Maria Porges

  • Donna Ruff

    America’s founding fathers have been invoked with increasing frequency in recent political debates. In particular, their Federalist Papers—a collection of eighty-five essays that Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison penned in the late 1780s to encourage the ratification of the US Constitution—have been cited by both the right and the left to support wildly divergent readings of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The eminent statesmen have also played a prominent role in popular culture (in the form of Hamilton, the musical) as well as in the recent impeachment, a process

  • picks December 06, 2019

    Ira Watkins

    With images drawn alternately from memory and imagination, self-taught artist Ira Watkins has been telling stories about the lives and histories of African Americans for more than four decades. Watkins spent the first sixteen years of his life in Waco, Texas before heading to the Bay Area in 1957. (He was among the six million African Americans who moved to the North or West during the Great Migration to escape poverty and racial oppression in the South.) There, he initially shot billiards for a living. In the ’70s, he began painting, creating intimately scaled pieces that describe community

  • picks October 18, 2019

    Tammam Azzam

    The medium of collage seems eerily appropriate for Tammam Azzam’s cryptic, hypnotic images of fragmented cityscapes. Torn pieces of paper—wrinkled tissue, newsprint, even wallpaper—are adhered to canvas or board and combined, at times, with rapid strokes of paint, creating the illusion of crumbling buildings and desolate vistas of rubble. In 2011, Azzam, already a successful painter and graphic designer in his early thirties, was forced to flee Syria with his family, settling eventually in Berlin. Since the start of his exile, his practice has moved from propagandistic digital works featuring

  • Andrea Higgins

    The intricately patterned surfaces of Andrea Higgins’s recent paintings were inspired by literary classics—Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, for example, or Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, or The Confessions of Lady Nijo (a graceful memoir of court life in thirteenth-century Japan). Interpreting these authors’ exquisitely nuanced descriptions of clothing and household objects with the accuracy of a forensic anthropologist, Higgins creates the woven texture of fabrics (and, in some works, delicate details from china) on a vastly enlarged scale. The resulting optical abstractions—in which tiny

  • Jordan Kantor

    How much do we have to know about the backstory of a work of art in order to understand and appreciate it? Jordan Kantor’s enigmatic paintings seem to pose this question explicitly, by challenging viewers’ expectations about the mediation of images. At a moment when eye-candy art has been in the ascendancy for some time, the relative inscrutability of Kantor’s canvases is pleasurable, in a slightly masochistic way. His paintings demand our commitment but give us something in return by requiring us to be actively responsible for interpreting them.

    The larger pictures in the show are based on

  • Walter Robinson

    Exhibition titles are often little more than attention grabbers, but the name of Walter Robinson’s recent show, “Represent,” is actually of some use in pinning down the meaning of the work on view. This word has many definitions (among them “stand for,” as in function as a symbol or metaphor; “act as a representative”; or even as an adjective, “representational,” as in figurative), and these alternate or overlap within individual works as Robinson critiques popular culture, globalization, and the precarious nature of our current political situation.

    The most striking work in the show was a

  • Ulrike Palmbach

    For the past decade, Ulrike Palmbach has been making her own versions of familiar objects, employing, unexpected materials—using surplus army blankets, for instance, to construct a drooping stack of storage crates. She has also used blankets to make woolen telephones (the old-fashioned desk model) and cozy-looking cartons for milk and eggs. These handmade interpretations of machine-made products immediately evoke Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures, while other transformations—a loaf of bread carved out of wood and “sliced” with a saw, or a tabletop littered with wooden apple cores—puckishly

  • Linda Geary

    As evinced by her recent exhibition, Bay Area painter Linda Geary has embarked on an entirely new phase in her ongoing investigation into the language of color. This may sound rather dry, but Geary’s exquisite compositions, constructed from tendrils and pools of watery pigment, are anything but. In each of the thirteen paintings shown (twelve on paper and one on canvas), vaguely eccentric forms—as boldly conceived as they are meticulously rendered—are spread across a field of pristine white.

    With a juggler’s adroitness, Geary uses both color and scale to manipulate the pictorial weight of the

  • Rachel Lachowicz

    These days, the term “signature style” is often applied not only to brushwork, composition, and subject matter, but also to distinctive materials, which tend to become inextricably intertwined with the identity of the individual who uses them first or to most interesting effect. In the early ’90s, Los Angeles–based artist Rachel Lachowicz became known internationally for using red lipstick to create parodic appropriations of famous works by male artists—remaking, among others, Michelangelo’s David, a Carl Andre floor piece, and a group of Richard Serra’s leaning slabs. Lachowicz also made use

  • Doug Hall

    Is anything spectacular anymore? Or has every natural vista and architectural masterpiece been reduced, in our age of skillful and omnipresent mechanical reproduction, to a screen saver, postcard, or billboard? Doug Hall’s large-scale color photographs often seem both to ask and answer these questions. Previously, his carefully tuned images of natural and constructed spaces exhibited a clear affinity with the work of Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Struth. But his most recent images reveal a subtle, ironic humor that sets them apart from those of his German counterparts.


  • Jim Melchert

    For over twenty years, veteran Bay Area conceptualist Jim Melchert has been experimenting with ceramic tile—specifically, with what happens when he breaks it into pieces by dropping it onto a hard surface. The wall works that result from these investigations consist of the reassembled shards of one or more large floor tiles, patterned with drawn or painted marks. But Melchert is interested in something other than the accidental beauty of the skeins of spidery lines created when the brittle object shatters. Instead, in a slightly perverse exploration of “truth to materials,” he focuses on what

  • Adriane Colburn

    In her recent exhibition “Before the Rush,” Adriane Colburn reconstructed hidden histories through a kind of meditative cartography, focusing our attention on particular parts of the map. Colburn’s title refers to the nineteenth-century Gold Rush that transformed San Francisco from backwater to big city practically overnight. San Francisco Bay 1800/San Francisco Bay 2000, 2005, is a large cut-paper silhouette pinned directly to the wall that shows every detail of the bay’s complicated shape, including tributaries and creeks, as they existed at the two dates. The land that the water surrounds is

  • Jim Campbell

    Though much current art purports to confront the “liminal,” Jim Campbell’s wall-mounted electronic works successfully address this state in more ways than one. Campbell’s dual professions—computer-hardware engineer and internationally recognized artist—place him at the threshold (or limen) between two profoundly different worlds. Pursued from this unusual viewpoint, his continuing investigation of extremely low-resolution imagery functions as an exploration of the furthest margins of visual perception, revealing how much—or how little—information is required for comprehension.

    For several years,

  • Alice Shaw

    Whether by accident or some grand universal design, the invention of photography and the inception of psychology took place more or less simultaneously. According to Alice Shaw, the two have always had much in common as ways to see through new eyes. With an appealing honesty Shaw describes one of the driving forces behind her work as a kind of psychological state—a confusion that leads her to try to make sense of the world and its illusions through pictures, often of herself.

    In this exhibition three separate bodies of work all addressed issues of identity and selfhood. Shaw has clearly put a

  • Paul Kos

    Conceptual art seems to have acquired a reputation for humorless pedantics right from the start. Paul Kos’s retrospective, which will travel to several venues around the country (including the Grey Art Gallery at New York University), goes a long way toward dispelling this misperception. For more than thirty years, Kos has been making Conceptual work that often is as funny as it is smart and good-looking. The exhibition’s title, “Everything Matters,” is key to understanding the videos, sculpture, and installations on view. (It comes from an aphorism attributed to Vaclav Havel: In the West

  • Rick Arnitz

    In the tradition of eye-dazzling abstraction, there is something both satisfying and slightly mysterious about Rick Arnitz’s adroit manipulation of paint. In “Backdrops,” the artist’s most recent body of work, shimmying stripes or interwoven patterns of contrasting lines alternately pop forward and recede, lock in to a single plane, or jostle one another in an undefinable space. Although several canvases are essentially black-and-white, others feature brilliant, almost shocking reds, blues, or yellows. Color, however, isn’t really the key that reveals the meaning of these works. Instead, it is

  • Irene Pijoan

    In an era when the tyranny of “signature style” has meant that an artist’s production should be both consistent and readily attributable, Irene Pijoan has courageously embraced a wide range of media and modes of production. The objects and images presented in this midcareer survey of work from the past twenty years were so various that a first impression suggested a group exhibition rather than a solo show. Sculpture and painting—on canvas, wood, linen, plaster, and stone—explored both dark, expressive figuration and vivid, delicate abstraction; figures, landscapes, words, and shapes

  • John Cage

    DURING THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS OF HIS LIFE, avant-garde composer John Cage produced a substantial body of visual art, mainly in the form of prints. Beginning in 1978, he visited Crown Point Press for a week or two almost every year. There, working closely with the press's master printers, he made art using methods borrowed from his approach to musical composition. He allowed every aspect of a print to be determined by what he described as “chance operations” (reading from the I Ching, throwing dice, and so on). The complex notations that serve as a record of these operations, referred to by Cage

  • Anthony Discenza

    Video is the only visual medium with no artifact. Television isn't there in the set; it's just an invisible signal, broadcast over cables and through the air into bedrooms and bars, where—at the flick of a switch—its hungry ghosts are available around the clock. The average American viewer, in fact, watches TV for seven and a half hours a day.

    All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, 2000, is a hypnotically lovely reminder of those annihilated evenings spent in front of the tube in the company of Friends. To make this piece, Anthony Discenza pointed a video camera at his television and

  • Michael O'Malley

    ONE OF LIFE'S MOST HUMBLING REVELATIONS is that we each carry our own mental landscape, our unique version of tunnel vision, wherever we go. As we move through the world, we're seeing it through the veil of our past experiences and present preoccupations. Though Michael O'Malley's recent installation “Top Heavy,” 1999–2000, may have served as a metaphor for this framing process, it also demonstrated the degree to which works of art can shape and determine our perceptions in subtle but important ways.

    In Southern Exposure's expansive main space, O'Malley built a maze-like network of interconnected