Glen Helfand

  • View of “Now and When,” 2010.
    picks August 10, 2010

    “Now and When”

    Art exhibitions are built upon packets of time; they mark an artist’s “moment” or a curatorial conceit, which often quickly vanishes. For one of ten commissioned time-capsule projects to commemorate this civic gallery’s fortieth anniversary, Joseph del Pesco unearthed a dozen rare art magazines produced in the Bay Area over the past forty years, and he created a website with them to present snapshots of the region’s art activity. While not the most visually commanding piece in this boisterous exhibition, it functions well conceptually as an archive of activity and community. So does Lynn Hershman

  • View of “Erik Scollon,” 2010. From left to right: The Prosperous Plug, 2010; Mini Gimp Knob, 2010; Collected Cleaned and Displayed in Ostentatious Palaces, 2010; Trade Name: Golden Princess, 2010; Poor Taste Plug, 2010.
    picks July 29, 2010

    Erik Scollon

    In titling his smart, saucy exhibition “The Urge,” Erik Scollon telegraphs his interests in aesthetic and biological drives. Thankfully, his control of his materials and impulses is exacting and mindful of pleasure. The dozens of porcelain objects, displayed in a nearly retail manner on unfinished wooden shelves, are for the most part sex toys (with accessories) created as ceramics and embellished with a free range of ornamentation—witness a Delftware-style butt plug, and a set of exquisite square-bodied, Zen/Minimalist vessels with cylindrical necks perfectly proportioned to hold braceletlike

  • Emily Wardill

    Emily Wardill’s Game Keepers Without Game, 2009, cribs from La Vida es Sueño (Life Is a Dream), a seventeenth-century Spanish play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, but the source is nearly unrecognizable. Whereas Calderón’s play revolves around the life of a Polish king who imprisons his son at birth, Wardill’s adaptation, set in contemporary Britain, recounts the tale of a mixed-race girl put up for adoption by her family and her father’s dubious attempt, many years later, to bring her back into the family fold. Although the plot is linear, Wardill complicates its telling with an exaggeratedly

  • Libby Black, Me And Bobby McGee, 2010, pencil on paper, 33 x 25".
    picks April 14, 2010

    Libby Black

    Economic crises have, thankfully, given artists a reason to restyle the lens through which we view luxury brands. Even Takashi Murakami favored Zen over Louis Vuitton in recent work. Libby Black carved out a career during recent years tracking consumer aspiration by re-creating (or inventing) designer-label objects—Chanel surfboards, an entire Kate Spade boutique––from paper, hot glue, and acrylic paint, as well as imperfectly redrawing well-selected fashion magazine ads. Her niche might be called psychologically charged DIY consumer satire, and her work reflects real desires and disappointments.

  • Chris Johanson, Focus Your Energy Away from There to Here Where It Is Better, 2010, acrylic and house paint on found wood, 32 x 21”.
    picks April 14, 2010

    “Group Show”

    For the past two decades, dealer Jack Hanley has perhaps been the Bay Area’s unofficial goodwill art emissary. He has not only brought important contemporary artists to San Francisco—back in the early 1990s he introduced Jack Pierson, Karen Kilimnik, Zoe Leonard, and others––but he has also done much to activate and to popularize, particularly at art fairs, a funky brand of Conceptualism emerging from the studios near his Mission District gallery. The fact that Hanley is shuttering his West Coast operations to focus on his Watts Street space in New York is cause for reflection. Fittingly, the

  • Ewan Gibbs, San Francisco (detail), 2009, graphite on paper, 11 11/16 x 8 1/4".
    picks March 14, 2010

    Ewan Gibbs

    The not-unfounded stereotype of northern-California fog is well suited to Ewan Gibbs’s modestly scaled, labor-intensive graphite drawings, which previously depicted famous buildings and anonymous hotel rooms. This exhibition comprises eighteen works, commissioned for SF MoMA on the occasion of its seventy-fifth anniversary, and are titled as a group San Francisco, 2009. They show tourist views—think snapshots from Flickr instead of postcard-perfect shots of Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge—that subvert image conventions through their conceptual strategies. Gibbs constructs his works through

  • Anthony Discenza

    Including works in audio, video, and signage, Anthony Discenza’s second solo show at Catharine Clark Gallery is informed by Hollywood films and faceless copywriters, as well as by the mash-up—the viral spawn of the multiple, simultaneous media streams of today. For the wall-mounted text Sometimes a Great Notion, Part 1 (all works 2009), Discenza pairs cultural phenomena—television or movie titles, brand names, luminaries, and the like—presenting them in the syntax of the entertainment-industry pitch: IT’S J. CREW MEETS HELLRAISER, IT’S BLACKWATER MEETS SAVED BY THE BELL, IT’S DILBERT MEETS

  • Diane Arbus, Girl Emerging from the Ocean in Curlers, Coney Island, N.Y., 1963, black-and-white photograph, 14 x 11".
    picks February 18, 2010

    Diane Arbus

    Robert Gober’s engrossing selection of Diane Arbus’s photographs may bear his imprint, but besides two contextualizing admissions of influence—his 1976 drawing of her 1972 monograph and a wall text––in this exhibition he uses pictures culled from uncommon access to the Arbus archives to honor the artist and reroute the mythology of troubled psyches and exploitation into something that courses with humanistic subtext. The forty-five works, oddly enough, celebrate life—there’s a notable number of baby photographs; one uncharacteristically bright image from 1968 depicts an ebullient infant—as much

  • View of “Emigre,” 2009.
    picks January 09, 2010


    Type design may be at the core of Emigre’s creative influence—they made computer typefaces hip and available—but in this twenty-five-year survey of their work, letterforms are elements with which to create. The type foundry, started by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko in 1984, the same year the Macintosh debuted, quickly came to enter publishing, music production, and visual art, tracking the pluralistic impulses that now course through contemporary culture. This exhibition’s selection of posters, press sheets, pasteups, audio and VHS cassettes, floppy disks, ephemera, and of course their

  • Kota Ezawa

    Kota Ezawa has made a career of reducing moving and static images to digital cartoons—likenesses characterized by their fields of unmodulated color, South Park–like animation, and impassive emotional core. His range of iconic source material has included footage of the O. J. Simpson trial (The Simpson Verdict, 2002), Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape (Two Stolen Honeymoons Are Better Than One, 2007), and Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad (LYAM 3D, 2008). The last—when viewed through accompanying blue-and-red lensed glasses—could be experienced in 3-D. The affectlessness of Marienbad

  • Luke Butler

    In “Captain!” Luke Butler’s first solo show at Silverman Gallery, a critique of male hegemony is filtered through 1960s and ’70s television. The artist’s witty paintings and collages depict men in charge—most notably, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk (as William Shatner played him) and America’s thirty-eighth president, Gerald R. Ford—but reverse power dynamics, hinting at the erotic potential of reduced authority. Taking on two white men who lorded over their charges with comical earnestness, the entertaining result nods to the peculiar homoeroticism of slash fiction.

    Butler’s Star Trek paintings are

  • Kimsooja, Mumbai: A Laundry Field, 2007–2008, still from a four-channel video installation.
    picks November 13, 2009

    “Dress Codes”

    Art and fashion mergers seem so 2007—Takashi Murakami’s Louis Vuitton exhibition boutique would likely bomb in this economic climate. So it’s a relief to see a refreshingly sober and sometimes surreal view of fashion explored in the third ICP Triennial. The glittery thematic surface of “Dress Codes” quickly gives way to a bracing range of subjects—media manipulation and global economies chief among them. Only a few of the included thirty-four international artists directly employ the disco beat of haute couture: Cindy Sherman’s Paris Vogue–commissioned images take jabs at aging, Balenciaga-clad