First Thursday and Mission Arts & Performance Project

Today we at CatSynth review two very different recent art events we visited here in the city.

First up is First Thursday, which I haven’t been able to attend for the past few months because Thursdays tend to be busiest days of the week (several of my performances have been on Thursdays, for example). This Thursday was no exception, but I was able to do a “speed tour” before heading off to a friend’s party.

My favorite exhibit of the evening was Dystopia at the Robert Koch Gallery. This was an exhibition of photographs exploring the edges of the urban landscape, including “ruins”, abandoned lots and buildings, and some whimsical photos that played with human elements within architectural settings. Regular readers will know the theme of this exhibition is in line with my own photography, which most often features urban and architectural elements. The participating photographers were Benoit Aquin, Ken Botto, Jeff Brouws, Matthias Geiger, Alejandro Gonzalez, Richard Gordon, Colin Finlay, Navad Kander, Shai Kremer, Brian Ulrich, and Michael Wolf. The gallery has provided an excellent online slideshow of the exhibit, which I encourage everyone to check out, especially if you have enjoyed Wordless Wednesdays here at CatSynth.

Part of the fun of events like this is all the interesting people that one sees. And the occasional non-human as well. This dog I saw at the Don Soker Gallery had decent taste:

Our canine art critic also stopped by some interesting modernist and text-based works at the neighboring Altman Siegel gallery, part of an exhibition called “A Wild Night and a New Road”.

Down the hall, the show entitled “Who Got the Chickens” by Stephan Pascher was wholly uninteresting to me, except of course for having the best title of the evening.

We made a brief excursion from Geary Street to Hang, which featured an opening by Freya Prowe. Several of her paintings include the interesting combination of fish and a female angel or fairy creature dressed in black, as illustrated in this detail from a larger work:

I attended a very different kind of art event on Saturday. The Mission Arts and Performance Project (MAPP) is a “bi-monthly street-level community arts happening”, featuring local artists in garages, storefronts, studios and private homes in the Mission District of San Francisco.

By transforming garages and backyards into mini-galleries MAPP shows how ordinary spaces can be made extra-ordinary to bring people together to share in a diverse experience of fine art and performance. The garages, as they are unpretentious and open to the street, pose the possibility of exposing the arts to a lot of folks who might not ever enter a gallery or theater. This process helps take the art from the margins of our communities to where it may come to be more widely see and understood as a vibrant and vital force necessary to the health of our society.

The Red Poppy Art House was for a longtime the force behind MAPP, and you can see images of past events on their website. They were not participating in this months event, and indeed the entire program was much smaller than the one I attended last year. This month also focused primarily on performances, music as well as spoken-word and dance, with very little in the way of visual art. Nonetheless, there were some interesting performances.

The Peace Planet was set up in a private residence on Harrison Street, providing an intimate setting for musical performance. Of course, the extremely large attendance made things feel more crowded than intimate. But I did manage to get a seat, and heard Classical Revolution perform some very traditional string works by Bach – the mission of Classical Revolution is bring classical music out of the concert-hall setting into “highly accessible” public venues, such as bars and cafes. There was also a more contemporary piece the program called Spontaneous Combustion by Jorge Molina , for prepared piano, classical voice, percussion and several didgeridoos. The piece had heavy Latin and jazz influences, and was relatively tonal in C minor (my favorite tonal key). I am not sure how much was improvised, and because of the crowd I did not get a chance to talk with the composer or performers.

Down the street at Area 2881 was the evening’s primary visual-art exhibit, featuring robot performance and kinetic sculpture by Carl Pisaturo:

These robotic sculptures combine technology with modernism and industrial themes, which in some ways brings us full circle to the photography exhibit that opened this article.