Monica Westin

  • picks February 10, 2020

    “Harvest the crust from your eyes”

    Titled after lyrics from a Fugazi song, “Harvest the crust from your eyes” juxtaposes highly personal relics of 1980s California hardcore. Bruce Conner’s photograph of Dead Kennedys’ lead singer, Jello Biafra, lying entangled in a mic cord as fans rip apart his jeans (Biafra, August 13, 1978, 2011) was shot from just above Biafra’s head, lending it an intimate, rather than documentary, quality. Fin Simonetti’s Hearth 7, 2018, a drawing in oxblood-colored ink of a cow desperately in need of milking, recalls back-of-the-class doodling destined for DIY album art. And two photographs from Ian

  • picks January 21, 2020

    Miljohn Ruperto and Ulrik Heltoft: “Voynich Botanical Studies”

    Since 2013, Miljohn Ruperto and Ulrik Heltoft have collaborated on “Voynich Botanical Studies,” a series of imaginary plant specimens created with 3-D modeling software that blends found images and textures into uncanny amalgamations. The resulting digital files are transferred onto negatives and printed as silver gelatin prints in a darkroom; this combination of electronic and analog processes results in strikingly mysterious plant forms that appear to levitate against their deep black backgrounds. In this tiny gallery, the prints loom almost threateningly in their alien strangeness, particularly

  • picks October 07, 2019

    Nicki Green

    Nicki Green’s tender sculptures intervene in her industrial source material, queering the assisted readymade. Green created the works shown here during a recent residency at the John Michael Kohler Art Center—Kohler as in the specialists in plumbing products and bathroom fixtures. Her altered ceramic vessels, made out of found sinks, tubs, and smaller porcelain objects, remain anchored in their humble industrial beginnings while subtly but rigorously theorizing gender and its relation to the question of bathing and care in the era of the bathroom bill. The centerpiece and titular work of the

  • picks July 12, 2019

    Dionne Lee

    Dionne Lee’s images respond to the genre of landscape by pointing to its roots in property ownership, colonialism, and myths of the “natural.” She aims to uncover the fraught relationship of black subjects to the American terrain, and to reconstitute it. For example, in Test for Forty Acres, 2016, she covered a swath of land in mylar blankets, a protective gesture that also resembled an act of burial or a signal to the heavens.

    In this show of new work, Lee shifts her focus from land to water, a more nebulous material with similarly charged connotations. The small black-and-white photographs in

  • picks December 13, 2018


    The Tokyo-based interdisciplinary group teamLab comprises hundreds of artists, designers, and programmers, whose interests span from simulations of food to what they call “ultrasubjective space,” an interpretation of the decentered, shallow perspective of historical Japanese painting that offers a counterpoint to Western perspectivalism and its static relationship to the viewer. The collective’s show at Pace is a pared-down departure from their iconic immersive environments and explores both this method of representation and the time-based experience of looking itself. Six recent flat-screen

  • picks October 15, 2018

    “And Tomorrow And”

    Imagining future dystopias is easy. So is applying the Anthropocene as an all-encompassing, monolithic framework for describing various complex environments in the present. Instead, this group exhibition takes on the more demanding challenge of exploring contingencies of the potentially haphazard, entangled, and unevenly applied futures that we are generating.

    With this show, the institution has moved for the first time beyond its traditional exhibition model to operate temporarily as an education and research platform. What began as discussions with Swedish teenagers about the future resulted

  • 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