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


    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

  • Kaz Oshiro

    DRUM MACHINES HAVE NO SOUL reads a bumper sticker duct-taped to the side of what appears to be a small Fender guitar amp. That sentiment, characteristic of classic rock, expresses a yearning for authenticity that is also at the heart of Kaz Oshiro’s meticulous sculptural practice. Using Bondo (an auto-body repair filler), canvas stretched over wooden frameworks, and acrylic paint, the Japanese-born, Los Angeles–based artist crafts convincing facsimiles of ordinary objects. The amplifier is one such fake—a peek at its backside reveals an unfinished interior, the seam of the canvas stapled

  • picks April 20, 2006

    Adam McEwen

    Among the diverse range of objects in Adam McEwen’s elusively political tone poem of a show—photos of brightly colored New York City phone cards, a tromp l’oeil wall-mounted air conditioner, a piece of toast nailed to a board, a Van Halen poster in which the band poses as victorious soldiers hoisting a US flag—there’s a transistor radio-sized piece of equipment resting atop a short stack of blank gallery stationery. In plain letters, this manufactured object is labeled, on its face and in the checklist, a “UFO Detector.” The alien identification device is part of a shiny work called Skylab

  • Ari Marcopoulos

    The nine color photographs that constituted Ari Marcopoulos’s concise recent exhibition focus on moments drawn from ordinary life, yet a sense of foreboding pervades all of them. Jennifer, Sonoma, 2005, depicts the photographer’s wife (a frequent subject) peering enigmatically from the shade of an outdoor patio. She holds a lotus-shaped bowl as if in the midst of a snack (a bag of barbecue coals is also just visible in the background), and one of her bare legs is marked by a bloody scrape from some small mishap (the Marcopoulos’s lifestyle appears to be of the gritty, outdoorsy, “alternative”

  • picks March 31, 2006

    “Now-Time Venezuela, Part 1: Worker-Controlled Factories”

    Venezuela, the subject of this provocative exhibition, is more prominent than artists’ names in its marketing materials, and the strategy speaks volumes about the project’s politicized ambitions. The multiscreen projection of interviews with individual factory workers, conducted by filmmakers Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler, makes no bones about its activist intent. Rather than relate tales of exploitation, these laborers speak with hope and pride of positive paradigmatic shifts (and the decampment of corporate powers) in the conditions of factory work as affected by Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian

  • Todd Eberle

    While the title “Architectural Abstractions” seemed to provide a straightforward point of entry to photographer Todd Eberle’s recent solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the photographer’s reputation rubbed off on the work itself, nudging the project in a hazier direction. The compact show’s thirteen large color prints all depict grids on habitually overlooked surfaces, such as ceilings, in landmark modernist buildings by Mies van der Rohe, Adolf Loos, Philip Johnson, and others. For each work, a subtitle details the location and date of the structure shown—Untitled No. 1,

  • Deborah Oropallo

    “Stretch” was the title of Deborah Oropallo’s recent exhibition at Stephen Wirtz Gallery, and the term applies as much to the vertical blurring that distinguishes many of the paintings as to their maker’s apparent compulsion to continually challenge and extend her practice. Since the 1980s, the artist’s shows have been marked by some surprisingly sudden shifts in direction, but she has remained committed to challenging the dismissal of painting as moribund. While Oropallo no longer paints in oil, she continues to hone a sensibility concerned above all with the manipulation of pigment on canvas.

  • picks January 27, 2006

    Takeshi Murata

    Mario Bava’s classic 1960 Italian horror film, Mask of Satan (aka Black Sunday) is the almost unrecognizable source for Takeshi Murata’s hallucinatory new video, Untitled (Silver), 2006. The sole work in the New York artist’s first solo show, this absorbing, ten-minute, black-and-white piece reveals Murata’s formidable skill at wrangling pixels into swirling patterns that move at a poetically trippy pace. With the judicious eye of a film director, the artist finds moments in Bava’s film where ’60s goth queen Barbara Steele seemingly floats through ornate interiors, and, using sophisticated

  • Edgar Arceneaux

    Visionary ’70s jazz musician Sun Ra, Conceptual art kingpin Sol LeWitt, and Galileo each played a starring role in Edgar Arceneaux’s recent exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Composed of eight interrelated works from Arceneaux’s series “Borrowed Sun,” 2004, the show linked the three innovative men via their disparate relationships to the heavenly body named in the title, recruiting them for a meandering investigation of scientific and artistic approaches to the theme of infinity.

    Though essentially whimsical, Arceneaux’s installation maintained a reverent, thoughtful tone. This