katchadourian, whose whimsical, thoughtful, funny art is inspired by embracing boredom, and John Keefe, WNYC's senior editor for Data News.
John Keefe and Maria Popova
January 02, 2015
See work by Kara Maria in Glamorgeddon: The Spectacle
Opening January 8
Glamorgeddon: The Spectacle, a group exhibition presented by SOMArts Cultural Center and on view with free admission Thursday, January 8th through Wednesday, February 4th, 2015, brings together visual, media and performing artists in a critical response to and free-form celebration of the concept of glamour. Curated by Johanna Poethig, with co-curators Angelica Muro and Hector Dionicio Mendoza, Glamorgeddon pushes back against the ways in which we consciously or unconsciously accept the logic of prevailing capitalist, media-generated spectacles.
Glamorgeddon is the first of three SOMArts Commons Curatorial Residency exhibitions in 2015, and builds upon the builds upon the elusive concept of glamour in relation to camp, kitsch and abjection as instigated by artists such as filmmaker and photographer John Waters and Debora Iyall of Romeo Void when Poethig mounted the group exhibition The Glamour Summit at SOMArts in 2000.
A show not to be missed!
December 23, 2014
Beginning in 2015 and traveling into 2017, Al Farrow’s Reliquary series will be the subject of a solo exhibition, Wrath and Reverence, that will travel to Forum Gallery, New York, NY; the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; 21c, Louisville, KY and Durham, NC; Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA; and Aeroplastics, Brussels, Belgium.
Our fall interns, Jacqueline Bogdan and Alex Rojas recently visited Al in his studio to see what he is working on for the upcoming exhibition. The following essays, musings on their studio visit, were completed during the final weeks of their internships.
We left San Francisco around 2p.m. on a Friday to visit the studio of the sculptor Al Farrow in San Rafael, which is about twenty miles north of the city. It was a relatively clear and pleasant day to be traversing the Golden Gate Bridge. It's easy to recognize the appeal of spending a lifetime in Marin County. Marin is not remote, only twenty minutes north across the bridge from San Francisco, or rustic, but it seems to exist in a harmony with the natural surroundings. In contrast with the city, the architecture and landscape don’t seem to fight one another. Farrow's studio is extremely close to the freeway, but still feels private and incited a feeling of being tucked away. The isolated, peaceful presence I gained from the location was quickly erased upon entering the studio. Engulfing the entirety of the studio are guns, gun parts, bullets, and casings. To a certain extent, it is a chaotic and frightening place. The shelves lining the walls of the studio are filled with automatic firearms and ammunition belts hang in every corner. These are some of the materials that Farrow uses to craft his sculptures, from his latest body of work titled the Reliquary series. He assured us that everything in his studio had been dismantled and rendered harmless, smiling as he says this, as though he is very accustom to this concern.
The artist’s current body of work, presents the viewer with the historical and contemporary relationship between organized religion and violence. Farrow uses guns and other materials as the raw elements to compose sculptural work based on conventional houses of worship and other fundamental objects associated with the canons of organized religion. As an artist whose practice is focused on social commentary, his thoughts that day contained a rich wealth of information about the context of global, political, and social trends. While visiting his studio, Farrow answered questions about his work in a manner that was broad-ranging in subject, but not tangential. There is something very comforting and familiarized about Farrow’s presence in general, made evident as he shared his newest works and invited us to participate in the conversation.
Besides the supply of ammunition that the artist uses to construct his Reliquaries, the studio is filled with his own collection of sculpture, which has a heavy emphasis on works from Africa. The studio is jam-packed with inspirational items that I found to be symbolic of the artist’s own process. Farrow told us that he would be celebrating his 40th anniversary in his studio next year and for me, being there was like being invited to have a look directly into years and years of the artist’s personal ideas and musings. Farrow showed us stacks of printed images of the houses of worship that inform his aesthetic choices for his latest Reliquaries. Recently, Farrow has been researching images of damage to these religious structures, brought about by vandalism or violent action. He has hundreds of books about art and architecture, some still open, on shelves and tables throughout the studio. The artist showed us some books with information on Hindu and Buddhist temples - additional inspiration for his future work.
When speaking about continuing and building upon this series, Farrow mentioned that before the Reliquary series, he would change the scale, medium, or subject of his work close to every seven years, as though each body of work had completed its cycle. It has been close to twenty years since Farrow began working on the Reliquary series. He spoke about how the challenges associated with the subject matter and the actual construction of the objects has continued to test and stimulate him as an artist. This is probably why Farrow and his work have been able to find such a wide audience. To me, the work doesn’t present definitive answers, but instead poses questions about the association of religion and violence. His work makes me question to what degree does religion owe its existence to violence? Can we call this relationship contradictory? I left the studio with a buzzing mind and a positive attitude about the power of Farrow’s work.
Tucked away in San Rafael sits the studio of the sculptor Al Farrow. Throughout his career, spanning almost four and a half decades, Farrow has produced thought provoking and extremely relevant art work, that contemplates the very fundamentals of our human condition. In his studio, Farrow is surrounded by his latest projects and the unlikely materials that he uses to create these pieces. Welding machines and stacks of boxes filled with ammunition and gun parts line the wall. Bullets and shell casings are spewed across tabletops waiting to be welded and manipulated into the highly crafted sculptures that are Farrow’s latest body of titled the Reliquaries.
Throughout his career, Farrow has explored themes relating to the human condition. His current Reliquaries speaks to an instinct for violence and acquisition on power that is consistent with the history of humanity and religion. Farrow explains, “I became an artist to do social commentary. That was my reason to be an artist. I always enjoyed making things, […] I could have made whatever […] but, I really wanted to say something and record it for history.” Through his Reliquaries, Farrow has accomplished just that: composing receptacles for imagined relics and meticulously crafted sculptures of mosques, synagogues, and cathedrals. His use of guns, bullets, and various parts of weaponry brings to mind a history and association of militarization that is not immediately identifiable with religious doctrine. This combination of strikingly beautiful, intricate objects with an omnipresent statement on humanity has set forth an extremely complex and compelling body of work.
On the afternoon of October 10th, my fellow intern and I took a trip up to his studio with the gallery associate, Katharine James. Upon entering it is clear that we have encountered the artist’s creative process. As he welcomes us in, Farrow leads us towards two of his newest pieces which take the form of wall reliefs and are modeled after church doors and facades. Although still quite large, these wall reliefs allow Farrow to focus his detail and precision into one element of the structure— the façade. Through this, their manageability in size and placement allow these works to be collected in private homes.
For me, the true excitement of the visit is found in Farrow’s office, situated in a small room next to his workshop. Aside from being the site of creation for Farrow’s work, his studio and office function as a storage site for his ideas and inspiration. A large collection of African Art, jewelry, masks, and pottery decorate his office. “I love African Art. To me it has more juice than most Western art. You know, there’s just a lot of power in it.” There are countless shelves of bones and books lining every wall in the room. Farrow pulls out two books he is currently studying for one of his lastest projects, picturing Hindu and Buddhist temples. As he shows us these images, he discusses his hesitation and fear for these new works, pointing out the difficulty in creating the delicate design and curvature of these structures with his rigid medium of ammunition and guns. “The hard part in emulating architecture, is that I’ve got to find violent elements that can translate to the design elements that [I am] using.” This project will mark the first time Farrow has introduced polytheistic religion into his Reliquaries.
While Farrow began his Reliquaries in 1995, almost fifteen years later he has still found ways to explore and expand this series to continually address more contemporary narratives. His work is timeless, addressing issues that are relevant to us all, in a way that is unexpected. It is difficult to not feel both involved and inspired by this truly remarkable and memorable experience of seeing with and through the lens of sculptor Al Farrow.
December 20, 2014
Just a few more weeks to catch IAMI by LigoranoReese in our media room, and the ceramic sculptures of Wanxin Zhang in our main gallery space. Please note: the gallery will be closed from December 24 - January 1. We will re-open for regular hours on Friday, January 2, 2015.
Nora Ligorano with Chris Morrell of Fitbit
Wanxin Zhang and Catharine Clark at our Holiday Party on December 20, 2014.
December 02, 2014
The fair doesn't open until tonight, but Catharine Clark Gallery has already been receiving some great press!
by Meredith Mendelsohn
"...(Miami Project's) model consists of a healthy mix of cutting-edge contemporary work made specifically for the fair and more established material with a historical heft. On either end of the spectrum, visitors can expect to find some museum-worthy works. In fact, in what appears to be an unprecedented offering at a fair, San Francisco collectors Andy and Deborah Rappaport are going purchase a major piece by Bay Area collaborators Andy Diaz Hope and Jon Bernson for a museum or institution that is committed to socially-engaged art. Titled Beautification Machine, 2014, the multimedia installation, displayed by San Francisco’s Catherine Clark gallery, uses mirrors, audio and video components to transform snippets from Fox News and MSNBC into a highly aesthetic, experiential light and sound environment, stripping them of their partisanship. You’ll find the piece in a special room built just for its installation at Miami Project. The installation is a good example of the kind of highly collectible high-tech mixed-media work that abounds at this edition of Miami Project."
Your Concise Guide to the 2014 Miami Art Fairs
"....With 69 galleries hailing from both coasts of the US and a few points in between, one thing that sets Miami Project apart from other satellite fairs is Andy Diaz Hope and Jon Bernson’s “Beautification Machine,” an interactive installation that will, according to fair, “neutralize the bile and fear spewed forth daily over the networks and transform polarizing media sources into vehicles of contemplation and peace.” By Friday, we will all be dying for some contemplation and peace. (VIP preview: December 2, 5:30–10 pm)
Miami Project is just a few days away from welcoming visitors to Miami's Midtown Art District. Edition 3 will launch Tuesday night with our VIP Preview sponsored by 1stdibsoffering the public a first glimpse at the best in modern and contemporary art presented by seventy of the country's top galleries.
Miami Project is thrilled to be partnering with Catharine Clark Gallery and San Francisco based collectors and philanthropists Andy and Deborah Rappaport to present Andy Diaz Hope & Jon Bernon’s Beautification Machine. In an unprecedented act of artistic patronage, the Rappaports are supporting the presentation of this powerful and compelling installation with the direct intention of gifting the piece to the collection of a museum or public institution committed to the exhibition of socially engaged artwork. With the hope of inspiring other collectors to follow suit, Andy and Deborah Rappaport are using Miami Project as a platform for change as they evolve the traditional art fair acquisition.
INSTALLATIONS & EVENTS
Miami Project Edition 3 will feature several other exciting installations including Mel Chin’s Cabinet of Craving presented by Jonathan Ferrara Gallery and Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez’s Opresores Oprimidos presented by THE MISSION.Deborah Butterfield is creating new sculpture, including two fullscale horses welded from found metal, to be presented in a solo exhibition of six works with Greg Kucera Gallery. Programming opportunities for fair-goers include artist talks, a musical performance and Friday December 5th’s Women in the Arts event hosted by Miami Project exhibitor Jenkins Johnson Gallery. For more information please visit miami-project.com/projects-events/
Miami Project and Art Market Productions wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. We'll see you in Miami!
2014 Miami Project Exhibitors
ACA Galleries New York
Adelson Galleries New York
Ampersand Gallery Portland
Andrea Meislin Gallery New York
Benrubi Gallery New York
Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts New York
Berry Campbell New York
Catharine Clark Gallery San Francisco
CES Gallery Los Angeles
ClampArt New York
David B. Smith Gallery Denver
David Shelton Gallery Houston
DC Moore Gallery New York
Dina Mitrani Gallery Miami
Driscoll Babcock Galleries New York
Eleanor Harwood Gallery San Francisco
Electric Works San Francisco
Ferrin Contemporary Boston
Foley Gallery New York
Forum Gallery New York
Fouladi Projects San Francisco
Freight + Volume New York
Gallery Paule Anglim San Francisco
George Adams Gallery New York
George Lawson Gallery San Francisco
Greg Kucera Gallery Seattle
Haines Gallery San Francisco
jack fischer gallery San Francisco
Jenkins Johnson Gallery San Francisco
JHB Gallery New York
Jim Kempner Fine Art New York
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery New Orleans
Joshua Liner Gallery New York
Julie Saul Gallery New York
Kasher|Potamkin New York
Kopeikin Gallery Los Angeles
Lennon, Weinberg New York
Lesley Heller Workspace New York
MARC STRAUS New York
Margaret Thatcher Projects New York
Mark Moore Gallery Culver City
Morgan Lehman Gallery New York
Muriel Guépin Gallery New York
Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York
Nancy Margolis Gallery New York
Octavia Art Gallery New Orleans
Paulson Bott Press Berkeley
Pavel Zoubok Gallery New York
PDX Contemporary Art Portland
Peter Mendenhall Gallery Los Angeles
Quint Gallery La Jolla
Richard Levy Gallery Albuquerque
Robischon Gallery Denver
ROSEGALLERY Santa Monica
RYAN LEE Gallery New York
Sasha Wolf Gallery New York
Staley-Wise Gallery New York
steven harvey fine art projects New York
Steven Wolf Fine Arts San Francisco
SVA Galleries New York
Tally Beck Contemporary New York
THE MISSION Chicago / Houston
Tibor de Nagy Gallery New York
Traywick Contemporary Berkeley
Von Lintel Gallery Los Angeles
Walter Maciel Gallery Los Angeles
William Campbell Contemporary Fort Worth
Winston Wächter Fine Art New York / Seattle
Yancey Richardson Gallery New York
Miami Project is sponsored by
Art Market Productions,109 S. 5th Street, Suite 407, New York, New York 11249
November 14, 2014
Discovering the city through The City as Museum: Highlighting Works from the Civic Art Collection by Anthony Discenza
by Allison Stockman
The first posters in the Art on Market Street Kiosk Poster Series by artist Anthony Discenza which debuted in mid-August, will be on view through December 1, 2014. For his poster series, titled The City as Museum: Highlighting Works from the Civic Art Collection, Discenza appropriated the format of the standard museum or gallery card. The 36 posters consist entirely of text describing the works of art along with their locations. Image Gallery
Reading these posters has been one of my favorite projects over the past few weeks. As an East Coast native, I had no idea that the city of San Francisco has such diverse collection of work in it's public art collection. I've laughed out loud reading many of the stories behind works of art I have blithely rushed by on my way to work--especially the Vaillancourt fountain, which my children spent many a pre-drought summer afternoon throwing pennies at, and trying to push each other into. I'm going to love explaining it's history of graffiti tags next time we visit it.
Today, I've gotten lost on the internet reading about Ruth Asawa: her internment during World War II, as a child, to the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia where she lived in a horse stall; her journeys to Mexico and North Carolina seeking an art education in the face of lingering anti-Japanese racism; and her subsequent mastery of many mediums and forms throughout her career as an artist. The longer I live in San Francisco, the more of her public comissions and work I hope to seek out for a visit--The Garden of Remembrance at San Francisco State Univeristy is next on my list.
I hope you enjoy this project of Anthony Discenza's as much as I have, and it inspires more visits to our city's lesser known collected works.
November 11, 2014
New robots by Kal Spelletich will be included in a show opening this Thursday, November 14th at Jules Maeght Gallery in San Francisco.
6 - 8 pm
November 01, 2014
Follow us on Instagram the week of November 4 - 8 as we install lifesize ceramics sculptures by Wanxin Zhang for his exhibition Totem. This is the gallery's first solo exhibition of a ceramic artist and our inaugural exhibit of Zhang's work. Concurrently, our media room will feature two interactive fiber-optic self-portraits of the artistic duo LigoranoReese. This woven fiber-optic work, entitled IAMI, debuted at Miami Project 2013.
October 24, 2014
Studio Visit with Deborah Oropallo – The Magnolia Edition(s)
Oak wasp pods for re-invented iron gall ink are scattered across a workshop table. Sheets of handmade paper with intricate laser printed watermarks are stacked high. Various test iterations of the Chuck Close gridded pigment portraits are tacked on the walls. Jars of charred coffee grounds for artisan charcoal. A toweringly large Kiki Smith tapestry is cascading down the wall. Hand-drawn acrylic tiles of the Chuck Close mural for the new line of the New York subway are tucked around the room. And the state-of-the-art flatbed pigment printer elegantly ready to go.
This is the innovative environment of the renowned Magnolia Editions print studio that surrounds the artist Deborah Oropallo as she begins preparation for the printing of her latest canvases—a project that builds upon her original Guise series dating to the mid-2000s. Capitalizing on technological advancements, Oropallo sources art historical paintings of prominent male figures from the Google Art Project and images of costume clad woman from a sexy Halloween costume website. The artist then overlaps a feminine portrait on a masculine one, producing slightly larger than life-size, regal, androgynous portraits. The high resolution masculine images sourced from the Google Art Project allows the viewer to see the cracks and wear of the historical oil paintings dating to the 17th and 18th centuries—a complex new layer to this body of work. In addition to differing in resolution, size, and composition, these latest Guise paintings are unique works on canvas as opposed to the previous editioned work.
Come by Catharine Clark Gallery to see these stunning new works by Deborah Oropallo! The work will be at Oropallo's studio through the end of October, and available at the gallery for viewing at the beginning of November. View these new work on our website.
October 21, 2014
SFMOMA acquires two works by Nina Katchadourian
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has acquired two works by artist Nina Katchadourian. "Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style" from Seat Assignment is an ongoing project of Katchadourian's. Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. More work from Seat Assignment is currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum in the exhibition Crossing Brooklyn. Look for more in our newsblog soon about news and press from this exhibition.
Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #3, 2011
From the series Seat Assignment
Edition of 8 + proofs
13.333 x 10.313 inches
Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #4, 2011
From the series Seat Assignment
Edition of 8 + proofs
13.333 x 10 inches
October 17, 2014
Sandow Birk wins United States Artists Program Award
by Felicia R. Lee
USA Knight Fellow
The singer and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, the painter and sculptor Edouard Duval-Carrié, the filmmakers Ryan White and Ben Cotner and the artist Wangechi Mutu are among 34 people who have been awarded $50,000 and named U.S.A. fellows for 2014. The unrestricted awards, announced Monday, are from the United States Artists program, a grant-making organization funded by philanthropic foundations and individuals to support creativity. The 16 women and 18 men were selected by experts in their fields and were among 116 nominated artists living in the United States.
“U.S.A. Fellowships are awarded to innovative artists of all ages and at all stages of their careers, who are nominated for their commitment to excellence and the enduring potential of their work,” Carolina Garcia Jayaram, the chief executive of U.S.A. said in a statement.
The awards were given in architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and visual arts. A complete list of winners can be found at www.unitedstatesartists.org/2014fellows.
Founded in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations, U.S.A. is currently funded by several philanthropic foundations and individuals, including the Bloomberg Foundation and the Knight Foundation. Each artist’s fellowship is named for the foundation or individual supporting him or her. Since its founding, the fellows program has given $19.1 million to 405 artists. Past recipients include Kara Walker, Meredith Monk, Jason Moran, Benjamin Millepied and Bill T. Jones.
October 12, 2014
Extraordinary Masami Teraoka at auction: Bonhams Made in California: Starts 10:00 PDT, Monday 10/13 in LA. Simulcast in San Francisco. Made in California auction website.
October 10, 2014
Sandow Birk interviewed by KCET in Los Angeles about his Prison Series. This segment will air again this Friday night, 10/10/14.
October 07, 2014
If you are in New York, don't miss this show at the Brooklyn Museum, featuring work by Nina Katchadourian.
by Ken Johnson
Exerpt: "Nina Katchadourian presents a triptych of video self-portraits she made in an airplane lavatory. In them, she’s costumed herself using paper towels and other available materials to resemble the subjects of Dutch old master portrait paintings, and she’s expertly lip-syncing the three harmonies of a Bee Gees song. It’s hilarious and gripping to watch and listen to."
October 03, 2014
San Jose Museum of Art | Slight of Hand: Painting and Illusion
Group Exhibition featuring CCG artists Chester Arnold, Masami Teraoka, and Sandow Birk
October 2, 2014 - Feb 22, 2015
September 25, 2014
For Immediate Release
September 25, 2014
Artist Chris Doyle has been selected to receive The 2014 Borusan Contemporary Art Collection Prize. The announcement, released earlier today at Moving Image Istanbul, named Doyle's work, Waste_Generation (2011), as the winner of this prestigious award from hundreds of entries from around the globe. Catharine Clark, owner and director of Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, California, was present in Turkey for the announcement. Clark said, "I am delighted to see Waste_Generation find a place in the Borusan Collection, with such video greats as Go Watanabe and Doug Aitken. I had hoped there would be a positive response to the imagery in Chris's work because of how cogent his reflections are to a place that resides at the juncture of East and West. His message seems timely and relevant to all humanity irrespective of cultural geography."
This prize will fund the acquisition of Doyle's work by The Borusan Contemporary Art Collection which includes nearly 600 artworks encompassing such diverse media as oil paintings, sculpture, video art, installations, new media, print editions, light art, and photography. Moving Image co-founders Murat Orozobekov and Edward Winkleman noted, "We are so pleased that the The Borusan Contemporary Art Collection Prize affords the team at Borusan Contemporary the opportunity to preview all the work in the Moving Image Istanbul art fair. The selection process is a great way for each gallery to have their artist's work viewed by one of the best collections of video art in the world. We are delighted for Chris Doyle that his work has been selected for their collection, and wish to thank everyone at Borusan for their generous support of our inaugural edition of Moving Image Istanbul."
Describing his award-winning work, Doyle states:
"Waste_Generation is the second in a series of five animations based on Course of Empire, by Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole. The series explores the cultural framework through which we view landscape. Focusing on links between plant life and pattern, ornament, design, and construction, it is about the tension between creative and destructive impulses. As we transition from industrial to digital culture, civilization continues to generate huge amounts of waste. At the same time, the creative and productive acts that generate that waste are dazzlingly and essentially human."
About the Borusan Contemporary
Founded in 2011, Borusan Contemporary is the leading platform for media arts in Turkey. Housed in the historic Perili Köşk mansion on the European shore of the upper Bosphorous, it consists of two gallery spaces for temporary exhibitions and new commissions as well as an extensive ‘Office Museum’ for the display of curated selections from the collection. It contains print editions by Jim Dine, Donald Judd, and Sol LeWitt; light art installations by Brigitte Kowanz, Keith Sonnier, François Morellet, and Doug Aitken; paintings by Peter Zimmermann, Gerwald Rockenschaub and Markus Linnenbrink; as well as sculptures by Liam Gillick, Manfred Wakolbinger and Ernest Trova. Artists such as Zimoun, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, U-Ram Choe, Daniel Rozin and Daniel Canogar are featured in the Collection’s new media segment, and Monika Bravo, Marina Zurkow, Kutluğ Ataman and Manfred Mohr are standout names in the video art section.
Waste_Generation (2011) can be viewed at Moving Image Istanbul through September 28, 2014. Doyle's work is also the subject of a solo exhibition, The Fluid, currently on display at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco through November 1, 2014. Chris Doyle has been represented by Catharine Clark Gallery since 2010.
Chris Doyle talks more about Waste_Generation, and other recent works:
Video Interview with Chris Doyle by 21c Museum
Follow us on Instagram for more images of Chris Doyle's work
September 05, 2014
Catharine Clark Gallery is in the midst of a very busy and festive year at TX Contemporary 2014! Keep reading for a few updates and pictures below. If you are in Houston, please stop by to see our exhibit, GARBLE with artists Anthony Discenza, Nina Katchadourian, Walter Robinson, Charles Gute, Stephanie Syjuco, Ligorano/Reese, John Slepian and Sandow Birk.
Catharine Clark Gallery Booth 403
Walter Robinson, Sinvergüenza, 2008, MDF and epoxy, 16 x 33 x 1 inches
Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet, 99 Names of God (U.S.A.), 2011, Ink and gouache on paper, 41 ½ x 53 ½ inches framed
On September 4th, The Houston Chronicle picked up John Slepian's performance at the fair with a great picture of him performing A Really Great Idea. Read the full article here.
John Slepian give a few more performance of A Really Great Idea at Booth 403
Today, Friday, 9/5 at 1pm and 6pm
Saturday, 9/6 at 1pm, 3pm & 5pm
August 29, 2014
An Evening with Kal Spelletich
By Ashley Hong, a Catharine Clark Gallery summer intern
August 15, 2014
There is something surreal about the animation of inanimate objects. Maybe it’s the idea of metal breathing fire or machines that can mimic sacred human actions, like praying and hugging, that creates a transcendental impression. In the modern world, technology is ubiquitous. As technology becomes increasingly more advanced, it consumes more and more of our time. Kal Spelletich, a San Francisco artist, builds robots and machines that question the role technology plays in our lives. He asks questions that challenge our perception of science and technology, such as, “How can we have fun with some seemingly sinister technological applications?” and “Can we mechanize spirituality?” To Spelletich, machine robots “inhabit an innersticial place where they are both beyond human and robots at the same time. This leaves the audience mildly suspicious of the machine world and "reality;" it messes with people’s perceptions of safety and the role of technology.”
Kal Spelletich was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. He ran away from home at age 15, and worked numerous jobs as a carpenter, plumber, teacher, and auto mechanic among many others. Art was never on his radar as a child, but during college, interaction with a camera sparked an interest. While at the University of Iowa and later at the University of Texas at Austin for his Masters, art became a lifestyle for Spelletich. As a mechanic and carpenter, Spelletich was naturally drawn to sculpture, robots, and machinery. He wanted to make “art that does things,” so an essential tool in his studio is a cordless drill. Spelletich says he “scavenges junkyards, the streets, and Ebay,” and people give him materials for his work. “I cannibalize old pieces, I really try and not buy stuff, [and to] not add to consumerism. Honor[ing] items already used, I often feel a used item holds memories/energy from its previous user, previous actions.” To Spelletich, every cast off has potential.
His studio can be described as an organized mess. Despite being filled with wood and metal scraps and other industrial materials he finds along the way, the warehouse in which he creates his magic has an unconventional feeling of comfort and familiarity. Just as we build our lives with pieces we find here and there, Kal brings to life what others would quickly toss into the trash, “The roles of humans are changing just as tech and robots roles are changing, humans are good at a lot of things. But that is changing. Robots are good at a lot of things. But that is changing. I like how the two things are flipping. With every technological change there is a trade-off.” Spelletich’s love for trees and wood is expressed through the small oasis of green outside his warehouse in an otherwise industrial neighborhood. This balance between wood and metal is beautiful. There is a compelling tension between the many opposites that make up his world. Metal can withstand fire, but wood cannot; and wood represents the very organic essence of life. Wood is usually needed to spark a fire and yet when it burns, it turns back into earth. All of Kal’s fire pieces are made of metal and by working with both metal and wood, Spelletich explores how seemingly materials are intertwined.
Spelletich’s Fireshower is one of his most known works. It is essentially a capsule that surrounds a person in fire. To Spelletich, fire is “like a wild animal,” and having the flames merely five inches from your skin creates a feeling of “terror then bliss.” “I am often exploring how much a person is prepared to submit to external forces and how far s/he can allow a machine to intrude on the body. I like the double edged sword of this medium, you are attracted to it yet scared…” Spelletich’s multitude of fire pieces symbolizes his own experiences with mortality and the process of coping and finding peace after death. It was after dealing with the passing of close family members and seeing important people leave his life that Spelletich really began to grasp the ideas of abstract art. He found a new appreciation and understanding of abstract art and began creating abstractions that gave him a way to cope with pain and sadness. Here his love of Eastern religions, particularly the idea of Zen, transformed itself into robotic sculptures.
In an exhibition at Catharine Clark Gallery in conjunction with ZERO1 Biennial in 2015, Spelletich further delves into the ideas of what truly makes us human. He asks whether we can mechanize spirituality, “Can praying be automated? Buddhists do this! If we do not pray can a robot do it for us?” With these questions in mind, Spelletich began creating what he calls “Praying Robots.” He aims to bring into the forefront of people’s minds the possibility that intangibles such as emotions, the soul, and spirits, might be measurable. “Can I build an interface to trigger robots that can read viewers' "auras, vibe or character"? Can a robot respond to one’s individuality? Is spirituality quantifiable? Can one crowd-source energy to trigger the robots? Why is an atheist interested in this? Can I scientifically conduct experiments on whether this works?” These kind of questions spark the creative genius of Kal Spelletich and further explore the proximity of art and science.
In such a high tech, fast-paced society, we need constant reminders to take a step back from our phones, tablets, and laptops and realize the things that are constantly changing around us. Does being consumed by technology help us as a human race? Or is technology taking away parts of what makes us human, like physical interactions, reactions to people, and emotions? Many of Spelletich’s works aim to bridge human interaction with the art pieces themselves. Controlled simply by hovering a hand over a piece of metal to move the sculpture, many of his works require audience engagement. He even has a hugging machine that grabs a person from behind and lifts them into a huge bear hug. This is another example of technology and machines doing very human-like things, and it makes one wonder just how much a machine will be able to do in the future. Spelletich’s interest in the ideas of religion and spirituality makes him question whether art and technology can provide a substitute for religion. His Praying Hands are human operated machines that essentially pray to the person that is controlling it. Spelletich creates a beautiful connection between human and machine, demonstrating how each relies on the other to function.
Kal Spelletich’s renowned art pieces have lead him all over the world, from Europe to Africa to India. Every culture has an influence on an artist’s perspective and every culture interacts and reacts differently to the same artworks. Spelletich has noticed that “every exhibit is an experiment in engaging the audience and learning. To bring work that appears to be from another world, into another world is eye opening for me. In essence, I am interested in conducting live experiments on audience members using technology.” Audience engagement is at the heart of Kal Spelletich’s work and as he continues to explore ideas that extend our boundaries of thought, he creates works that changes the way we think and interact with art.