What’s Up in the Galleries This Summer?

  • by Chris Sosa, BAR Contributor
  • Friday July 13, 2012
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Even as the fog surges into the city, things are heating up at local galleries, where there's no such thing as summer vacation. Here is a quartet of exhibitions around town worth taking a look at.

In Sin and Redemption, a new group show at SFMOMA Artists Gallery, the museum's nonprofit off-shoot that promotes Bay Area art, two dozen artists grapple with the meaning of existence and the promise of transformation. It's a big-tent concept that, by necessity, assembles an eclectic assortment of artworks in a variety of media from photography, sculpture and painting like "Voluptuous Deconstruction," in which Kara Maria applied a rainbow of color to a digitally manipulated print, distorting and deconstructing a pornographic image of a woman using a vibrator, to the installations of David Best, a sculptor known for his funky art cars. Best's contribution is an altar forged from recycled wood destined to be set ablaze during this summer's Burning Man Festival. Visitors are invited to attach emotional messages to the structure, which, as the annual rite dictates, will be reduced to smoke and ashes after the conflagration.

The ritual of confession, which comports with the exhibition's quasi-religious theme, surfaces in several works: an audio-based piece, "Radio With Sin Us," inspired by the idea of penance and those ubiquitous secular outlets for compulsive self-disclosure, daytime TV talk-fests; and Victor Cartagena's "Confesiones y Hostias," which offers a communion host (part of the Holy Eucharist sacrament) if participants agree to publicly admit their sins, courtesy of a microphone and loudspeakers. The gallery director, when asked to elaborate on the show's title, quoted Kierkegaard before citing the following nugget from George Bernard Shaw: "You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul." You've been warned. July 14-Aug. 23 @ SFMOMA Artists Gallery. www.sfmoma.org/artistsgallery.

Gary Ruddell, New Work In the increasingly virtual world of human relationships in the age of Facebook, Ruddell's canvases depict impermanence and tenuous, person-to-person connections. Ruddell, who has called his paintings "visual statements about coming together," generates tension in his works with realistic human figures that teeter on the brink as they merge with the abstract space surrounding them; they take flight free of gravitational pull; reach for each other, arms outstretched like trapeze artists, transitioning in mid-air and engulfed in flames; walk on intersecting tightropes, dressed in white top hats and tails; jump chasms in a single bound, or balance precariously on planks, rolling logs and high wires, demonstrating that life is the ultimate high-wire act. July 14-Sept. 1 @ Dolby Chadwick Gallery, SF.

When Artists Attack the King: Honore Daumier and La Caricature, 1830-1835 The 19th-century caricaturist Honore Daumier, along with his compatriots at the Parisian journal La Caricature, were subjected to prison terms and fines, and were sued for their satiric portraits of King Louis-Philippe I of France, a tyrant who rose to power after the 1830 revolution. In some of the 50 prints here, the king, a figure ripe for ridicule, is portrayed as a bulbous pear. Drawing well, it seems, was the best revenge. The artists employed visual puns and savage wit to lampoon the July Monarchy's ministers, who censored the press and were responsible for the rampant inequities that afflicted French society. Their tone was anything but respectful; government officials are depicted as marionettes, and the slaughter of a working-class family by the military after a riot is presented in graphic terms, with no attempt to spare the delicate feelings of readers or the powers-that-be. A superior draftsman, Daumier's technical virtuosity is displayed in the over 4,000 lithographs he produced, as well as sculptures and paintings he created before he went blind. Aug. 1-Nov. 11 @ Cantor Arts Center, Stanford. www.museum.stanford.edu

Be sure to check out two cartoon exhibitions that epitomize empty-minded, popcorn movie fun - is there any other kind? For Avengers Assemble!, Earth's mightiest heroes unite to thwart a common enemy. The show features characters from Marvel Comics' stable of immensely popular, lucrative properties whose ranks include Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Widow and The Incredible Hulk, and the work of seminal artists who dreamt them up over five decades of superhero history. "Through the years," the legend goes, "their roster has prospered, changing many times, but their glory has never been denied!"

In the real world, Mussolini had a soft spot for animals - humans, not so much - so it stands to reason that in a galaxy far, far way, Darth Vader might be a doting father, black death mask and heavy breathing notwithstanding. In cartoonist Jeffrey Brown's amusing fantasy of growing up with the Dark Lord of the Sith, being Darth Vader's son has its privileges. When Dad isn't busy annihilating the Milky Way, there are life lessons imparted during light saber practice, a visit to the Death Star on "Take Your Child to Work Day," and a summoning of the Force to raid the cookie jar, practical skills no kid should be without. Darth Vader and Son , through Aug. 5; Avengers Assemble!, through Oct. 7 @ Cartoon Art Museum, SF.

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