Critics’ Picks

Mike Nelson, The Pumpkin Palace, 2003.

San Francisco

“Capp Street Project: 20th Anniversary Exhibition”

Logan Galleries
CCAC Wattis Institute 1111 Eighth Street
March 1–May 10

In its heyday, San Francisco's Capp Street Project funded three-month residencies in which Ann Hamilton, Janine Antoni, and Glen Seator, among others, were put up in a David Ireland–designed house, given access to space and staff, and encouraged to realize major works. The program, founded in 1983 and united with CCAC's Wattis Institute in 1998, marks its twentieth birthday with interlinked solo exhibitions by this year’s residents: Roni Horn, Ann Veronica Janssens, Mike Kelley, and Mike Nelson. Though curator Ralph Rugoff proposes them together as practitioners of “installation art,” these days that term applies to just about anything. So Horn's series of moody and textural photographs of the brackish Thames, carefully “recalibrated” for this venue, is posited as a work of installation—an extremely subtle point made in a lavish amount of space.

In half the square footage, Kelley contributes an engaging new sculpture made from a wrought-iron spiral staircase pried from his LA home (Light (Time)-Space Modulator, 2003). Retooled into a rotating projection system, it contrasts images of his own occupancy of the house with those of the previous tenants, a Latino family. Kelley’s stand-alone work of art wryly addresses the concept of site reference versus site specificity. Janssens, who filled the Belgian pavilion with fog at the last Venice Biennale, offers a dark room in which a projection of concentric circles pulsates and changes colors. It's like a silent, dour version of Saul Bass's Vertigo titles. While the piece nods to James Turrell's early-’80s Capp Street residency, Janssens's brand of perceptual atmosphere is more Pop than Turrell’s, and not terribly involving.

Nelson (who, like Janssens, makes a US debut with this show) is the most commanding presence here, with a 1954 vintage tour bus painstakingly transformed into a rolling sculpture. From the outside, it's intended to resemble the Middle Eastern equivalent of a Red Cross truck, its windows blocked by Arabic newspapers. The interior is a dazzling maze of tiny rooms whose decor blends themes from Muslim culture and hippie caravans with references to Ilya Kabakov and Ed Kienholz. Ultimately, the piece has the irresistible, spooky appeal of a funhouse. Aren’t those installations too?