Monica Westin

  • picks September 11, 2017

    Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries

    This set of video projections by internet-art trailblazers Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries combines their signature text-based Flash animations with their more recent investigations of landscape and locality. Each work juxtaposes bursts of text so rapid they require focused speed-reading, with a bright, jazzy sound track that often undermines or complicates the written messages. The more playful narratives include science-fictional speculations and downright seductive declamations of resistance and comradeship; the artists are obviously fascinated by the effect of turning raciness into concrete

  • picks September 05, 2017

    Tania Bruguera

    This survey of work created between 1985 and 2017 includes all of what Tania Bruguera calls her long-term projects, which intervene in a sustained way, sometimes for years, with artistic, civic, and economic institutions, to create real alternative models for how power is exercised and circulated. Such projects include Immigrant Movement International (IMI), 2010–, which has resulted in a working think tank, experimental lab for activist practices, and physical community space for refugees and immigrants.

    Rather than merely document and circumscribe these activism-oriented performance works in

  • picks June 13, 2017

    Sam Contis

    Sam Contis’s photographs of Deep Springs College, one of the last all-male liberal arts colleges in the United States, fragment and shroud their ardent subjects. Located in a remote desert near the California-Nevada border, Deep Springs is a fever dream of American masculinity, where young men both study and raise cattle for slaughter, among other frontier-style activities. The artist’s always-askance gaze rests on the unavoidable trope of the cowboy through the figure of a black teenager in modern glasses and an old-fashioned straw hat (Cowboy, 2014): What story does he tell himself about this

  • picks June 13, 2017

    Tosha Stimage

    Tosha Stimage stages an analytical memorial of black mourning to address the loss of both life and meaning that accompany death turned into spectacle.

    The language of flowers offers an entryway into the artist’s system: Her diptych painting Vanitas (all works 2017), featuring a diving human body (reminiscent of a chalk outline) filled with collaged flowers, alongside a panel of the title, renders a Conceptualist interest in sign systems as colored by floriography and the tradition of vanitas painting. What happens when the meanings of symbols and names are forgotten or misunderstood? On an

  • picks April 17, 2017

    “Lives Between”

    This intricately composed show of work by international artists living between two places is deeply self-reflective about the ways that human habitation is fundamentally shifting before our eyes. The nomadic art world is a relatively privileged site from which to observe these shifts, but it operates on many of the same principles that dictate mass migration and population relocation: opportunity, flexibility, annual patterns of movement, and an ever-increasing economically driven need to be able to be in more than one place at a time.

    Here, sites overlap both in a literal sense, as in When 2

  • picks March 06, 2017

    David Ireland and Virginia Overton

    In 1987, Bay Area Conceptualist David Ireland focused a talk at the San Francisco Art Institute on Giacometti’s concept of the “disagreeable object,” a term the surrealist artist had used to refer to a group of his small, ugly sculptures that were meant to be thrown away. This new exhibition of Ireland’s work, along with astute interventions by Virginia Overton, considers the disagreeable object as a traveling, translated concept.

    The centerpiece is Ireland’s A Decade Document, Withcomet, Andcomet, Andstool, 1980–90, a post-Minimalist tribute to ten years worth of toilet paper tubes. But the

  • picks February 06, 2017

    Anouk Kruithof

    Anouk Kruithof’s first solo exhibition in the United States comprises a tongue-in-cheek body of work, ranging from photographic tableaux to blobby, photo-sculptural hybrids that complicate the relationship between form, content, and representation. When photography can be altered—to present “alternative facts,” for instance—the photograph’s ability to serve as proof becomes deeply problematic. Kruithof expands and exploits this now-perennial trope by turning the evidential weakness of images into a spatial, material problem.

    One of the artist’s tactics is to use an accumulation of screenshots,

  • picks September 26, 2016

    Stefanie Victor and Christopher Garrett

    Stefanie Victor and Christopher Garrett’s show comprises a study in restraint and bodily intimacy that is disarmingly delicate in physical scale. Using a shared language of personal ornamentation in their approaches to formal in-between states, the artists take on the aesthetics and concept of the fold as something that both covers and opens out onto something else.

    Victor’s metal sculptures, vaguely kinetic and often wall-mounted, are domestic in nature and size and also simultaneously intricate and borderline industrial. Both the metal pieces and her cloth sculptures, on which the metal structures

  • picks June 13, 2016

    Laura Owens

    Categorizing the titular ten works of Laura Owens’s current exhibition is an exercise in frustration—intentionally so. Blurring the boundaries among installation, mural, and painting, Owens covers the gallery walls with nonrepeating handmade wallpaper, layered with painterly and nonpainterly gestures referencing everything from blown-up bitmaps to newsprint text, trompe l’oeil, and illusionistic space: in other words, a brief history of two-dimensional representation itself. What appear to be wooden beams creating boundaries between the gridded works are a trick of paint as well; what the final

  • picks June 13, 2016

    Pablo Dávila

    Pablo Dávila investigates our perceptions of space and time by translating the form of musical phasing across media. Phasing in music, which occurs when two instruments are played together at different tempos and so shift in and out of sync, is particularly associated with the minimalism of Steve Reich, whose score for “Piano Phase” Dávila visualizes in Ad libitum (piano phase) (all works 2016), a triptych of light boxes in which the notation itself blurs into and out of view. Dávila relates the theme of things growing more or less in focus in focus to ways we experience the passage of time—as

  • picks March 24, 2016

    Anthony Discenza

    Anthony Discenza’s meta-exhibition takes up the literary trope of framing devices and translates it into a problem of material information. The conceit of the show is an artist named Anthony Discenza attempting to curate an exhibition based on an unrealized exhibition by another artist with the same name. To add an additional layer of complexity and uncanniness, the unrealized exhibition was, according to the catalogue essay, based on a novel called The Disappointments that does not in fact exist.

    The works in the show are suggestive of the documentation of an artistic practice as it stalls

  • interviews November 19, 2015

    Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle

    Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle is an artist and currently a Fulbright fellow in Lagos, Nigeria, where she is working with students and faculty from the University of Lagos on her Kentifrica Project, 2010–, an ongoing piece about a hybrid, contested geography. Her latest exhibition, which features this work and two more projects (the “Tituba” series, 2013–, and the “Uninvited” series, 2008–), is titled “Who Among Us… The Art of Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle” and is on view at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco through April 3, 2016.

    I AM USING MY FIRST MONTHS IN NIGERIA to learn more about navigating

  • picks October 01, 2015

    Sara Bright

    The playful, painterly gestures of Sara Bright’s small movable frescoes at George Lawson Gallery at first belie the artist’s rigorous, post-Minimalist attention to form. Beneath built-up layers of plaster on burlap and wood, the panels themselves are palpably sculptural. Viewed from the side as they hang on the gallery walls, where the edges of the paint extend just beyond the corners of the plaster, the works appear to float.

    The small window of time in which paint can be applied to wet plaster limits the ways in which it can be layered and otherwise incorporated into frescoes. Bright uses this

  • picks July 22, 2015

    “Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Bay Area Spaces”

    Community-focused SOMArts Cultural Center’s comprehensive, museum-quality group show brings together installations and work from dozens of Bay Area artists and artist-run spaces, with archival material and ephemera from historical alternative art spaces past and present. Focused on the legacy of politically oriented independent spaces, with an emphasis on the social-justice movements that underpin and activate the work, curators Melorra Green, Sandra Ramirez, and Roula Seikaly strike a balance between activism and institutional histories, and between theoretical underpinnings and material

  • picks May 07, 2015

    Brendan Fowler

    The repeated circle patterns that top Brendan Fowler’s two large, layered wall pieces are made with an industrial embroidery machine—the kind that stitches logos onto sports jackets and baseball caps. This process translates the traditionally decorative craft associated with leisure and personalization into an automated, mass-market context. Though the wall pieces could technically be called photographs due to the blurry digital ink-jet prints that comprise the base layer of each, their disorienting stratification is demonstrated by the materials list: rayon and printable polyester on archival

  • picks April 07, 2015

    Miriam Böhm

    Miriam Böhm’s elegant, nimble photographs are the result of a recursive process in which she modifies a print through some combination of folding and tilting, then documents the resulting shape. Böhm’s work operates through the tradition of still-life photography, but she raises art-historical questions that are crucial to painting as well, investigating how the illusion of space is created in a picture plane and how the position of the viewer affects the perception of this space. The photographs in this exhibition are presented in multiple series exploring permutations of objects, and they make

  • picks March 30, 2015

    “Comforter”

    This group show curated by Petra Collins, explicitly organized around the theme of domestic transience, is perfectly sited in a new, raw project space. Juxtaposed with crude fiberboard floors, the work recalls first attempts at personalizing an adolescent bedroom. A large, white, fleece cotton sheet by Collins, bordered with cute stickers and filled with the text of letters written to the artist, I Hope This Helps You Sleep at Night 2, 2015, hangs loosely like a curtain next to another screen-printed sheet. Nearby, large C-prints by Nguan of young schoolgirls in uniform and unaccompanied children,

  • picks February 05, 2015

    Matt Keegan

    The wall sculptures and photographs that comprise Matt Keegan’s “And” seem deceptively soft and disarmingly modest. Large C-prints of found machine-made shapes, such as a scrap of rusted and twisted industrial metal in Was (all works 2014) or the repeated squares of a car speaker in Speaker, are lit gently, creating velvety layers of shadows. The predominant steel wall sculptures, laser cut and modeled after paper cutouts, are painted in improbable pastels, sometimes powder-coated hues of blush and muted mauves and oranges. Several utilize the same shape repeated in different colors (as in the

  • picks December 05, 2014

    “Landscape: the virtual, the actual, the possible?”

    A collaboration between the YBCA, the Kadist Art Foundation, and the Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou, the ambitious group show “Landscape: the virtual, the actual, the possible?” defamiliarizes an influential trope in recent cultural theory: the Anthropocene as a new global era characterized by fundamentally new human/nature relations and even by a new conception of “nature” itself. The curators shrewdly present works that, rather than serving as evidence of this changed world, treat the Anthropocene as a hypothesis meant to engender exploratory thinking.

    “Landscape” offers a careful balance

  • picks October 21, 2014

    “Secondhand”

    In its first several rooms, “Secondhand” appears to embody a diligent curatorial argument about notable trends in contemporary photographic practices surrounding found images, with by canonical work from Richard Prince and John Baldessari, as well as Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s Evidence (1977), the groundbreaking conceptual book culled from massive police and science archives. The show quickly moves to a noteworthy group of recent photographers working with Photoshopped, decontextualized, vernacular images—in particular Matt Lipps’s collaged archive from the now-extinct magazine Horizons and