Glen Helfand

  • View of “Josh Faught: Look Across the Water Into the Darkness, Look for the Fog,” 2022. Wall: Eternal Flame, 2022; Floor: Inappropriate Happiness, 2022.
    picks February 09, 2022

    Josh Faught

    The title of Josh Faught’s generous, unsettling exhibition “Look Across the Water Into the Darkness, Look for the Fog” is lifted from John Carpenter’s 1980 pop-horror film, The Fog. The movie is about vengeful ghosts who float into a coastal town in Northern California, where quaint bed-and-breakfasts provide only cosmetic defense. Faught uses textiles, cultural lore, and other means to evoke domestic comfort and its inverse. The artist has explored these themes before, but they resonate with even greater depth here, especially at a time of airborne contagions, when home has become both a prison

  • View of “Wangechi Mutu,” 2021. Photo: Gary Sexton.

    Wangechi Mutu

    A bronze cast of Auguste Rodin’s Thinker, 1880–81, has long welcomed visitors to the exterior courtyard of the Legion of Honor, a faux-French edifice built in the 1920s through the efforts of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of sugar magnate Adolph B. Spreckels. The city-affiliated museum primarily focuses on European art. Its sister museum, the de Young, is where collections of art from the Americas, Oceania, and Africa are housed. Like many cultural repositories of its era, the Legion is steeped in constructed narratives.

    Given its setting, at the coastal edge of San Francisco, this museum

  • Willie Stewart, TOTAL youth, 2019, ink and color pencil on cotton board, pigmented ink-jet print and acrylic on polystyrene board, and acrylic on canvas over panel, 60 1⁄4 × 40 × 8".

    Willie Stewart

    Willie Stewart was two years old when the Cure’s “In Between Days” was released. The song is an earworm that can get you to dance to dour lyrics: “Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die.” Stewart took this former nightclub staple as the title of his recent solo exhibition, which, like the band’s music, was austere, showy, and well-crafted, more thoughtful than its slick finishes suggested.

    Stewart, who is also a musician, used the arena of arty punk and synth bands from the 1980s to explore layered notions of time, in an era when any decade’s records are instantly streamable. A sense of

  • Conrad Egyir, The last brother in America, 2019, oil, acrylic, Plexiglas, glitter, synthetic flowers, and wood on canvas, 90 x 72".
    picks May 23, 2019

    Conrad Egyir

    The tone is springlike, with crisp whites and bold graphic patterns rendered in sunny colors strategically punctuated with bright fake flowers. Conrad Egyir’s mixed-media paintings gathered in the exhibition “Ameliorations” serve as emblems, portraits, and quasi-religious narratives that honor black bodies and allude to iconographies of the African diaspora. Some works take the form of giant postcards or sheets of dot matrix paper. Within the compositions, bodies are arranged and iterated in geometric ensembles with shifts in scale that position some as deities and others as civilians embodying

  • Kathleen Ryan, Ghost Palm, 2019, steel, acrylic, polycarbonate, 28 x 18 x 18'.
    picks February 22, 2019

    Desert X

    Southern California’s deserts are geographically sprawling, environmentally diverse, historically fraught, and ever dramatized. Their appeal to artists and curators is understandable. In its first iteration in 2017, Desert X, a biennial intended to “engage viewers, and focus attention on the Valley’s environment,” veered toward spectacle, with architectural works by Doug Aitken, Richard Prince, Tavares Strachan, and others. The nineteen artists and collaboratives in the 2019 edition, which has expanded to cover some fifty-five miles around Palm Springs, has a few heavy hitters, including Sterling

  • Wardell Milan, Bill T. Jones, 2018, printed paper, 8 1/2 x 11".
    picks January 23, 2019

    Wardell Milan

    Composite bodies constructed from pages of Robert Mapplethorpe’s notorious Black Book, 1986, populate Wardell Milan’s collages, drawings, and paintings. These fractured compositions of physical sensuality and social tension often include shards of images from other sources as well as renderings of lines and shapes glued onto the surface.

    While the show is titled “Parisian Landscapes: Blue in Green,” the first large work one sees has a deep red background and is inhabited by distorted, Frankenstein-like figures that could have been drawn from the paintings of Francis Bacon: Muscular men in posing

  • slant December 14, 2018

    On the Ground: San Francisco

    FOR MUCH OF NOVEMBER 2018, raging wildfires made particulate matter levels dangerously high in the Bay Area. Eyes watered, schools closed, art openings and lectures were canceled. People fled to LA, never known for its air quality, for bluer skies. It became matter of course to wear N95 respirators if you could find them. Lines snaked around hardware stores, and San Francisco’s young, affluent demographic patiently waited for theirs, just as they do in queues for the latest must-have artisanal ice cream.

    This is not to draw too emphatic a comparison between the arts and the effects of global

  • Will Rogan, The obscurity of the mid day twilight, (detail) 2018, marine paint, mast, ceramic, sea life, 20 1/2 x 21 x 21”.
    picks July 20, 2018

    Will Rogan

    “Albatross,” Will Rogan’s strangely potent exhibition, is timely in multiple senses. The sculptures, found objects, and photographs allude to the effects of climate change and also to the concept of time itself, in its varied scales and paces. Immediately, seascape photographs and rocks placed like Minimalist sculptures on the floor establish a geological baseline. Weights and chains from cuckoo clocks droop from photographs in small handmade frames, and elsewhere, horological mechanisms have been reconfigured to make die-cut shapes of urns, keys, and faces that rotate at their own, sometimes

  • picks June 29, 2018

    Alicia McCarthy and Ruby Neri

    You feel an aesthetic electricity when you enter this modestly scaled gallery that has brought together work by Alicia McCarthy and Ruby Neri, artists who studied together at the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 1990s—art and life pals ever since. Back in the day, they were both focused on making art in the street and often had cans of spray-paint in their hands. The thrill of hissing aerosol is still visible in their work, albeit in discrete objects of their own making—McCarthy’s kaleidoscopic, interwoven abstract matrices in spray-paint and house paint, and Neri’s voluptuous ceramics,

  • interviews April 27, 2018

    Alice Shaw

    With wry wit and deceptive literalness, Alice Shaw has been making work for over twenty-five years that cleverly focuses on a few core issues: doubles, photography, and the hegemonic history of landscape photography in her native Golden State. Her current exhibition at Gallery 16 in San Francisco, “Cloned,” is on view through May 26, 2018. Here, among other things, she reveals some reasons for her current focus on sheep.

    IMAGERY OF FARM ANIMALS seems somewhat unpopular these days. I was watching some Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films a while back and noticed how much animals used to play

  • picks April 10, 2018

    Matthew Angelo Harrison

    The twelve works in Matthew Angelo Harrison’s 2018 series “Dark Silhouettes” are a handsome provocation. Traditional wooden African sculptures, many sourced online, are encased in smoky resin and placed upon pedestals of the artist’s design, echoing Minimalist furniture from the 1970s. It is intriguing to know that Harrison, who is based in Detroit, worked in prototyping for Ford Motors, as some of the resin has been carved into with a CNC router, creating topographical rivulets in these industrial arrangements. Some of the blocks have holes drilled as if to offer oxygen to a captured deity;

  • Left: Dohee Lee. (Photo: Marisa Darabi). Right: BAM/PFA founding director Peter Selz and BAM/PFA director Lawrence Rinder. (Photo: Peter Cavagnaro).
    diary December 24, 2014

    Dancing in the Moonlight

    THE BERKELEY ART MUSEUM BUILDING, a bold but seismically iffy piece of Brutalist architecture, has been on borrowed time for a while now. Bracing was added more than a decade ago, but it still rates poor on the safety scale. A new, more stable, and conveniently located building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro is nearing completion, and so the museum threw itself a daylong celebration of its soon to be former home on the shortest day of the year.

    Architect Mario Ciampi’s edifice, which opened to the public in 1970, is all about exposed concrete, verticality, and buttress landings overlooking