Glen Helfand

  • Jess, The Enamord Mage: Translation #6, 1965, oil on canvas over wood, 24 1/2 x 30”.
    picks July 18, 2013

    “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle”

    The artist Jess and the poet Robert Duncan exchanged romantic vows in 1951, more than sixty years before the Supreme Court weighed in on marriage equality. Posthumously, the couple still inspires much of San Francisco’s creative community. Titled after a Duncan collection published in 1960, this exhibition reveals a group of creative individuals who lived and worked in the Bay Area during a romantically bohemian era of alternative lifestyles and artistic as well as social experimentation. The Jess-Duncan crowd may have crossed paths with the Beats, but their scene was more intimate, and too

  • Alan Rath, Forever, 2012, pheasant feathers, aluminum, polyethylene, fiberglass, custom electronics, motors, 90 x 60 x 12".
    picks May 10, 2013

    Alan Rath

    There’s a serious flirtation factor to Alan Rath’s recent mechanized sculptures. Composed of metal armatures and computer hardware that seemingly animate feathers, the works literally tickle the viewer who stands even a socially acceptable distance away. Working with robotic forms since the 1980s, Rath has always captured a dynamic confusion between electronics and human intimacy, utilizing standard tech-art hardware—video monitors, audio equipment—as stand-ins for the human body. At Hosfelt he doesn’t hide the tripods and consoles, but the addition of an organic material is a breakthrough,

  • Ben Davis, Mayor Ed Lee, Gavin Newsom, and artist Leo Villareal. (Except where noted, all photos: Drew Altizer Photography/SFWIRE)
    diary March 15, 2013

    City Lights

    STORM CLOUDS gathered last Tuesday, March 5, at the same time as a formally attired crowd convened at the Hotel Vitale lobby to fete artist Leo Villareal and inaugurate The Bay Lights, a massive public work covering the San Francisco Bay Bridge. When I arrived, the affable artist himself was just inside the hotel, greeting guests with a degree of comfort that belied the idea that his eight-million-dollar project might be doused during its Grand Lighting.

    Villareal’s work is dubbed the world’s largest LED light sculpture. It spans nearly two miles and straddles communities with investments in art,

  • Left: Artist Philip Huang. (Photo: Styrous) Right: Barry McGee and BAM/PFA curator Dena Beard. (Photo: Leif Hedendal)
    diary August 29, 2012

    Street Smarts

    THE SIDEWALKS surrounding the Berkeley Art Museum last Thursday were filled with dazed and eager newbie scholars who brazenly streamed through crosswalks, taunting drivers on the first day of classes at Cal. It also happened to be the opening of Barry McGee’s rollicking home-turf midcareer survey at the BAM. McGee and his street-inflected artwork have always had an ambivalent relationship with authority, and it was a fitting and yet somehow awkward merging of events. The university is a zone of both youthful energy and bureaucratic entanglements: During the opening, there were reports of campus

  • Left: Artists Anne Walsh, Chris Kubick, and Trevor Paglen. Right: Artist Lisa K. Blatt and Cindy Sherman. (Photos: Glen Helfand)
    diary July 19, 2012

    Coast to Coast

    HOW IS IT that Cindy Sherman’s had such a paltry exhibition record in San Francisco? Back in the 1990s there were a couple small solo shows—a Berkeley Art Museum Matrix presentation of her history works, an exhibition of her thorny prosthetics pictures at the long-defunct Friends of Photography—but whole series passed by a city where costume play and identity shifts are colorfully visible, and where photographers have long found institutional haven. So the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art might be making up for lost time in picking up a leg of Sherman’s MoMA-organized career survey. Street-pole

  • Bessma Khalaf, The Long Goodbye, 2012, still from an HD video, 12 hours.
    picks May 14, 2012

    Bessma Khalaf

    Those who give credence to the Mayan eschatological prophecy that the world will end this year can shop nearly until Christmas to prepare for the apocalypse. This sort of humorous and mundane magick is the sly subject of Bessma Khalaf’s mostly monochromatic photographs, videos, and sculptures in her latest exhibition, “Re-Enchanter.” The show reveals an intoxicating mix of tonal ingredients, not the least of which is a base of witty theatricality. Take the self-descriptive, elegantly composed black-and-white photograph Still Life with Le Creuset (all works 2012), which repurposes a pricey Dutch

  • Luke Butler, Landing Party IV, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 28".
    picks April 25, 2012

    Luke Butler

    Now more than ever, it can seem that media is eternal: Most any film or classic television series will stream dead shows, live, at our summoning, from vast digital archives. Luke Butler’s work is an emphatically analog illustration of mediated mortality and masculinity. In previous works, he’s depicted male crew members from the original Star Trek series in painted film-still moments of struggle and vulnerability—when characters have been felled by nearly lethal rays. In this exhibition, these characters, sharply painted in acrylic, tangle against flat gray backgrounds or, in the case of Landing

  • Bonnie Sherk, Portable Park II, 1970. Performance view.
    picks April 13, 2012

    “State of Mind”

    There are perpetual rumblings about ballot initiatives to split California in half, somewhere in the middle of this vast landmass. It’s exactly the kind of crackpot idea or pipe-dream hyperbole that makes the Golden State (and its residents) so appealing. “State of Mind” is the only exhibition of the Getty-sponsored, Los Angeles-centric “Pacific Standard Time” lot to migrate north, and it serves the vital function of expanding the program’s geographic purview to include NorCal artists. Perhaps even more important is that it demonstrates (as the title asserts) that there is indeed a broader

  • Leslie Shows, Face R, 2011, ink, acrylic, mica, paper, brass, Plexiglas, Mylar, aluminum, 82 x 48”.
    picks December 06, 2011

    Leslie Shows

    Leslie Shows’s new body of work was inspired by two small chunks of pyrite, aka fool’s gold. In a sense, the material is richer in metaphor than actual value; neither precious nor revered, it has modest industrial utility and reflective qualities that dazzle deceptively in the ground. As a doppelgänger for a fourteen-carat commodity, it calls worth into question. A series of faceted paintings on shiny aluminum panels, some more than six feet tall, are based on scans of pyrite and are rendered in a polymorphous array of elements––Plexiglas, Mylar, crushed glass, metal dust, mica, acrylic paint.

  • View of “September 11,” 2011. Top: Fiona Banner, Black Bunting, 2001.
    picks November 09, 2011

    “September 11”

    For the past ten years, the meaning of September 11 has been elastic, its tension easing and straining to encompass mournful impulse and a desire to forget. Peter Eleey’s unhurried exhibition of works by forty-one artists treats 9/11 as a lens through which to consider collective trauma––even though the majority of pieces here were made before 2001. Although the show opened on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, its poetic, melancholic demeanor is less concerned with memorializing than with presenting an introspective and political acknowledgment of the ambivalence that surrounds that fateful

  • Carl Van Vechten, Gertrude Stein with American Flag, 1935, black-and-white photograph, 9 7/16 x 6 13/16.”
    picks August 17, 2011

    “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories”

    To live up to the appellation “grande dame of transatlantic modernism,” the honorific bestowed on Gertrude Stein by one of the curators of this substantial exhibition devoted to her mediated life, is no small task. Stein always appeared to walk on solid, ego-bolstered ground, and the fittingly literate “Five Stories” takes a faceted approach to illuminating, and to a degree problematizing, her activities as a writer, art collector, networker, public intellectual, and queer trailblazer. It does so through a collection of artifacts, digital slide shows, and vintage and recent artworks (by Deborah

  • View of “This, This, This, That,” 2011.
    picks July 06, 2011

    Chris Johanson

    As a barometer of culture (or perhaps of the artist’s psyche), Chris Johanson’s current show reports clear skies. A small, washy acrylic on paper is emblazoned with the word SUN, which is inscribed repeatedly in yellowish hues. Like a mantra from a Mel Bochner painting, the term starts to become abstract, though only just—on the opposite side of the gallery is another, similarly scaled piece that offers the term EASY LISTENING, floating among jagged blue forms, affirming an easy vibe. Johanson, who has deep roots in San Francisco (though he currently splits his time between Portland and Los