Glen Helfand

  • picks July 08, 2007

    “The Book of Shadows”

    Dialogues on contemporary photography too often hinge on the artist’s agency, his or her role as controlling auteur or problematic participant. Those ideas are addressed from a refreshingly new perspective in this mesmerizing selection of found photographs, all notable for showing the shadows of their anonymous photographers encroaching on and melding with their subjects. The gallery’s owner spent the past decade amassing two thousand examples of such images, which he has here tightly edited down to eighty-eight salient pieces. (They will also be donated to MoMA, where they’ll be shown in 2008.)

  • picks June 19, 2007

    Alice Shaw

    By titling her one-person exhibition “Group Show,” Alice Shaw reveals a wry sensibility and, perhaps, an interest in the DSM-IV. The works here find the artist exploring the psychological implications of photography, mirror selves, and split personalities. With the use of lenticular prints, Shaw dynamically layers works by nineteenth-century photographers Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and E. J. Bellocq, whose photos of young girls and New Orleans prostitutes, respectively, employed a nascent medium to similar effect: pervy portraiture. Prepubescent precocity and adult sexuality are fused

  • picks June 19, 2007

    Caitlin Mitchell-Dayton

    In her oversize paintings of self-consciously tousled young artists, Caitlin Mitchell-Dayton manages to grant monumental dignity to a romantic lifestyle choice that is often mocked. These full-length portraits, rendered roughly ten feet tall and set against plain backgrounds, could be of alterna-youth billboard models—before the magic of Photoshop could clear their ruddy, zit-studded complexions. The painterly clarity of these canvases suggests Elizabeth Peyton’s washy portraits of fey musicians, smart celebrities, and friends—with the rose-colored lenses removed. Mitchell-Dayton’s fanlike

  • Keegan McHargue

    In pop-psych color theory, yellow signifies warmth, happiness, intellect, and energy. For his recent exhibition “The Yellow Spectrum,” Keegan McHargue painted the entire gallery floor a sunny shade of that color, bathing the room in a golden glow. It was a visually audacious act that had the effect of turning the space into a charged stage for ten paintings suffused in and related to the same luminous vibes. The retinal impact of the color had an undeniably positive physiological effect on the paintings’ viewers, who seemed to thrive in the setting. One couldn’t help but wonder, however, how

  • picks May 08, 2007

    Tauba Auerbach

    Tauba Auerbach’s text-based works on paper reveal both the order and the chaos inherent in language. Armed with handy training as a professional sign painter, she gives wordplay a sexy designer makeover. The sleekly rendered works on view here are essentially quirky diagrams of language. A diptych titled NATO Phonetic Alphabet & Five Percenter Supreme Alphabet (all works 2007) contrasts the official alphabetical code words of two ideologically divergent organizations, while a pair of other works map out letters and numerals based on their popularity. Her approach is playfully systematic—a

  • Mitzi Pederson

    A restrained, less-is-more materiality pervades the sculpture of Mitzi Pederson. The eight works in her recent show are made from a limited range of media: reflective paper, tinted sheets and strips of cellophane-thin translucent acetate, and small, rectangular pieces of aluminum tape. Half of the works incorporate sheets of plywood (described by the gallery, colorfully, as “door skin”). With this restricted sculptural vocabulary, Pederson constructs small, deceptively offhand objects that poetically (in a style suggestive of Richard Tuttle) flaunt their precariousness and vulnerability.


  • picks April 18, 2007

    “Reality Bites: Making Avant-garde Art in Post-Wall Germany”

    As we well know, when regimes fall, the real consequences aren’t always immediately apparent. The 1989 dismantling of the Berlin Wall is the key political event that unites the work in this exhibition, and despite the title’s national focus, the grouping reveals as much about the resulting world order (reflected in the advent of the EU and international art biennials) as it does about one country’s psyche. Curator Sabine Eckmann has pulled together an engrossing range of post-'89 material by artists from several countries that interprets Germany’s recent history and outlines its sway in the

  • picks April 13, 2007

    “I Remember Heaven: Jim Hodges and Andy Warhol”

    Andy Warhol’s pervasive achievements launched not only industries but also the careers of countless later artists. So the idea of pairing his art with that of someone in a subsequent generation, in this case Jim Hodges, isn’t a big stretch. The surprise in this understatedly glamorous exhibition is how seamlessly their works mesh. Hodges, who was just thirty years old when Warhol died, never met Andy but clearly feels his influence. Curator Susan E. Cahan has arranged the show so that the two artists literally reflect each other. Warhol’s Silver Clouds, conceived in 1965, float in the lobby and

  • Rosana Castrillo Diaz

    Office supplies have been a consistent subject of and medium in Rosana Castrillo Diaz’s demure art for the past few years. Over that time, she has become known for near-invisible Scotch-tape installations and exquisitely detailed drawings of stacks of paper, notebook spines, and wads of rubber bands. Castrillo Diaz’s recent exhibition took things a step further, revealing both the effectiveness and the shortcomings of a practice reliant on obsessive detail.

    The show’s visually elusive centerpiece was a 2007 work (all works untitled) constructed from loops of transparent tape affixed not to the

  • picks March 19, 2007

    Job Piston

    Photographers who traffic in the ambiguous, sensuous melancholy of youth are difficult to resist—especially when the not-unattractive artist is part of the picture. Evocatively named San Francisco–based artist Job Piston enters confidently into lithe-bodied, polysexual photographic territory with his consistent use of male and female nudity and the atmospheric light of low-rent interiors. The terrain is more Ryan McGinley than Larry Clark, as Piston is himself a twenty-four-year-old buck, but the photographs reveal a promisingly adult eye. Smooth, pale skin may be the lure, but the mood is more

  • Tavares Strachan

    Tavares Strachan’s Where We Are Is Always Miles Away, 2005–2006, is a deft, clever act of land use and creative shipping. The artist has removed a chunk of Connecticut sidewalk—from Crown Street, New Haven, to be exact—and sent it, via truck, to the San Francisco gallery Luggage Store. The project, while easy to describe, is an attention-getter invested with myriad implications. With Where We Are Is Always Miles Away, Strachan engages in a dialogue around global capitalism, personal mobility, and cultural displacement. His installation implies balkanization on physical, biographical, and political

  • picks January 22, 2007

    Bill Owens

    Starting in 1972 with his career-making series “Suburbia,” Bill Owens has made it clear that he’s down with the burger-and-brew set. That black-and-white and color series of the now-vanishing American middle class has been on view in several recent exhibitions, a durability that tends to obscure the fact that Owens continues to create images from a “just-folks” perspective. The nine recent digital photographs in Owens’s current show, “Flesh,” reveal a consistent interest in appetites and physical pleasures and a visual wit reminiscent of Martin Parr. Four of the pictures are juicy close-ups of

  • picks January 18, 2007

    “Dirty Yoga: The Fifth Taipei Biennial”

    The yearning for physical and cultural clarity in a messy world is implicit in the marvelous title of this biennial workout. The thirty-four Eastern and Western artists, selected by American and Taiwanese curators Dan Cameron and Jun-jieh Wang, are meant to address a state of “between-ness” (a term that is elaborated in Cameron’s catalog essay), a timely and ubiquitous condition that’s difficult to control in a sweeping group show. That the project comes off more as standard Hatha practice than as steamy Bikram is perhaps par for the in-between course, yet the show manages to wring revelations

  • R. Crumb

    Although R. Crumb and his wife and collaborator, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, have resided in France for about fifteen years, his work in the lively “underground comix” movement zapped into focus in the late 1960s and early ’70s in San Francisco.

    Although R. Crumb and his wife and collaborator, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, have resided in France for about fifteen years, his work in the lively “underground comix” movement zapped into focus in the late 1960s and early ’70s in San Francisco. This thematically organized retrospective takes the artist back to his home turf. Curated by Todd Hignite, founding editor of Comic Art magazine, the show features approximately two hundred works in all their inimitable bawdy, politicized, satirical abjectness—from sculptures to original comic-book covers—and frames Crumb as a maker of

  • Stefan Kürten

    Bryan Ferry’s subdued 1973 paean to suburban ennui, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” applies very neatly to the well-appointed but visibly aging midcentury dwellings that are the subjects of Stefan Kürten’s richly patterned paintings. The fifteen works in Kürten’s recent show invariably depict middle- and upper-middle-class abodes that exude stoic isolation beneath visually complex exteriors. The residences are shrouded in or embellished with kudzu-strength vines and trees planted when the developments were new. Intricate exterior patterning is the sole notable feature of this otherwise

  • picks December 19, 2006

    Jake Longstreth

    You don’t have to travel far from urban America to encounter the nation’s most ubiquitous landscape: flatlands and franchises, seemingly self-replicating big-box stores, stucco-faced supermarkets, and vast asphalt parking lots. There’s an empty horror to all this corporate homogeneity, yet an odd comfort in the convenience, familiar signage, and faux-European architecture. With nods to Robert Bechtle’s desolate suburban vistas and Ed Ruscha’s road- and billboard-inspired works, Jake Longstreth’s acrylic-on-panel paintings capture our ambivalence toward these liminal sites. In Idaho Falls (all

  • David Huffman

    Striking a balance between actual catastrophes (particularly those relating to racial inequity in the US) and a richly stylized comic-book world has been painter David Huffman’s consistent strategy for some time now. For his 2004 show at Patricia Sweetow Gallery, he created an army of black astronauts called the Traumasmiles who wielded bulbous missiles and vats of toxic sludge in a battle against one another. Expressionistic explosions abounded. Code word: Iraq. But while the subtext of these works was clear, the paintings themselves were elusive, narratively speaking, portraying ambiguous

  • picks November 01, 2006

    Paul Wackers

    The environmental fallout of the tension between nature and culture is fittingly a pervasive subject for an emerging generation of artists (think of the International Center of Photography’s “Ecotopia”); it’s certainly a theme that’s difficult to ignore. In his solo show at this new Mission District gallery, Paul Wackers addresses the topic with a series of faux-naive paintings that mysteriously contrast flat landscapes with architectural icons, real and invented. An acrylic on panel called Theories of Time (all works 2006) features a color-charged image of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater,

  • picks November 01, 2006

    “On the Road Again: Beat Culture, Bush Era”

    The countercultural spirit of the Beats will always be a part of San Francisco’s artistic legacy, even if the historic howls of dissent uttered at City Lights Bookstore have been all but obliterated by the din of chic new North Beach eateries. So there’s heartening appeal in this exhibition’s attempt to resurrect the freewheeling, politically progressive Beat ethos in the nippy Bush era. The seven guys in this group show—most from the Bay Area—operate within a refreshingly challenging neo-funk aesthetic. Making the strongest first impression are sculptures by Ian McDonald, who has made

  • Sarah Bostwick

    The nine sculptural reliefs, or “inlaid drawings,” of architectural fragments that Sarah Bostwick exhibited recently are closely observed and strikingly composed. Each work in Bostwick’s “Grand Apartment” resembles a chunk of facade or interior wall seemingly extracted from its original site. Most are smooth white rectangular slabs of Hydrocal or wallboard that, from a distance, exude a minimalist purity. But on closer inspection, the artist’s hand is clearly evident in the range of intricate carving, etching, and inlaying on display.

    A number of these works depict the elaborate skeletons and