Glen Helfand

  • picks October 19, 2006

    “Prophets of Deceit”

    Apocalyptic fantasies and maniacal cult despots commingle in curator Magali Arriola’s timely meditation on belief—as enacted in the interplay of perversely charismatic leaders and their willing followers. This deceptively earnest group show invokes the memory of Charles Manson, as envisioned by Raymond Pettibon’s funky 1990 video of Charlie whipping up his flock; “magick” meister Aleister Crowley and a long-abandoned Sicilian “temple” of dark worship, both tracked down by Joachim Koester in a series of photographs and atmospheric negative video images; and David Koresh, Branch Davidian kingpin,

  • picks October 12, 2006

    Ryan Boyle

    The juxtaposition of Ryan Boyle’s tight, diminutive sculptures and his obsessively funky, childlike drawings generates a gleefully schizophrenic vibe—a feeling affirmed by the fact that the Portland, OR–based artist is also, apparently, a “world-class break dancer.” His wall-hanging sculptures, made from a dazzling range of found materials, initially resemble dollhouse versions of the fanciful '80s-era postmodern furniture by the collective Memphis, only Boyle substitutes matte cardboard and Tiparillo tips for the slick Formica favored by the Italian designers. Although he dubs his show

  • Brian Ulrich

    The ubiquitous Big Box is an irresistible, though problematic, subject for contemporary artists. In documenting these bloated retail havens (eleven such images made up this recent exhibition at Robert Koch Gallery), Chicago-based photographer Brian Ulrich sets himself the not uncomplicated task of addressing the perils of rampant consumerism without lapsing into simplistic, knee-jerk condemnation.

    All but two of the pictures, culled almost entirely from the series “Copia,” 2002–2006, were taken in the American Midwest and are titled after their locations: Black River Falls, WI, 2006; Minneapolis,

  • picks September 11, 2006

    Donald Urquhart

    San Francisco maintains its position as a progressive-gay-male mecca, though its myths have dramatically shifted from back rooms to courtrooms, from free sex to the legal concerns of gay marriage and adoption. London-based artist Donald Urquhart’s tart series of black-ink drawings are rooted in retro visions of the city’s queer history and acknowledge its lifestyle mood swings with sardonic wit. With a visual aesthetic that comes off as a mash-up of Aubrey Beardsley’s monochromatic graphic excess, “Candyass” Cary Leibowitz’s lowercase phrasings, and Rufus Wainwright’s winking camp, Urquhart

  • Carter

    Carter (no last name) operates from a coolly paranoid position. In his collaged drawings and photographs, he seems primarily concerned with various means of masking the self. Most of his works, which in a recent show at Jack Hanley Gallery included several large gray blobs painted directly on the gallery walls, feature masklike profile silhouettes of a head based on the artist’s own image, or on a sculpted dummy that he created for the purpose. Many have blank apertures for eyes, and a few have cavernous holes where new noses might be affixed, Mr. Potato Head style.

    In Carter’s diagrammatic works

  • picks July 20, 2006

    “Naughty”

    The four artists in “Naughty” don’t exactly engage in spank-worthy behavior—unless you consider lascivious, baroque impulses criminal. If anything, Keith Boadwee, whose early works involved dolling up his penis to resemble Marge Simpson, might best be described as a mischief maker. His new, '80s-media-inflected collages evoke similar perversions, but this time he’s shifted the focus away from the self. In these works, the Oakland-based artist mixes chubby-chaser gay porn, Britpop pinups, seemingly prepubescent topless girls, and stately official photographs of Charles and Diana. Elsewhere,

  • picks July 11, 2006

    Yoon Lee

    It’s nearly impossible to clear a path through the forests of evolving technologies, overabundant media, and accelerated circuits of information framing our cynical, ambivalent stances (which we so easily affect), but Yoon Lee’s graceful yet cacophonous acrylic paintings deepen the effort by visually rendering the dynamism of modern existence. Trafficking in Julie Mehretu’s delicate tangles, but rendering them in bolder, thicker strokes, Lee works with slick surfaces, layering varying degrees of opacity. Semitranslucent areas resembling Vik Muniz’s chocolate syrup are juxtaposed with denser

  • diary June 24, 2006

    Restraint Order

    San Francisco

    It was fitting that the opening of “Matthew Barney: Drawing Restraint” took place on the longest day of the year. The expansive show is yet another of Barney’s forays into broad themes and large space. It was also the hottest art event this town has seen in ages.

    SF MoMA skews towards themed parties, but rather than “self-discipline,” the museum wisely used Drawing Restraint 9’s Japanese whaling ship to set the tone. The atrium was tricked out with a giant, zen garden-like arrangement of wood chips and twigs and resembled a giant crudité platter; servers circled with shot glasses of miso soup

  • picks June 20, 2006

    “Peripheries of Narrative”

    The mania for poaching art schools doesn’t get quite the same play in San Francisco, a city with less investment in the rhythms of the art market than New York or London. It’s fitting, then, that this show of fresh MFA grads from California College of the Arts, curated by painter Kim Anno, exudes a calm, confident vibe. Using thread and mapping pins with crimson heads, Katie Lewis delicately translates physical sensations into a three-dimensional drawing—it’s as visceral as a plastinated, Body Worlds nervous system, only more elegant. Also dazzling are Jamie Vasta’s paintings of campground

  • Packard Jennings

    In his recent solo exhibition at Catherine Clark Gallery, prankster interventionist Packard Jennings hurled small stones at mighty, if easy, targets—the corporation and the church. Jennings’s interactive projects restage the David and Goliath narrative in our late, late capitalist moment, imagining ways in which the little guy might finally do away with his accursed office cubicle.

    The show’s centerpiece, a multipart work titled Business Reply, 2006, takes aim at companies who target consumers with avalanches of direct mail. In the show’s announcement, Jennings asked gallerygoers to collect

  • picks May 22, 2006

    “Between the Walls”

    Buildings on the eve of destruction, or in this case seismic retrofitting, offer artists the unique opportunity to get more playfully extreme in architectural terms (think Gordon Matta-Clark). This thirty-two-year-old alternative space with a twenty-five-foot ceiling is about to undergo a yearlong makeover, and has marked the transitional moment before the contractors arrive by inviting teams of artists and designers to get busy with the walls, floors, and office furniture. Befitting the gallery’s community-based, relational-aesthetic tendencies, the eight projects together find the gallery

  • picks May 22, 2006

    Mary Heilmann

    Mary Heilmann’s seven new prints, all made this year at Crown Point Press, revel in their sensual suggestion of liquid refreshment. She alludes to ocean waves and Hockneylike bodies of water using thick, dripping, horizontal marks in colors that seem cool and juicy—popsicle pink, cherry red, a pale lime green. It’s as though she’s infused dry works on paper with moisture. As is often the case with Heilmann’s work, the prints are deceptively breezy. The compositions of Valentine and Passage, for example, are clearly inspired by swimming pools; oozing shapes in corporeal crimson and metallic silver