What's up at the galleries this fall?
by Sura Wood
Galleries remain the best bet for discovering adventurous art and taking the pulse of the modern art world. Unlike museums, galleries aren't required to appeal to mass tastes; they can afford to exhibit riskier projects, and we are the happy beneficiaries. Check out a brief survey of Bay Area offerings this fall.
SF Camerawork Suggestions of a Life Being Lived. Working in photography, film and video, 16 artists reach beyond the boiler-plate issues of sexual identity and coming-out narratives to explore queerness as a set of political alliances. The show revolves around several major themes and areas of investigation: the public sphere as a site and opportunity for protest, education and affection; the formation of communities, real or imagined; utopian worlds and self-determination; struggles for justice and against police brutality; the lives of a nomadic tribe of transsexual and queer people living off the land; gender warriors of color; a radical queer-activist prison break; body image, gay marriage, open relationships and a send-up of an omni-sexual self-help commune are among the subjects addressed. Sept. 9-Oct. 23. www.sfcamerawork.org
Scenius Gallery The Englyph Project: Music Studio. In his latest installation, conceptual digital artist Tim Roseborough keeps on keeping on, reinventing himself as the "World's First Art Rapper." Here Roseborough, a queer multidisciplinary wizard with an uncanny knack for tapping into the subterranean cultural zeitgeist, frames popular music in the context of fine art, turns the gallery into a free-form sound lab, and proclaims the arrival of a new hip-hop star in the firmament. Oct. 19-Nov. 9. www.scenius.com
Cain Schulte Contemporary Art David Buckingham: Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful. The LA-based artist aims both barrels at American culture, from gun worship, violence and unbridled capitalism to neuroses surrounding gender, sexuality and attainment of beauty by whatever means necessary. Buckingham has a background in advertising, and his latest show of deceptively simple found-metal sculptures grabs its title from a 1980s shampoo commercial, borrows lines from films, rock songs and generic pornography, and subverts phrases that have infiltrated the media-saturated American psyche for his own purposes. Sept. 2-Oct. 2. www.cainschulte.com
Cartoon Art Museum Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women. Who says women aren't funny? The 18 cartoonists in this show, many of whom have never had their original artwork exhibited before, expose their minds and bodies, fearlessly taking on sex, romance, politics, bodily functions, passion and desire. Anything men can do, they can do better, or as least as well and with more bite. Some fight back against the sexism of the Underground Comix boys and their permanently arrested development; personal problems edge out gender politics as a dominant theme, while intimacy competes with bone-crunching lust and release. Includes work by trailblazers like SF-based Wimmen's Comix alum Trina Robbins, and Twisted Sisters co-founder Aline Kominsky-Crumb (Ms. R. Crumb to some), rising superstars and lesbian artists Ariel Schrag and Ilana Zeffren. Oct. 1-Jan. 30, 2011. www.cartoonart.org
Robert Tat Gallery Photographer Unknown: The Vernacular Photograph as 'Accidental' Art. When if ever does that picture you took on vacation rise to the level of art? Well, maybe never. Print quality, subject matter, artistic appeal and that unidentifiable something; all combine to create the inadvertent masterpiece. The term "vernacular" refers to those personal and photo-booth snapshots, historical images, class portraits, scientific and commercial photographs without aspirations that nonetheless attain a level of artistry. Though it may be an in-vogue, accepted genre and legitimate art-form, gallery director Robert Tat meticulously screened over 1,000 photographs before selecting the found images by unheralded photographers celebrated in the show. Through Nov. 27. www.roberttat.com
Marx & Zavattero Forrest Williams: Crossways. In his paintings, gay artist Forrest Williams presents two men who inhabit the same astral plane but are emotionally at oblique angles. A sense of missed connections also infuses his fourth solo exhibition, featuring tentative, wary and precariously off-balance male figures acting out a familiar story in a society that discourages intimacy, especially between men. "Come close; no, closer; closer; closer still; now hold it right there," wrote art critic Alison Bing of the tentative dance played out in Williams' work. "You're drawn into a state of suspended animation, uncertain whether to approach or retreat, blush or blanch," which leads to the inevitable question: "Is this a painting or a tango?" Oct. 30-Dec. 18. www.marxzav.com
Frey Norris Andrea Dezso: Things We Think When We Believe We Know. Dezso was born in Transylvania, home to Count Dracula, so it's somehow not a stretch that her fantastic narratives descend from Transylvanian history, involve interplanetary travel and alien abduction, and encompass heaven, hell, purgatory and dreams of flying. Raised in Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist Romania, a surreal realm in its own right, Dezso, a visual artist and writer, could travel only within the boundaries of her feverish imagination. Perhaps to compensate, she has fashioned operatic universes: fabulist ceramics, miniature embroideries inspired by folklore, mixed-media installations, sculptures, large-scale murals and three-dimensional illuminated tunnel books (collapsible volumes reminiscent of the Victorian era) made out of cut and painted paper that contain fables in which aliens nap in vineyards, fingers are cut off and a woman's transparent torso reveals an array of brightly colored organs. The latter, a visually visceral rendering of her internal life, is a portrait of the artist as a strange lonely woman/child with a formidable interior world. Oct. 7-Nov. 6. www.freynorris.com
Fraenkel Gallery Mel Bochner: Photographs and Not Photographs. Bochner, a pioneer of Post-Minimal and Conceptual Art, is best-known for his paintings, drawings and installations, but in the mid- and late-1960s, the period central to this exhibition, he became deeply involved with photography, and produced a relatively lesser-known body of work, on view here. Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman and Robert Smithson were engaged with photography during the same time frame, and like Bochner, used the medium as a bridge between the limitations of minimal sculpture and Conceptual Art. Sept. 9-Oct. 30. www.fraenkelgallery.com