Left Coast Leaning @ YBCA [Review]

The Left Coast Leaning performing arts festival, organized by the YBCA in conjunction with Youth Speaks’ Living Word Project, kind of oscillated between the two poles of pure visual enjoyment and entertainment, and perplexing uncomfortableness. On the one hand there was the dazzling spectacle of virtuosic tap dancing by Jason Samuels Smith, on the other there was a strange and brain-taxing performance piece by Anna Martine Whitehead. Between were the three remaining works, which attempted both to entertain the viewers as well as elicit an emotional response. Interestingly enough, all three were about love.

What? Love, you say? The prominence of that theme was a little bit surprising. In the current moment, with the country electrified by Occupy, you might expect to see things that are more political than romantic. But that is not to say that Left Coast Leaning strayed far from the zeitgeist. At least two of the pieces explicitly dealt with love in the contemporary world, and one was a response to fairly recent events–namely, Proposition 8.

Alexandro Segade, Replicant VS Separatist, Pictured: Colin Martin and Justin Streichman. Credit: Scott Groller.

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Art Top 5: Exhibitions & Events December 2011

Beat by the Bay, San Francisco Visual Artists of the Fifties and Their Galleries, Ever Gold, December 8, 2011 – January 6, 2012

Everybody’s heard of the literary works produced by the great writers of the Beat generation, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. But that legendary countercultural movement also included visual artists, who without a doubt deserve the same recognition. Recall, for example, the staggering paintings of Jay DeFeo, such as “The Rose” (now in the collection of the Whitney Museum).  By organizing “Beat by the Bay” the Ever Gold gallery aims to reconnect the Bay Area with its own cultural heritage. It will show experimental pieces by artists who lived and worked here in the 1950s, as well as tell the stories of the alternative gallery spaces where those artists presented their output.

Jay Defeo, Courtesy Jerry Burchard Estate, c. 1957

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The Global Within: Indian Art at the YBCA [Review]

The Matter Within | Saturday, October 15, 2011 – Sunday, January 29, 2011 | YBCA | San Francisco

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, when you go to an exhibition dedicated to India, you expect to encounter pieces that address certain cliches. Maybe not Bollywood or beggars, but at least the IT industry. Thankfully, “The Matter Within” stayed away from “branding” the country (unlike, for example, the YBCA‘s “Brazilian” exhibition “When Lives Become Form” that happened a few years back). The exhibition is international in outlook, taking on such themes as the legacy of colonialism, nationalism, homophobia, and exclusion. One could easily imagine that framework applied to exhibitions dedicated to a variety of regions, from Africa to Latin America to the former Eastern bloc. Maybe some works chosen for those imagined exhibitions would even turn out to be similar to those in “The Matter Within.” Whether this would be the case for a show centered exclusively on a “First World” country, such as the U.S., is a thought-provoking question–but that’s another story.

Sudarshan Shetty, No Title (from "this too shall pass"), gold leaf on fiberglass, mild steel, coin box, etched brass, 2010 — credit: Anil Rane

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ARTSEEKR Events November 22 – December 5, 2011

Left Coast Leaning, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, December 1-3, 8pm This annual performing arts festival supports diverse forms of expression. The centerpiece of this year’s edition is perhaps a multimedia work by Alexandro Segade, which “takes place in a dreamlike, sci-fi L.A. cityscape where gay marriage is state-mandated and those who don’t conform are hunted down.” Also on the bill: slam poetry (Rafael Casal), tap dancing (Jason Samuels Smith), and dance performances that explore “the sexualized black body in the realm of the spectacle” (Anna Martine Whitehead) and “the awkwardness of human beauty and the struggles of intimate negotiation” (tEEth).

Alexandro Segade, Replicant VS Separatist, Pictured: Colin Martin and Justin Streichman. Credit: Scott Groller

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Camille Pissarro – The Lonely Anarchist [Review]

Pissarro’s People | October 22, 2011 to January 22, 2012 | Legion of Honor | San Francisco

Strangely enough, at the press preview of the “Pissarro’s People” exhibition at the Legion of Honor, every time the museum director said the painter’s last name, I kept hearing “Bizarro.” That would be an ill-fitting name for the Impressionist master, since there is nothing bizarre in his oeuvre. In fact, he made a point of being very down-to-earth. Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) is known primarily for his rural landscapes. This exhibition, which focuses on images of people, is replete with similarly prosaic subject matter: day-to-day activities of the painter’s family members, laborers in the fields, traders at village markets. Nowadays, when so much work shown in museums and galleries aims to excite your mind and senses, such un-spectacular themes only hold allure for most museum-goers when coupled with the style of a true master. Pissarro’s paintings offer a lot in terms of sensual delight–I particularly prefer his pointillism-influenced works, which seem to extend far beyond the boundaries of the canvas and envelop the viewer. But what is more remarkable is the thinking behind the art. New research by scholar and the exhibition catalog author Richard R. Brettell shows that in all of his art endeavors, Pissarro was guided by anarchist ideas.

Camille Pissarro Apple Harvest, 1888 Oil on canvas 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm) Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1955.17.M. Photo provided by Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Masters of Venice & Ralph Eugene Meatyard [Review]

Masters of Venice | Saturday, October 29, 2011 to Sunday, February 12, 2012 | Ralph Eugene Meatyard | Saturday, October 8, 2011 – Sunday, February 26, 2012 | de Young Museum | San Francisco 

Unlike the Picasso, Warhol, or Impressionism exhibitions that the de Young has presented in recent years, “Masters of Venice” is not very big–only about 50 pieces. But those pieces are extremely famous. One even wonders how the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna let them travel over the ocean, since most of them will soon be 500 years old. Saint Sebastian by Mantegna, Danae by Titian, Susanna and the Elders by Tintoretto, The Three Philosophers by Giorgione–are you kidding me? All of those works stand at the origins of painting as we know it. The Renaissance, after all, was the period when oil painting technique was first mastered, and art became aligned more with the aristocracy than the church.

Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto. Susanna and the Elders. ca. 1555-1556. Oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Image provided by the de Young Museum.

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Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze – Is a Naked Man Enough? [Review]

Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze | Friday, November 4 to Wednesday, November 30 | SOMArts Cultural Center |San Francisco

I’ve diligently walked through the “Man as Object” show, but I still don’t think I fully understood what the curators meant by “objectifying men.” Male artists have created sexualized depictions of women’s bodies for centuries, and now, as the statement goes, it’s time for ladies to do the same with men. And indeed, images of naked dudes (and just male sex organs) abound in the exhibition, so as to overwhelm everything else.

Janice Nesser. Climbing Out of the White. 2008. Inkjet print, plexiglass. 4.5 x 6 feet. Provided by SOMArts.

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