Joseph Akel

  • Left: Stage director Brian Staufenbiel and artist Kalup Linzy. (Photo: Joseph Akel) Right: Kalup Linzy in A Heavenly Act, 2011, part of Four Saints in Three Acts: An Opera Installation. (Photo: Steve DiBartolom​eo, Westside Studio Images)
    diary August 24, 2011

    Stein of the Times

    GIVEN THE NUMBER of current exhibitions in her honor, one might think that Gertrude Stein had become San Francisco’s patron saint. (Move over, Saint Francis!) At last count there was the retrospective of Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, as well as a show of the Stein family’s personal art hoard down the road at SF MoMA. Added to that, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and SF MoMA recently presented a four-night run of Four Saints in Three Acts, the avant-garde modernist opera that Stein, in collaboration with composer Virgil Thomson, first staged in 1934 in New York. Three is a good

  • View of “Leidy Celeste Nicole,” 2011.
    picks July 20, 2011

    “Leidy Celeste Nicole”

    The specter of language forever shrouds invocations of the body. And if seeing is believing, “Leidy Celeste Nicole,” a group show curated by Lauren Cornell, conjures the manifold spirits of discourse to bold effect. Ostensibly a show about painting and its permutations, the exhibition offers a mordant meditation on the body in contemporary culture. More concerned with alterity than identity, the artists here collectively concern themselves not so much with the results of identification as with the process itself.

    In a departure from earlier figurative paintings, Leidy Churchman’s looped NEW VIDEO

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Reed, 1980, black-and-white photograph, 20 x 16”.
    picks February 21, 2011

    “Night Work”

    Some twenty years after his death, Robert Mapplethorpe’s incandescent legacy remains far from diminished. Among the latest to carry his torch, New York based glam band Scissor Sisters has curated a group show that is part retrospective, part survey, showcasing Mapplethorpe’s diverse output alongside works of a generation for whom he still is an agent provocateur.

    A curatorial dialogue between past and present, “Night Work” touches on many of the most important themes of Mapplethorpe’s work, including sexuality, desire, and mortality. His infamous Self-Portrait with bullwhip, 1978, is shown here

  • Pierre Huyghe, The Host and the Cloud, 2010, still from a color video in HD, 121 minutes 30 seconds.
    picks November 06, 2010

    Pierre Huyghe

    Ritual, commerce, and mythology intersect with mordant effect in Pierre Huyghe’s latest cinematic work, The Host and the Cloud, 2010. Filmed in a building that once housed the French National Museum of Art and Popular Traditions, and shot on three separate occasions coinciding with Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and May Day, in this piece the emptied museum becomes a sort of Gormenghast castle populated by a stealthy cast of characters derived from both urban and historic folklore, including, among others, the grim reaper, E.T., and witches. Via the repetition of decontextualized ceremonies and

  • Tammy Rae Carland, Funny Face, I Love You, 2010, ceramic-cast and hand-built objects, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks September 22, 2010

    Tammy Rae Carland

    In her latest solo exhibition, “Funny Face, I Love You,” Tammy Rae Carland’s commentary on the social role of female comedians evolves into a layered and reflexive statement on artistic perfomativity and audience participation. “Tragedy,” Mel Brooks once claimed, “is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” In either case, the body becomes the site on which such actions take place. Indeed, a focus on embodiment is an appropriate theme for Carland, who has spent much of her career dealing with issues of gender and identity.

    And yet, for her current show, it is