Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

What's up at the galleries this month?

Fine Arts

"Entangled" by Deborah Oropallo, part of Tale Spin. Photo: Courtesy Gallery 16
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International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8, but of course, every day is women's day, isn't it? Not so fast. Though women constitute over 51% of the population, the representation of work by women artists in galleries and museums is a tiny fraction of their numbers. Here are a few shows around town correcting that imbalance.

Gallery 16 Tale Spin "There's always a subversive edge to fairy tales – and girls are always the victims," opines Berkeley-based artist Deborah Oropallo, who, having read those familiar, seemingly innocent children's stories, determined that they're loaded morality plays intended to scare girls into being good. In her beguiling bodies of work, Oropallo, a provocateur with a wicked sensibility, has been enamored of fetish costumes from scanty nurse's uniforms to sailor outfits, and by implication, the submissive/dominant female roles they suggest. This time out, she exercises that proclivity while having her way with the imagined struggles of little girls lost in the woods. Influenced equally by Looney Tunes and Lolita, Oropallo asks if ye olde cautionary tales are a repressive response to the fear of unbridled female sexuality as she investigates, in these complex portraits of women, the connections between fashion, fairy tales and female sexuality and eroticism. Fusing painting, printmaking and collage, she creates layers of imagery and meaning that produce a hypnotic effect; it's as if you're looking through disguises women wear and detecting their hidden, alternate selves. In "Armed," a woman wears a gas mask and red-plumed Roman soldier's helmet; "Entangled" appears to be a Pinocchio marionette bound up in strings designed for its manipulation; the sinister figure in "Cursed" is dressed in a blue ski mask, golden crown and a blue-and-white Snow White costume with red bows; a red-haired vixen with matching hair and gloves regards us from behind the mask of a Doberman Pinscher in "Duped." Rife with starvation, abandoned children, rape, abuse, witches and evil sorcerers, fairy tales, laden with powerful subliminal messages, have burrowed deep into the unconscious. When awakened like a bewitched princess freed from enchantment, they serve as an internal guide, steering us away from harm and wanton abandonment of the sexual variety. Danger lurks there, they warn, but why should we be afraid? (April 7, 6:30 p.m., the gallery hosts a performance by Fauxnique, followed by a conversation with Oropallo and critic Glen Helfand.) Through April 30.

Toomey Tourell Beneath the Surface: New Paintings by Ursula O'Farrell Family, relationships, inner turmoil, celebration and the ties that bind are rendered with an intense color palette and thick, gestural brushstrokes by O'Farrell, who carries forward the tradition of Bay Area Figurative painters like David Park, Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff. But in contrast to her forebears, she delves deeper into complex psychological territory. Here, her subject is primarily women whom she depicts in emotionally charged oil paintings such as "Mother Daughter," in which a dominant yet somehow recessive central figure with blurred boundaries is illuminated in a halo of warm ochre-tinged tones. A portrait infused with emotion, it conveys the web of complicated, sometimes contradictory feelings children, even grown-up ones, have toward their mothers, and how those feelings distort perception. A group of well-turned-out, exuberant women links arms in "Dance of Four," and a fetching seated figure, shrouded in scarlet and wrapped in a coat with a luxurious fur collar, awaits the next act in "Hommage to Nathan," a tribute to the late Nathan Oliveira, the California painter known for the sensuality and humanity that also inform O'Farrell's work. Through April 16.

Jack Fischer Gallery John Hundt/Camilla Newhagen: Couplings In previous work, Newhagen, intrigued by the female body a

"Jig of Joy," oil on canvas (2011) by Ursula O'Farrell, part of Beneath the Surface. Photo: Courtesy Toomey Tourell Fine Art
nd scars left by trauma and taboo, incorporated discarded, stitched-together undergarments to create soft sculptures that expressed hardship and mental amputation. Now the Danish-born artist, one of the most exciting emerging talents around, turns her attention to the male gender and the fall from grace of invincible men. She has split open and torn apart the uniform of those power players – the dark business suit and white dress shirt – to expose a world of chaos inside; multi-colored threads hang in disarray, and cut-out chunks of padding lay underneath the carefully constructed order and surface panache the suit presents to an unsuspecting public.  John Hundt, a painter and collage artist exhibited here in what is an inspired pairing, combines personal effects, such as torn ticket stubs, journal entries, and found objects from different time periods and cultures, with hand-drawn and painted images. Among the weird juxtapositions, surreal scenarios and fantasy storylines that unfold in Hundt's own private language are images of female lower torsos, including one stuffed upside-down into a meat grinder, whose chunky legs fill out black stockings and garter belts; and a voluptuous nude who looks like she escaped from a Rubens painting (except for the bonnet on her head), and is perched on a couch across from George Washington. Through May 7.

San Francisco City Hall (lower level)

"Pin Point Oxford" by Camilla Newhagen, part of John Hundt/Camilla Newhagen: Couplings. Photo: Jack Fischer Gallery
Afghanistan in 4 Frames, an exhibition less interested in standard combat photography than in a human perspective of the war, features 80 photographs shot by four intrepid photojournalists. Although all of the experienced photographers – Lynsey Addario, Teru Kuwayama, James Lee and Eros Hoagland – have embedded with military forces in Afghanistan or worked independently in harrowing circumstances, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Addario may well be the most kick-ass of the bunch. One of 20 women on Goddess Oprah's 2010 power list and recipient of the MacArthur fellowship, the fearless Addario, who has survived kidnappings and ambushes, is no stranger to risk or controversial subject matter, i.e., her series on Afghan women who set themselves on fire. (Check out her impressive portfolio, a travelogue of the most dangerous places on earth: Addario started photographing conflict and humanitarian crises in 2000, when she went to Afghanistan to document oppression under the Taliban, and, for the last decade, has photographed men at war in global hot spots from Iraq, Congo and Darfur to the Middle East and Afghanistan. The work displayed here, "Women at War," which is comparatively tame, shows female Marines performing their duties as members of "engagement" teams who connect with Afghan women and children in ways their male counterparts cannot. The soldiers are also seen flying Black Hawk helicopters and retrieving wounded troops in Helmand Province, one of country's most volatile regions, as well as enjoying precious downtime, doing their hair or resting in a solitary patch of shade. The perils of Addario's profession have never been more evident: she was among four New York Times journalists captured by Qaddafi's army in Libya last week. Through May 13.

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