Critics’ Picks

The Metal Party, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2001.

The Metal Party, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2001.

San Francisco

The Metal Party by Josiah McElheny

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
November 17, 2001–January 27, 2002

Notorious parties take on looming mythic status, especially ones that we weren’t invited to. So there’s something quite palpable about Josiah McElheny’s fascination with the 1929 “Metal Party” thrown at the Bauhaus, a legendary staff-and-student soirée in which guests had to don reflective wear to enter. A footnote in the art history books, the shiny shindig apparently blossomed in Josiah McElheny’s head: He’s mounted a bicoastal re-creation of the event. The San Francisco portion (the other is at 126A, a space in Brooklyn, through January 13) was activated by an opening night party. A gallery decorated with hundreds of elegant silvery orbs became a disco where party guests fitted in reflective Mylar vests danced with abandon. The event was both nerdier and more fun than you would expect. The morning after, the party/gallery space became a surprisingly compelling visual memory, a space strewn with crumpled, evacuated party wear and the echoing sounds of the evening’s dance mix. McElheny’s gesture is conceptually poignant and visually appealing in its attempt to capture the ephemeral allure of social gatherings past, as well as similar hopes for all tomorrow’s parties.