Gwen Allen

  • picks September 27, 2019

    Matt Lipps

    Over the past twenty years, Matt Lipps has developed a distinctive photographic collage practice. After cutting out pictures from books and magazines and arranging them, freestanding, into three-dimensional tableaux, he rephotographs them and prints the images at a large scale. In 2016, the artist began to employ the leftover backgrounds of the extracted images as abstract layers that alternately frame and obscure the cutouts. Here, Lipps has pushed this compositional conceit further by superimposing the backdrops—in this case, 1990s fashion advertisements—on a second layer of imagery,

  • Harvey Quaytman

    An underrecognized figure within the history of modernist abstraction, Harvey Quaytman (1937–2002) worked at the crossroads of Abstract Expressionism, constructivism, and Minimalism while developing his own deeply idiosyncratic approach that both internalized and transformed these various models. The artist’s first retrospective, organized by Apsara DiQuinzio at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, is a revelation. Presenting more than seventy works, grouped according to a number of distinct phases in his oeuvre, the exhibition allows viewers to witness Quaytman’s inventiveness with

  • “Something (you can’t see, on the other side, of a wall from this side) casts a shadow

    In recent years, and in successive waves, San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) district has been transformed from an industrial zone inhabited by large working-class and transient populations to a “revitalized” commercial and cultural hub filled with upscale condos and dot-com offices. Shortly after Airbnb opened its new headquarters there last year, city officials forcibly removed homeless encampments under the freeway overpasses that crisscross the neighbor-hood. Less than a block away at SOMArts, one of the city’s few surviving nonprofit art spaces, independent curator Juana Berrío recently

  • Judy Chicago

    “Pussies,” Judy Chicago’s first solo exhibition in San Francisco since her iconic installation The Dinner Party premiered there in 1979, presented paintings, drawings, and ceramic plates made between 1968 and 2004, many of which exemplified the feminist art practices pioneered by the artist in the 1960s and ’70s. The show felt timely not only because it occurred during a time of ongoing legalized sexism in the United States, but also because it was staged in the wake of recent allegations of sexual harassment leveled against powerful men across cultural spheres (including at this magazine)—making

  • “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey”

    The 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy—who promised to heal racial divisions, redress income inequality, and end the war in Vietnam—devastated Americans who dreamed of the realization of those aims. As his body was carried by train from New York to Washington, DC, for burial, supporters lined the tracks—waving, crying, praying, and holding handmade signs. This collective expression of grief and solidarity was captured by photographer Paul Fusco. Approximately twenty of Fusco’s prints will be shown alongside Rein Jelle Terpstra’s

  • Tania Bruguera

    Over the past several decades, Tania Bruguera has pioneered a distinct form of socially engaged art, located at the intersection of performance art, institutional critique, and activism. She coined the terms Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art) and Arte Útil (Useful Art) to describe facets of her practice in which she strategically elides the division between art and life with projects that have included a school that she ran out of her house in Havana (Cátedra Arte de Conducta [Behavior Art School], 2003–2009), a newspaper she published in collaboration with Cuban artists living inside and outside

  • “From Counterculture to Cyberculture”

    “From Counterculture to Cyberculture” took its title from Fred Turner’s influential 2006 book, which demonstrated the unexpected symbiosis between the Bay Area counterculture of the 1960s and the computer industry that emerged in nearby Silicon Valley over the same decade. Guest-curated by David Lewis and including nine artists represented by both his New York gallery and Altman Siegel, the exhibition engaged with the overlapping legacies of alternative DIY culture and digital utopianism. Coming on the heels of “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia,” a major survey of 1960s and ’70s art

  • Noam Rappaport

    Noam Rappaport’s recent show at Ratio 3 represented a fresh, fruitful direction in the Los Angeles–based artist’s ongoing investigations of abstraction. On display were four “dogleg”-shaped canvases (versions of which were exhibited at James Fuentes Gallery in New York in 2014) and a new series of five sculptural reliefs, as well as several hybrid paintings, composed of multiple canvases joined together and overlaid with various collage elements, such as rope and scraps of wood (all works, 2015). Rappaport’s prolific, playful-yet-conscientious explorations of shape, color, and surface revealed

  • Alejandro Cesarco

    Alejandro Cesarco’s show at Kiria Koula comprised two films, a print, and a wall silk screen, each of which revisited his abiding themes of time, memory, and the visual and textual signifiers that mediate our experiences of them—rendering (however imperfectly) such immaterial phenomena communicable. One of the artist’s interests is books, as both material objects and conceptual systems that organize narrative, structuring the relationship between author and reader. He is especially attuned to those aspects of writing that are slightly marginal to the text proper. For example, in a series

  • “Sam Lewitt: More Heat Than Light”

    For his new project at CCA Wattis, Sam Lewitt will attach ten heaters designed for use in mobile-communication systems to the gallery’s track lighting, parasitically siphoning electricity to generate thermal rather than luminous energy. As in his previous work repurposing high-tech materials (his contribution to the 2012 Whitney Biennial employed ferromagnetic liquid, used in everything from hard drives to military aircraft), Lewitt here wittily underscores the degree to which physical environments—and, by extension, contemporary neoliberal cultural and economic

  • Geta Brătescu

    “Geta Brătescu,” the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States, gave a pithy introduction to this pioneering figure of Romanian Conceptual art. Organized by Apsara DiQuinzio as part of the MATRIX program at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, this succinct survey, which spanned the years 1974–2000, included two films, a collage series, a photograph, a drawing, a sculpture, and a textile wall piece, all of which cumulatively managed to convey the crux of Brătescu’s artistic concerns. Poetic transformations of objects and materials pervade the artist’s investigations of

  • Clare Rojas

    In her recent exhibition “Caerulea,” Clare Rojas continued the investigation of abstraction she embarked on in 2011, in a departure from the work for which she is best known: whimsical paintings that, like the work of her San Francisco Mission School cohort, take up the aesthetics of sign-painting and street art, though often with a feminist twist. Purged of her signature folksy and fairy-tale-like imagery—stylized animal and matryoshka doll figures and boldly patterned borders and backgrounds derived from quilting and outsider or craft-based techniques—these new oil paintings on canvas