Mission Arts and Performaning Project (MAPP), August 2010

Yesterday I attended the August Mission Arts and Performaning Project (MAPP), where various arts venues, businesses and private homes open themselves up to present artists in the community. This month was actually a lot smaller than the June MAPP, but there was still more than I could see in my brief visit.

I started, as usual, at the Red Poppy Art House, which serves as the hub for MAPP. Here, Red poppy Resident Artist Hersalia Cantoral from Chiapas, Mexico, was holding court in an informal discussion. Some of her drawings were on display alongside other artists.

We then wandered down Folsom Street to the “Blue House” and saw singer/singwriter Vanessa Valencia perform some of her songs. She was particularly focused on an ear infection she was suffering through, and even improvised a song about it with strong encouragement from the audience.

[Bhi Bhiman at L’s Cafe.]

Later, we found ourselves at L’s Cafe listening to another singer songwriter, Bhi Bhiman. His performance was very polished and fun to listen to. I particularly liked his “White Man’s Burden Blues” (or “Rudyard Kipling Blues”), in which he wove references to various peoples around the world who have had…well, “challenging” experiences with Western colonialism into an up-tempo traditional blues song, much to the delight of the audience.  (I am not sure what the deal was with the red clown noses that several people were wearing.) He was giving away free CDs that I was eager but too slow to get – but someone was generous enough to offer me hers, so she gets a big “CatSynth thank you.” By coincidence, there were two paintings by Melisa Phillips on the wall.

[Melisa Phillips at L’s Cafe.  (Click image to enlarge.)]

I have reviewed her work from previous Open Studios, and would be remiss if I did not mention her again. Her works incorporates text, and in more recent pictures, body images into a unified space. Also on display was the work of RUBYSPAM, which I also recognized from a previous event.

Enrique Chagoya at Galería de la Raza. (Click image to enlarge.)

There was overall a good mix between performing art and visual art this time. Our next stop was Galería de la Raza, which was exhibiting YTREBIL, a solo exhibition featuring prints and drawings by Enrique Chagoya. Chagoya has quite an interesting biography, birn in Mexico City in the mid-1950s, studying at the San Francisco Art Institute, and now a professor at Stanford. His works on display included a mix of political, pop culture, cartoon and mythological references, often in surprising combinations. There were numerous caricatures of George W Bush (and at least one of Condoleeza Rice), as well less quickly recognizable references. The iconic image of the exhibit featured the title, here clearly visible as “Liberty” spelled backwards, with dinosaurs running amok in an otherwise comfortable looking living room. I particularly liked some of his longer works that combined mytholigical imagery with cartoon images and narrative structure that one might find in comics. This was featured in his “Illegal Aliens Guide” series, such as the Illegal Alien’s Guide to Critical Theory in which stereotypically attired figures from the US-Mexico border region discuss issues from academic critical theory beneath a large figure with that looks like a Central American mythological figure wearing a white T-Shirt and jeans lying on a platform. There is also the Illegal Alien’s Guide to Relative Surprise Value (maybe I should read that, given my general lack of interest in economics).

Our final stop was Area 2881 to see the latest incarnation of the robotic sculptures and “lumino-kenetic art” by Carl Pisaturo that I had seen at a previous MAPP in 2009. The robots and rotating mechanical pieces of light and motion were on display once again, and this time I got great photographs.

[Robotic and lumino-kinetic art at Area 2881. (Click images to enlarge.)]

There was at least one new piece, a sci-fi-ish floating contraption that was both fish-like and spacecraft-like. I was not able to get a good image of it. Overall, the objects were all impressive in terms of the technical expertise and discipline that went into their creation – it requires not only an understanding of electronics but mechanical and industrial design – as well as the mesmerizing aesthetic quality that kept us viewing them for quite a while when enjoying Area 2881’s signature cocktail. They also had a series of 3D photographs on view. Like a more advanced version of the 3D viewmasters I remember from the late 1970s, one could peer in and see scenes with depth and detail, such as a party in the Castro, and an organist sitting down to begin her performance, and a church with stained glassed windows and vaulted ceilings moving out into the distance.

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.