Arts and Culture for the Underemployed
Body Parts, Anatomical Creations Both Graphic and Subtle
Over 25 artists, two bars, live performance music, a dj playing Apostrophe by Frank Zappa ... is this a gallery reception or am I at a club? Both, actually. Space Gallery is a lively blend of art and informal "hanging out," the perfect show for people intimidated by the art scene as one gallery-goer put it. Ray Morrone, a video artist who leases this beautiful locale, told me more about how shows at Space Gallery are put together. Space Gallery has been around and doing art exhibits for 7 years; Morrone took it over in June of 2005 and started doing exhibits on a more regular basis, but the acquisition of a liquor license eight months ago enabled the gallery to get more serious ... and more funding. After all, the gallery only takes a 10% commission on purchased work, generally sold at affordable prices ($20-$3,000). The gallery houses two exhibits a month, one that is assembled by the gallery and one that is produced by a "guest" curator, so the space is able to house a large amount of rotating work. The artists will usually hang their own show, which adds an engaging touch, enabling contributors to have a sense of ownership over the entire process.
I was able to attend the reception for Body Parts on December 28, 2006 and enjoyed the informal lounge-feel, the blending of art-and-hip-bar-scene. Looking around, I saw vagina mannequins, fetish bindings explored in sculpture, Dali-esque porcupine happy-trails--diverse work ranging from kitschy sculpture to psychedelic photographs. The bulk of the work seemed well thought out and executed, not rough and off the cuff, as some themed group shows can be. Some works were tame, like exquisitely detailed graphite drawings; some were wildly grotesque. Some your bubbe could have made with broken household items; others one experienced viscerally like featured-artist Garrett MacLean's photographs of stitched wounds.Gallery receptions provide a unique opportunity to meet all of a group show's artists at once. I was able to speak to Garrett MacLean at length about his artistic process. MacLean (hiddenstitches.com) works primarily with photographs, and sees the gallery as a way to advance his artistic career and to have his works seen by many. His true love, however, is creating street art by placing photographs in random places--the more random the better, like under trash can lids. The reason: the more random the placement, the longer the work will remain intact. MacLean is interested in the process of a stranger finding his work and being startled out of complacency, more than the actual artwork itself. Think of it as a way of changing peoples' perception about art and public space. For MacLean, tagging is often a vapid procedure, whereas true aesthetic change derives its value from the element of surprise and challenge ... meaning the viewer's experience is as important, if not more, than the artist's act. Active in both New York City's and Paris's gallery and street scenes, you can view more of McLean's work at Millionfishes.com, an art collective in San Francisco of which he is a live-in member.
Luck struck twice that night, as I got to meet Genea Barnes (Geneabarnes.com), an up and coming Bay Area photographer. Using traditional methods, such as one sheet of live film scanned to print to create her triple exposed photographs, Barnes participated in her first show with Space Gallery that night. Artwork SF (49 Geary Street) usually represents her work, and she recently took part in the group show Skin Deep. Barnes has been actively exhibiting her work in the Bay Area since 2001, and was pleased to find another quality venue to display her photographs.
Genea Barnes' work is quite intricate; while her subject matter remains figurative, the narrative of her pieces are as abstract and intense as a lucid dream. Barnes remarked, "I have a pretty definite idea about what the piece is going to look like in my mind, but by the time I layer the third exposure onto the image, I step back and realize that the work has taken on a life of its own." Barnes' art is some of the most mature and professional I saw at both Space Gallery and Artwork SF; she treats the figure in a unique and subtle way that captivates the viewer and sets her work apart from the average.
Of course, many other kinds of people fluttered about this opening. I met Laurence Toney of Art.com, which is launching a new branch focusing on local artists that will emerge in about a year. He wants to know what makes the local art scene "tick" to help emerging artists and to develop his company. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I met those who knew little about art but were interested in Space Gallery. Belle came to the opening because she saw an ad on Craigslist.com; her friends chickened out of coming to the show, but Belle was drawn to the gallery out of curiosity. Belle is a poet, who finds "art inspiring, even though I know little about it, and people watching the most inspiring act of all. What strange and exciting people come to these openings! I find it interesting." There were many like Belle and Laurence Toney, checking out the artwork and the scene with curiosity.
The show truly covered the gamut: gory, erotic, gory and erotic, humorous, ludicrous, and strange. The best part, for me at least, was uncovering an art space that was welcoming to artists and to the general public, a show that was informal and a bit exotic, where curious people came to find answers, connections, and ideas. Space Gallery seems to be emerging as a place where artist, curator, viewer, and prospective buyer can come together to talk shop and experience local art.
-- Rachel S Rosen
Rachel is an artist, freelance writer, and educator in the Bay Area; her myspace is www.myspace.com/artwrite.
1141 Polk Street (at Sutter)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Images appear courtesy of Garrett MacLean, Genea Barnes, Kim Harmon, and Space Gallery, San Francisco, CA.