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Fall Preview: Art Galleries

by Sura Wood

David Shrobe, "Knelt" (2018), oil, acrylic, fabric, wood and paper. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery
David Shrobe, "Knelt" (2018), oil, acrylic, fabric, wood and paper. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery  

Since the gallery scene began to decentralize in the city, there has been a proliferation of new venues in addition to a plenitude of established ones. Below, find a microcosm of what's in store this fall.

Jenkins Johnson Gallery: In "Somewhere in Between," the Harlem-based, African-American assemblage artist David Shrobe melds painting, drawing and collage. From found materials and debris recovered near his home, he has constructed custom-framed, fragmented portraits that collapse barriers between past and present. The faces of his subjects, appearing masked or veiled, peer out at us, echoing ancient tribal affiliations and the horrific legacy of slavery. (Sept. 22-Oct. 27)

SF Camerawork: The devastating impact of the infernos that have ravaged Northern California is the focus of "Forage from Fire: Excavation Images," in which photographer Norma I. Quintana acts as a chronicler of memories. She documented the charred remnants of her home and studio, casualties of the Napa Atlas Fire that swept through her neighborhood last year. Though most of her possessions were destroyed within minutes, she salvaged from the ashes some burnt, barely recognizable objects that survived their trial by fire - Christmas ornaments, a manual typewriter, doll parts, kitchen utensils - whose ghosts she has preserved for posterity. (Oct. 4-20) "I am to see to it that I do not lose you" pairs two bodies of work that form a link between retrieved history and an imagined future: one by Orestes Gonzalez, a New York-based photographer; the other from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, an artist, performer, and zombie drag queen of mixed Pakistani-Lebanese-Iranian descent, who looks at the intersection of queerness and Islam. Ali Bhutto's multimedia project "Tomorrow We Inherit the Earth," a fusion of textiles, performance and photography-related imagery, envisions the dawning of a queer rebellion and femme guerilla warriors, while Gonzalez's "Julio's House" tours his deceased gay uncle's luxuriously decorated, memento-filled home in Miami's Little Havana. (Nov. 1-Jan. 5)

Wesley Tongson, The Light (1992), ink and color on board. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Chinese Culture Center  

Chinese Culture Center: "Wesley Tongson: The Journey" centers on the late Hong Kong ink artist who was a singular voice in contemporary ink painting. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 15, he retreated from the art world, toiling in solitude during the last decades of his life, a period when he forsook the brush and relied solely on his nails and fingers. This, his first American solo exhibition in over two decades, traces the evolution from his earlier work that grew out of his classical training through the mature, large-scale paintings in which he employed ink rubbing, marbling, splash and paper-crumpling techniques. (Oct. 12-Dec. 15)

Themes+Projects: In "Play Time," the young French photographer Maia Flore, investigates uncharted territory between the real and the fantastical. Inspired by music, literature and theater, and taking a cue from the cinematic storytelling style of French filmmaker Jacques Tati, she weaves ambiguous scenarios that veer from the bizarre to the surreal. The current show draws on two of the artist's recent series. "By the Sea" was shot in 26 locations along the French coast, where Flore appears as a character on the edge of a cliff poised to dive into the water below, or standing on the shore raising a push broom toward the sky. In another image, a bright white, glowing orb rests snugly inside a crater at dusk, as if the moon had fallen to earth and sought shelter there. In "Le Voyage Fantastique" the mischievous Flore embarked on enchanted visits to famous French cultural sites, places like the Chateau de Thoiry, where one might spy a giraffe loping across the manicured lawns of the mist-shrouded castle, something you don't see every day. (through Sept. 29)

Euqinom Gallery: "Intersection of Gazes" is a group show of multicultural photographers pushing the boundaries of conventional portraiture. It features local gay artist Jamil Hellu, who took staged theatrical pictures of members of the LGBTQ community dressed in costumes that reflect their ethnic and cultural heritage. Kristine Potter's "Manifest" reevaluates myths of cowboy masculinity by photographing men in traditionally feminine poses in rugged Western landscapes; and in "Bully Pulpit" Haley Morris-Cafiero responds to a bullying campaign sparked by a previous series in which she photographed people gawking at her appearance. Suffice it say, she turns the tables on her antagonists. (Sept. 5-Oct. 27)

Shiva Ahmadi, Pressure Cooker #9 (2018), intaglio hand-etching on metal pressure cooker from Afghanistan. Photo: Chris Woodcock, courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery  

Haines Gallery hosts two concurrent solo shows from Bay Area artists. Shiva Ahmadi, an Iranian American, drew on Middle Eastern traditions and childlike, storybook visual motifs to comment on geopolitical turmoil for her exhibition "Burning Song." In sculptures, paintings and in her short animated videos, where figures fly through the sky high above the ocean waves, she subverts imagery from Persian and Indian miniatures, challenging despotic regimes, the atrocities of war and those complicit in the perpetuation of both. Washed in watercolor, ink and acrylic, simultaneously nightmarish and whimsical realms are inhabited by faceless figures linked in an endless chain of violence, and decapitated horses hauling fire through rubble-strewn landscapes dotted with crippled oil refineries and nuclear plants. Tackling the state of American politics and the country's role in global tensions, "The War Room" may represent the most overtly political work produced by the 90-year-old painter David Simpson in his 60-year career. His outrage over abuse of power and wanton destruction, like ISIS dynamiting the ancient site of Palmyra, seeps through the layers of his abstract, light-refracting canvases in which clouds of smoke and ash evoke chaos and the fog of war. (Sept.6-Oct. 27)

Berggruen Gallery is exhibiting a survey of important works on paper and paintings (1959-2010) by the late Nathan Oliveira, the aesthetically independent-minded Bay Area figurative painter and Stanford professor, who created haunting, exquisitely balanced compositions of the human figure - often isolated in the landscape - over the course of five prolific decades. (Sept. 6-Oct. 13) It's always unwise to separate a girl from her steed, and in the case of British photographer Mary McCartney, it would have meant a loss for the art world. "The White Horse," her largest body of work to date, includes portraits of her magnificent white stallion, a vision out of a fairy tale or myth, photographed in the verdant Sussex countryside of her youth. The images convey the tacit intimacy and trust between rider and horse, steeling away into green meadows or venturing into forests after nightfall. (Oct. 18-Nov. 21)


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