Glen Helfand

  • picks April 15, 2009

    Mario Garcia Torres

    The had-to-be-there quality of much classic and recent Conceptual art can’t help but generate myths, especially when the documentation is patchy. The two slide-projection pieces in Mario Garcia Torres’s exhibition (as part of BAM’s MATRIX program) offer archaeological proof of legendary and downright obscure artworks by major figures. Garcia Torres goes the distance to find them—for Je ne sais si c’en est la cause (I do not know if it is the cause), 2009, he’s after crumbling Daniel Buren murals in an abandoned Saint Croix resort built in the 1960s, while for What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You

  • picks April 13, 2009

    Renée Gertler

    Check your smartphone and you’ll probably have at least one message concerning a downward spiral, collapse, or evacuated piece of real estate. It wasn’t so long ago, though, that those discussions of the magnitude of nothingness and infinite space had more philosophical tones and emerged from late-night conversations around pot, munchies, and sci-fi novels. In her wry, engaging sculptural installation, Renée Gertler invokes the pleasures of circuitous conversations about life and the universe.

    The objects comprising Modality Room, 2009, suggest an apartment scrappily furnished with makeshift

  • diary March 21, 2009

    Drawing a Crowd

    San Francisco

    A VISIBLE PRESENCE in his drawings and animations, William Kentridge is a sturdy, balding, dadlike guy, a sort of character actor for whom a pratfall comes as easily as a political or artistic statement. He seemed uncannily familiar, dressed in dark pants and a rumpled white dress shirt, when he took to the podium last Friday during the press preview for “William Kentridge: Five Themes,” his survey exhibition at SF MoMA. After thanking the museum, curators, and collaborators, he revealed his theatrical personality to a couple dozen journalists and delegates from forthcoming exhibition tour

  • Jake Longstreth

    The American landscape has always been shaped by economic forces, with mining, drilling, and building integral parts of the country’s manifest destiny. Today, as foreclosures and failed businesses spread like flesh-eating bacteria, that landscape is shifting, psychically and physically, becoming blighted with vacant houses and big-box structures. Particularly timely, then, are Jake Longstreth’s nearly photorealistic paintings of anonymous, generally unpopulated built environments. Whether portraying a swimming pool, tennis court, chain-store facade, or other man-made monument, each of this

  • picks February 15, 2009

    “Trying to Cope with Things That Aren’t Human (Part One)”

    It’s not uncommon to see nocturnal raccoons ambling through San Francisco, yet the encounter is often dreamlike, especially when the creatures pad through pet doors and raid pantries, hungry for the same things humans consume. Our struggle to reconcile with nature forms the thematic backbone of this absorbing group exhibition, “Trying to Cope with Things That Aren’t Human (Part One).” Artist and curator Ian Brown wrangles fourteen artists (including himself) who are inspired by “natural” behaviors, language, and landscapes. Alex Pearl, Alan Currall, and Brown contribute works that address our

  • Michael Wolf

    China’s gleaming new skyscrapers have magnetic appeal for Western photographers, who often portray them as striking signs of the country’s massive growth. Michael Wolf is one such photographer, having trained his lens on Hong Kong since 2003, when he began “Architecture of Density,” his ongoing series of pictures depicting seemingly endless vertical columns and staggered grids of windows. The facades are shown at a distance, the thousands of people held within the matrices only suggested. For a related series, “100 x 100,” 2006, however, he photographed Hong Kong residents inside their nearly

  • picks January 28, 2009

    “A Wild Night and a New Road”

    Opening an ambitiously programmed gallery in this economic climate, in San Francisco nonetheless, is an act of hope, dedication, and trepidation. But the title of Altman Siegel’s inaugural exhibition quotes Emily Dickinson’s musing on death, contextualizing the work of the seven artists in the show through the excitement and fears of major cultural shift. The mostly monochromatic exhibition is a sober celebratory debut. Leaning against the wall, Matt Keegan’s Meryl Streep, 2008, repeatedly renders the actress’s name in gold leaf, like a willfully optimistic awards-season mantra. Its parallel

  • picks January 12, 2009

    Tom Marioni

    Deploying lore is a key strategy in Conceptual art—there’s always a backstory. Veteran Conceptualist Tom Marioni’s current exhibition adds extra layers of narrative, as well as an endearing sense of whimsy, as he organizes into narrative groups thirty-three etchings and woodcuts he’s made over the past twenty-eight years at this press. The exhibition is titled “Fabliaux,” an allusion to Marioni’s revisions of classic fairy tales: “Rip Van Winkle,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “Cinderella,” and the like. The texts accompanying these works, which are adult in the sense that they acknowledge

  • picks December 01, 2008

    Wolfgang Ganter

    Salty ocean air is tangy and vividly corrosive, and those attributes are apparent in Wolfgang Ganter’s nautically themed works, brought together in an exhibition fittingly titled “Seasick.” The Berlin-based artist taps the visceral nature of maritime life right from the start––one of the first works in the show is a shellac-covered barrel with a single fish poking out from the top. It resembles decor from a family seafood restaurant—if designed by Paul McCarthy––and seems to be filled to the brim with blood-red resin. This sculpture teeters on the border of being puerile, but Ganter admirably

  • picks November 20, 2008

    Zoe Crosher

    Like a character wrested from a lost cache of Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” dressed in something from Madonna’s recent roller-disco fashion spree, the subject of Zoe Crosher’s “The Reconsidered Archive of Michelle DuBois” is a tart cocktail who's equal measure campy, pathological, and photographically astute. Crosher, who has often worked with images of constructed female identity, here finds inspiration in a found archive of photographs of a free-spirited sexual adventurer whose stylized personae peaked with 1970s bubble baths and gleaming early-’80s ABBA hairstyles. The so-called

  • picks November 18, 2008

    Todd Hido

    America looks bleak yet hopeful and reflective these days. Buffeting by a stormy economy, human rights skirmishes, and the promise of lucid new political leadership can’t help but have an effect on this country’s self-image. Todd Hido’s recent photographs were taken in advance of Obama’s victory, but as images of the US landscape, they seem aligned with the cultural moment. Hido is known for his moody nightscapes depicting lonely suburban abodes with home fires ominously burning, and his current work approaches twilight: The hazy images, bathed in an atmospheric light, could easily have been

  • John Chiara

    Environmental concerns have had an undeniable impact on art about landscape, while digital technologies have similarly affected the dialogue around photography, breathing new life into hoary questions regarding the presumptive authenticity of the photographic image. John Chiara’s highly crafted, unique Cibachrome prints address these topical concerns through intensely analog actions producing images of vaporous, sometimes acid-tinged apocalyptic beauty. Chiara’s photographic process involves elements of both large-scale sculpture and endurance-style performance art. The artist builds clunky,

  • picks October 13, 2008

    Jason Jägel

    As our economic and political infrastructures crumble, we cannot help but focus on the social fabric, on what holds us all together. Jason Jägel makes dense, illustrative gouache paintings that capture urban social patterns with scrappy vibrancy. While he’s been diligently creating this work for over a decade, his colorful urban humanism seems particularly appealing just now. A good percentage of this gracious survey of recent works focuses on large compositions that are densely packed with images of city streets, tall buildings, and the multitude of people who live in them—be they isolated

  • Tammy Rae Carland

    On view in Tammy Rae Carland’s recent exhibition were twelve color photographs of aging objects—a coffee mug, knitted pot holders, faded Valentine’s Day candy boxes, and the like. These things appear to be digitally excised from their original context, to be arranged on a white background like pinned butterflies. They have the crisp, uninflected look of objects imaged on a scanner. Some of the works depict single objects, while the key ones portray numerous items that together suggest narratives. The tone is cool, which counters the forlornness of these items, yet the pictures, when surrounding

  • picks July 09, 2008

    “Kiki: The Proof Is in the Pudding”

    A decade and a half can seem like eons in contemporary art years, but freshness and foresight mark this exhibition’s slice of recent San Francisco art history. It surveys and pays tribute to the brief but influential existence of Kiki, a petite Mission District storefront gallery that lasted just eighteen months spanning 1993–95. Rick Jacobsen, who died of AIDS-related lymphoma in 1997, ran the space as a locus of art making that engaged with queer and alternative viewpoints. Provocative thematic shows included the inaugural “Caca at Kiki” and “Sick Joke,” which mined a troubling vein of AIDS

  • diary July 07, 2008

    Stone Circle

    Calistoga, CA

    Weekend weather reports predicted haze from a thousand Northern California forest fires, but the air was surprisingly clear the Saturday before last on the drive to the famous-for-the-waters town of Calistoga in Napa Valley. There was, however, a bit of static when we pulled up at the gate of Stonescape, the weekend getaway vineyard and art compound of collectors Norman and Norah Stone. Our arrival was followed by a guest-list discrepancy, an overzealous security guard, and a parking snafu, but thankfully the vibe softened once we boarded the shuttle bus, which a friendly driver maneuvered up

  • diary June 26, 2008

    Lucky Charms

    Santa Fe, NM

    There are many touristy stereotypes concerning Santa Fe, New Mexico, a UNESCO-certified “Creative City.” (For one thing, as I discovered, it’s the sort of burg where housekeeping leaves a smudging stick of sage on the pillow in lieu of a mint.) Similar bromides accompany SITE Santa Fe’s international biennial, typically known for entertaining novel curatorial conceits. Last weekend’s opening of the biennial’s seventh edition, optimistically titled “Lucky Number Seven,” found high concept hitting the high desert. Curated by former dealer Lance Fung, the show was conceived as a loose set of

  • picks June 16, 2008

    “Superlight”

    Silicon Valley may be the locus of technological innovation, but its role in the arts has a spottier reputation. 01SJ, a biennial event of live and gallery activity in San Jose, is an attempt to foster some critical reflection in this valley of digital mavericks. The live events have passed, but “Superlight,” the event’s main exhibition component, is on view through the summer. Organized by Steve Dietz, the exhibition finds inspiration in a moment when “digital art” is not easily confined to computer monitors and electronic sound tracks. The are some engaging holdovers of a more traditional tech

  • Will Yackulic

    The ten works on paper in Will Yackulic’s second solo show at Gregory Lind Gallery have a motif in common: one or two spheres that float in the composition’s upper center. In some of the pieces, these are positioned above undulating patterns that suggest landscapes or swelling seas. The spheres are geodesic, and are articulated with triangles of gouache, watercolor, and, in some cases, ink, occasionally taking on more gradated smoothness through the use of finer brushwork. The backgrounds are made from rows of letterforms tapped out on vintage manual typewriters (including an oversize bank-ledger

  • picks May 14, 2008

    Daniel Tierney

    Though more lucrative and widespread than film, computer games, and in particular their visual style and youthquake energy, have had difficulty gaining purchase in the art world. This is part of what makes Daniel Tierney’s recent paintings and sculpture so fascinating—at first glance, a gallery visitor would never guess his sources. The show’s slangy title, “Ghost Hesh,” however, does betray roots in scraggly skater scruff. Tierney’s work hangs tough between the dude-friendly realms of computer games, heavy metal, and skating and knowingly experiments with abstraction, color, and the distinctions