Critics’ Picks

Eamon Ore-Giron, Gina vs. the Skull, 2002.

Eamon Ore-Giron, Gina vs. the Skull, 2002.

San Francisco

“Bay Area Now 3”

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
October 26, 2002–January 12, 2003

The Bay Area's community of contemporary artists is informed by a dynamic of opposites: hermetic regional pride and an encroaching inferiority complex stemming from a lack of outside notice. For this reason, the triennial Bay Area Now exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts play a major role as institutional markers of indigenous activity—tapping right into this uncomfortable dichotomy while raising the question, “Is San Francisco ready for prime time?” Of course, the answer varies. Not surprisingly, the post–9/11, post-tech-boom theme is humility. Curator Rene de Guzman titles his catalog essay “We Love the Everyday” and, along with Renny Pritikin and Arnold Kemp, has selected thirty artists who give an idea of a community that’s both laid-back and trying to get back on its feet after the ravages the dot-com boom and bust. The exhibition, a fairly wide-ranging selection of installation, photography, painting, drawing, and video, fares well due to a cohesively industrious, low-key Northern California vibe. A strong thread of whimsical, Fischli & Weiss–ish experiential conceptualism is apparent in Bob Linder's videos, composed of endearing low-tech process-oriented effects, and works by Felipe Dulzaides, in which a video camera positioned on the artist’s bike and skateboard gathers footage as he pedals and pushes through San Francisco. Shaun O'Dell's works on paper and video projects channel a trippy, organic foment of nature and history, as does a shack full o' bird drawings by Carolyn Ryder-Cooley. Both reveal the influence of the widely exported SF street aesthetic set down by Barry McGee and Chris Johanson (both alums of previous BAN exhibitions). Vestiges of tech culture seep through Jon Santos's Saul Bass–esque computer-animated sound installation, while Desiree Arlette Holman mines a less identifiable, psychologically charged aesthetic with a Disneyfied video installation in which the live-action artist interacts with animated birds. Holman, like too many here, seems to have one eye on childhood, suggesting perhaps that this is one generation of artists that still needs to grow up.