The Book (Part 2) at SOMArts: Avy-K with Ken Ueno and Matt Ingalls

A week ago I attended a performance of The Book, a monthlong project by Avy-K Productions at SOMArts as part of their Commons Curatorial Residency prorgram. Avy-K, founded by long-time collaborators Erika Tsimbrovsky (choreographer/performer) and Vadim Puyandaev (visual artist/performer), specializes in multidisciplinary pieces combining contemporary dance, live music, live painting and evolving installations. The Book used these elements to present a framework for audience interaction and narrative.

From the online program notes:

The Book is an installation-performance series accompanying an ongoing exhibition based in experimental non-theater dance. Each performance is a random page from The Book, and each invites a different guest artist to enter the structure, created by Avy K Productions and collaborators, in order to destroy it and give it new life.

Matt Ingalls and Ken Ueno

The performance featured live improvised music by Matt Ingalls and Ken Ueno. I have of seen both of them perform in a variety of venues on numerous occasions, but never together as duo until now. There were many moments where Ingalls’ wind instruments and Ueno’s extended vocal work matched perfectly. In fact, the timbres of the voice and instruments were close enough to seem indistinguishable at times. Both performances held single pitched tones, with only slight variations the led to pronounced beating effects. At other moments, clarinet multiphonics were set against low intense growling, or Central Asian (i.e., Tuvan) throad singing. There were also percussive notes passed back and forth between the performers in sparse rhythmic patterns – something that worked well with the movement of the dancers. I was interested in some of the more unusual uses of instruments, such as Ueno’s combining of a clarinet bell and snare drum with vocalizations or Ingalls’ decomposition of the clarinet into subsections.


The dancers costumes featured “dresses” made of black-and-white patchworks that seemed to resemble newsprint on top of black – this costuming was used by both the male and female dancers. It matched the starkness of the room and the displays, which were mostly white with black text or markings. The music, dance movements and costumes provided plenty of empty space, which seemed in keeping with the stated mission of The Book for “artists and audience members [to] allow their personal stories to enter the performance space, creating a collective public diary.” The main source of bright colors were large paintings at various places on the wall – their significance would become apparent as the performance unfolded.

The dance began very subtly and quietly, with long pauses and brief motions that matched the soft percussive sounds from the voice and clarinet. The motion focused on dancers interacting in pairs or individual dancers interacting with the large white panels set up throughout the room, the floor, or their costumes.

As the dance continued, Vadim Puyandaev emerged in all black and began live-painting a new large-scale mural on one wall of the gallery. The painting used vibrant colors and it became clear that the colorful paintings I noticed earlier must have been the result of previous performances. As the painting progressed, the dancers gradually set down in close formation facing Puyandaev, as if in prayer or meditation. The music appropriately moved to a long clarinet drone and throat singing.

[Photo by Elena Zhukova, reprinted courtesy of SOMArts.]

As the next section of the performance began, the audience was invited to gather around one particular set of curtains. The shadowy figures of two dancers could be seen through the curtain, with the outline of their bodies coming in and out of focus. They emerged very gradually from underneath the curtain, first a foot poking out, then a head and neck, squeezing out like a caterpillar, As they fully emerged, the two dancers came together in slow, undulating and curving motions. This part of the performance was, to say the least, rather sexually charged. After continuing for a period of time, the dancers separated and retreated behind the curtain.

Photo by Elena Zhukova, reprinted courtesy of SOMArts

The final section of the performance was more heterogenous in terms of content, with a greater variety of motions and interactions with the space. Large rolls of paper were spread out on the floor – a dancer proceeded roll himself up in one of these. Square holes were cut in some of the white curtains to create windows that performers peeked through. A large circle was created which some dancers followed as if on a monorail. Over time, the dancers one by one exchanged their costumes for “street clothing” – basically, the sort of things one might wear when to attend a serious art performance like this but remain casual. Were it not for the deliberate nature of their motion, they would have been indistinguishable from the audience. It was clear that it was coming to an end as the all gathered in one spot and the music went silent.

[Photo by Elena Zhukova, reprinted courtesy of SOMArts.]

So the question is how how successful the piece was at allowing audience members to enter their own stories? For me, I found myself focused on the literal elements of the visual design, music and movement. Even as the piece evolved over time, I was drawn the elements as abstractions – perhaps not surprising for someone who gravitates towards abstract music and art. Particularly through the costumes and overall shapes of the installation, I could also connect to the urban landscape.

The Book continues at SOMArts with additional performances, including a free closing event on July 29 where one will be able to see how the gallery space was altered over the course of the series.

CCRMA Modulations at SOMArts

A few weeks I go, I attended CCRMA Modulations 2011, an evening of live electronic music and sound installations by CCRMA (the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford) and special guests at SOMArts in San Francisco. The event was an eight-hour marathon, though I only stayed for about half the time, seeing many of the installations and most of the live-music performances.

The first part of the evening featured sound sculptures from Trimpin and his students at CCRMA. This particular project, the “Boom Boom Record Player” by Jiffer Harriman stuck with me.

The output from the record player is used to drive the electromechanical instruments on the right. I thought the instruments were well crafted – but I thought it was particularly fitting to have a classic Earth Wind and Fire LP on the record player.

[Click image to enlarge.]

Trimpin’s offering featured coin-operated robotic percussion where the drums included just about every model of Apple notebook computer going back to an early PowerBook (and even earlier as I think I espied an Apple IIc).

[Click image to enlarge.]

The live-music portion of the evening with Tweet Dreams by Luke Dahl and Carr Wilkerson. Audience members with Twitter access were encouraged to live-tweet messages to a specific hashtag #modulations. The messages were then analyzed in real time and the data used to affect the music. As I was planning to live tweet from this event anyway via iPhone, I was ready to participate. Of course, inviting audience participation like this is a risky proposition for the artists, as one cannot control what people may say. I will freely admit I can be a bit snarky at times and it came out in some of my tweets. The music was relatively benign, with very harmonic runs of notes – and I exhorted them to “give me something harsh and noisy”. Inspired by another participant, I also quoted lines from the infamous “More Cowbell!” skit from Saturday Night Live, much to the delight of some in the audience. The main changes in the music seemed to be in density, rhythm and some melodic structure, but all within boundaries that kept the sound relatively harmonic and “pleasant.” I would have personally liked to see (as I suggested via Twitter), more complex music, with some noisy elements and more dramatic changes. But the interaction with the music and and the audience was a lot of fun.

The next piece, Sferic by Katharine Hawthorne, featured dance and electronics. It was described as “using radio and movement improvisation to explore the body as an antenna.” The dancers, dressed in black outfits with painted patterns, began the movement to a stream of radio static. The motions were relatively minimalist, and sometimes seemed strained. Gestures included outstretched arms and fingers pointing, with Hawthorne walking slowly as her dance partner Luke Taylor ran more quickly. Rich, harmonic music entered from the rear channels of the hall, and dancers moved to being flat on the ground. The static noise returned, but more crackly with other radio-tuning sounds, then it became a low rumble. The dancers seemed to be trying very hard to get up. Then they started pointing. The music became more anxious, with low percussive elements. The dance became more energetic and active as the piece came to a close.

This was followed by Fernando Lopez-Lezcano performing Dinosaur Skin (Piel de Dinosaurio) a piece for multi-channel sound diffusion, an analog synthesizer and custom computer software. The centerpiece was a custom analog synthesizer “El Dinosaur” that Lopez-Lezcano build from scratch in 1981.

The instrument is monophonic (but like most analog synthesizers, a very rich monophonic), multiplied for the purposes of the performance by audio processing in external software and hardware. The music started very subtly, with sounds like galloping in the distance. The sounds grew high in pitch, then descended and moved across the room – the sense of space in the multichannel presentation was quite strong. More lines of sound emerged, with extreme variations in the pitch, low and high. The timbre, continually changing, grew more liquidy over time, with more complex motion and rotation of elements in the sound space. Then it became more dry and machine like. There was an exceptionally loud burst of sound followed by a series of loud whistles on top of low buzzing. The sounds slowed down and became more percussive (I was reminded as I often am with sounds like this of Stockhausen’s Kontakte (II)). Then another series of harsher whistles and bursts of sound. One sound in particular started the resonant quite strongly in the room. Overall, the sound became steady but inharmonic – the timbre becoming more filtered and “analog-like”.

The final performance in this section of the evening featured Wobbly (aka Jon Leidecker) as a guest artist presenting More Animals, a “hybrid electronic / concrete work” that combined manipulated field records of animals with synthesized sounds. As a result, the piece was filled with sounds that either were actual animals or reminiscent of animal sounds freely mixed. The piece opened with pizzicato glissandi on strings, which became more wailing and plaintive over time. I heard sounds that either were whales and cats, or models of whales and cats. Behind this sounds, pure sine tones emerged and then watery synthesized tones. A series of granular sounds emerged, some of which reminded me of human moaning. The eerie and watery soundscape that grew from these elements was rich and immersive. After a while, there was a sudden abrupt change followed by violent ripping sounds, followed by more natural elements, such as water and bird whistles. These natural elements were blended with AM modulation which sounded a bit like a helicopter. Another abrupt change led to more animal sounds with eerie howling and wind, a strange resonant forest. Gradually the sound moved from natural to more technological with “sci fi” elements, such as descending electrical noises. Another sudden change brought a rhythmic percussion pattern, slow and steady, a latin “3+2+2” with electronic flourishes. Then it stopped, and restarted and grew, with previous elements from the piece becoming part of the rhythm.

After an intermission, the seats were cleared from the hall and the music resumed in a more techno dance-club style and atmosphere, with beat-based electronic music and visuals. Guest artists Sutekh and Nate Boyce opened with Bands of Noise in Four Directions & All Combinations (after Sol LeWitt). Glitchy bursts of noise resounded from the speakers while the screens showed mesmerizing geometric animations that did indeed remind me a bit of Sol LeWitt (you can see some examples of his work in previous posts).

Later in the evening Luke Dahl returned for a solo electronic set. It began calmly with minor chords processed through rhythmic delays, backed by very urban poster-like graphics. Behind this rhythmic motif, filtered percussion and bass sounds emerged, coalescing into a steady house pattern, with stable harmony and undulating filtered timbres. At times the music seemed to reach back beyond house and invoke late 1970s and early 1980s disco elements. Just at it was easy to get lost listening to Wobbly’s environmentally-inspired soundscapes, I was able to become immersed in the rhythms and timbres of this particular style. The graphics showed close-ups of analog synthesizers – I am pretty sure at least some of the images were of a Minimoog. I did find out that these images were independent of the musical performance, and thus we were not looking at instruments being used. I liked hearing Luke’s set in the context of the pieces earlier in the evening, the transition from the multi-channel soundscapes to the glitchy noise and to the house-music and dance elements.

I was unfortunately not able to stay for the remaining sets. But overall it was a good and very full evening of music and technology.

Kearny Street Workshop and SOMArts: A Sensory Feast

Art in general, and the art reviewed here at CatSynth in particular is very focused on sound and sight. “A Sensory Feast”, an exhibition co-presented by our friends at Kearny Street Workshop and SOMArts Cultural Center, expands into other senses, including touch, smell and taste. Each piece in the show touches in one way or another on the subject of food, sometimes directly with scents and textures, sometimes indirectly through memories, metaphors and cultural contexts.

[Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, MCDXCII, chocolate wrappers, sugar, curry powder, and acquired objects, 2010.  Press image courtesy of Kearny Street Workshop.]

Aroma along with taste and sight featured prominently in Sita Kuratomi Bhuamik’s site-specific installation MCDXCII (1492). The central material of the installation, curry powder, can be very powerful – cooking with it will fill a room with its scent, touching it leaves a lingering yellow stain. Here the artist has blanketed surfaces with both intricate floral patterns on the ground and abstract geometric textures on the wall. In the middle is a bench covered in a combination of gold wrappers and curry. The installation also referenced one of the most powerful and captivating food substances of all: chocolate.

Curry also featured prominently in a sound piece by Brandon Bigelow. Sound is a bit more detached from food than the other senses, but is nonetheless interesting to hear “sound of a curry dinner” decomposed electronically. As a musician, I tend to get more into the structure of the sounds themselves rather than the source – I would not have necessarily placed the sounds in the context of food without the associated description – I mostly thought of it as an escape from the other senses during the opening.

[Yosh Han, installation view with perfume bottles.]

Yosh Han’s fragrance bar was all about scent. Guests were invited to sample and choose on of her scents to carry on a cardboard mustache. It was clear that the scents evoke very strong identifications, some seemed more “right” than others, but there was still room for surprise. My initial assumption is that I would find the strongest resonance with the “Intellectual”, which did evoke cooler colors and flavors (rosemary was one of several components); but upon trying the “Bon Vivant” I immediately knew it was right. The scent had layers of spice and tomato, in other words rather fiery. And while I don’t really associate myself with jeux de vie, it did fit with my being a “pitta” in Ayurvedic terms. Maybe the sense of smell tells us things we otherwise overlook or hide.

Amy M. Ho’s Collection of Food Costumes focused on the tactile sense through fabric. It was quite popular, with people takings turns embodying a pineapple or a slice of pizza (just don’t ever put the two together, as pineapple pizza is an abomination). In addition to the human costumes, she did have at least one intended for cats.

[Amy Ho, Food Costume for a cat.]

I thought this durian for cats was very cute, though I doubt I could convince Luna to wear it.

A cat also featured prominently in Catcakes, one of several works by Kira Greene.

[Kira Greene, Catcakes, 2010.  Image courtesy of the artist.]

The piece is an interesting play on space and dimension. The cat, fish and surrounding elements are very flat and reminiscent of Asian paper cutouts. The plate of three cupcakes, however, is very three dimensional, and realistic enough to evoke the sugary texture and aroma. Nonetheless, I did see the cat first, texturally camouflaged but very prominent with its blue color.

In 2002 Diet as a Periodic Table, Arthur Huang recorded and classified all the food he ate in 2002 into a table with three-letter abbreviations and numerical and spacial classifications reminiscent of the chart we know and love from science classes. There different classifications for diffent foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, condiments, etc. I tried to follow the color and number pattens and had fun with some of the symbols: “Pzz” for pizza, “Ccc” for chocolate chip cookies, and “Cos” for a cosmopolitan among many others. The piece fed into my interest (no pun intended) in statistics and information as artistic material.

Rounding out the exhibition were Jean Chen’s Food Coloring Photographs and live tattoo applications during the opening; a rather pornographic video featuring fruit by JD Beltran, Vita and Bryan Hewitt and Emannuelle Namont-Kouznetsov; and a presentation from the National Bitter Melon Council including videos, small cultures a manual “Better Living through Bitter Melon”. I know this vegetable by the name “bitter gourd” as a very strong Indian side-dish to be enjoyed in small doses.

The exhibition will remain open through Thursday, February 24 with an artist talk and closing reception that evening.

Election Day (of the Dead)

Well, it is Election Day in the U.S., the closest thing we have to a national civic ritual. And in California, that means another of our exceptionally long ballots. Here is this November’s sample ballot plus voter guide:

[Click to enlarge.]

I have to admit, as voter guides go, this one has a pretty cool cover with a detail of the spiral staircase at San Francisco City Hall. And although it’s not the largest we have had, but still pretty substantial.

[Click to enlarge.]

Indeed, elections here can be a bit unwieldy. I find myself voting on all sorts of things, like arcane budget issues or judges that I feel completely unqualified to make a decision on. Of course, there are fun things like having our Proposition 19 (legalization of marijuana for sale in the state) and serious things like Proposition 23, an attempt to suspend our leading climate and energy law – a law that is actually a point of pride for many of us as we watch the much of the country (and our national leaders) fail on the issue. One sign I particularly liked was a dual “Go Giants!” and “No on 23” banner hanging from a building on 3rd Street, with the subtitle “Beat Texas (Oil)”. As often happens, baseball and elections collide. Our celebrations yesterday may end up being short lived depending on how things go today.

In addition to a sense of civic duty, you get a cool sticker:

I quite like having English, Spanish and Chinese all represented – there is something that feels right about it, a sense of people from different backgrounds coming together for a collective purpose.  Of course it is not all the languages spoken by residents of the city, but it is still a decent cross section.  It also made me think about a statement I had heard yesterday, thinking more optimistically about the future, that demographics is currently on the side of those with a more cosmopolitan and progressive view of the world as the older generations with their traditional notions of racial, linguistic, religious, national and sexual boundaries fade away.  But that’s a story for another time.

My current polling place is at SOMArts Cultural Center, so going to vote also means taking in the current exhibition, the annual El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibition. This years theme was “Honoring Revolution with Visions of Healing”  and featured  “altars and installations that will honor the dead and provide offerings to the living.”  It was certainly interesting to have an exhibition with the theme of “revolution” adjacent to the place where I was voting.  And while the theme may be connected to the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, many of the pieces were more general in nature, honoring loved ones who have passed away, or tied to current events, such as disasters and war. For example, I was drawn to this piece because it featured musicians:

[Judy Johnson-Williams and Judy Shintani. Honoring Construction Workers, Rebuilding of the New Orleans, Revolution with Visions of Healing. (Click image to enlarge.)]

At first I was not quite sure what the construction workers were about. But once I understood that it honored the workers who were helping to rebuild New Orleans, the combination of music and construction made sense. It has a double resonance, looking back on Hurricane Katrina, but there are also echoes of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The piece was a collaboration by Judy Johnson-Williams and Judy Shintani. The also had another piece nearby, “All Cats We Have Loved”:

[Judy Johnson-Williams and Judy Shintani. All the Cats We Have Loved.  (Click to enlarge.)]

Their accompanying statement was very touching:

For all our kitties who have been run over by autos, are missing in action, and disappeared into the ethery to go onto their next lives. Hopefully you are having fun pouncing and are purring up a storm! We miss you! Meow!

The passing of a loved was also the subject of one of the featured pieces, an alter by artist Adrian Arias to his mother who passed away this year.  The large installation was almost entirely white, but with bits of color in the arranged objects.  Please visit his blog for images of this piece, including a performance by the artist.  Individual remembrances were also part of Susana Aragon’s Life is a Revolution.”  This piece featured tribute images on transparencies arranged on the wall, a series of moving screens onto which images were projected, and a mirror in which ones own reflection was project (as the artist suggests, it was a bit of a challenge to make the reflection work).  The piece has a very moody but also clean quality to it that kept my attention:

[Susana Aragon. Life is a Revolution.  (Click image to enlarge.)]

In their piece “Trapped”, Ytaelena and Bruce Lopez present a narrow and dark cave-like space which viewers can enter.  It seems inviting enough, with a warm earthy aroma.  But inside there is the faint sound of a person calling for help, and a detached hand in the middle of some vegetation.  The piece is inspired by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the earthquake in Chile.

Finally, on a more positive note, Lanell Dike invites viewers to write messages of love and gratitude, and place them on an array of lights in her interactive piece “Make a Love Offering.”

[Lanell Dike. Make a Love Offering (close-up view)]

I did decide to participate and left a message, not far away from where I cast my ballot only a little earlier.

(re-)Claim, SOMArts

I continue to work through my backlog of shows and exhibits to review, with a focus on exhibits that are still open. One of these is (re-)Claim, which will remain at SOMArts through Friday May 28.

(re-)Claim is part of the United States of Asian American Festival sponsored the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC), a month-long festival that celebrates “the artistic accomplishments and the cultural diversity of San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities.” The exhibition features work made from discarded objects and materials explores “the redemptive process that renders an object ‘fundamentally new'”. I have seen several exhibitions this year on similar themes – perhaps a sign of the times – and in fact some of the same artists are featured in (re-)Claim, including Truong Tran and Christina Mazza. The other artists featured in this curated show include Mark Baugh-Sasaki, Kathy Fuji-Oka, Su-Chen Hung, and Judy Shintani.

We had last seen Christina Mazza’s work in the SF Recology Artists Program in January, where she also focused on found objects and materials from the San Francisco dump. For this exhibition, she created an impressive 9-foot-by-12-foot site-specific installation.

[Christina Mazza. Site-specific installation. (Click to enlarge.)]

Up close, one focuses on the individual wooden panels that compose the work, and which reminded me a little of the panels from her “Contained Spaces” series from SF Recology (a few prints from that series were included here as well). From a distance, one could better see the landscape elements and the textures that combined both geometric and natural qualities.

Truong Tran featured several works that I recognized from his solo exhibition the lost & found back in February. All of his works in that show were meticulously constructed from recycled objects and materials, many of which he found on his frequent walks around the city’s neighborhood (an activity that we at CatSynth wholeheartedly support). His pieces fit perfectly into the theme of the (re-)Claim show, where they would be seen alongside and compared to the works of the other artists. There was at least one piece that I didn’t recognize from the solo exhibition – it is shown here.

[Truong Tran. (Click to enlarge image.)]

Sculptor Mark Baugh-Sasaki took a very different approach to reclamation. His large sculptures are composed in part from manufactured or processed materials, but have a very natural quality to them, as if they are part of some imaginary ecology. In his artist statement, he refers to them as “objects that are inhabitants of or illustrate the evolving systems and interactions in this new landscape.” I also quite liked his large wooden sculpture A Form Derived from a Constructed Landscape (shown below) and his metal sculpture Relic.

[“A Form Derived from a Constructed Landscape” by Mark Baugh-Sasaki. Image from the artist. (Click to the enlarge)]

We conclude with a mixed-media piece “My Friends” by Su-Chen Hung in which a pair of figures is constructed from a variety of household objects.

[“My Friends” by Su-Chen Hung.]

I would be remiss if I did not also mention the taco trucks that were on hand for the opening. Fusion taco trucks (i.e., assembly of spices and main ingredients from other cuisines in proper taco form served out of a truck) are a mainstay of street cuisine here in San Francisco, and there were two on hand for the opening. I have enjoyed the Asian asada from Kung Fu Tacos at several past events. But I was particularly fond of the paneer and extra-spicy sauce taco from Curry Up Now.

Art Overload! SF Open Studios (and the Anderson Collection)

[For Weekend Cat Blogging, please follow this link].

Since last Sunday (after my performance at the Y2K8 Looping Festival), visual art as taken over. October is Open Studios in San Francisco, where artists open up their studios to for public visits. I took advantage of the opportunity to get acquainted with local artists, mostly in the neighborhoods in walking distance, and the local art scene.

Taking in so much art and so many artists in such a short period of time is quite overwhelming, and I will only be able to describe a small fraction of what I saw. What makes a particular artist memorable and noteworthy is not only the quality of his or her work, but the conversations and personal connections. In some cases, I remember artists whose work may not fit my own aesthetic, but whose meeting was memorable. It was also the setting, and how their work fit in with my vision and sense of the neigbhorhoods.

Potrero Hill, The Mission District, and Bernal Heights

My first day out was last Sunday during which I visited several large studios in the Potrero Hill and Mission districts. The first stop was Art Explosion Studios. Here I met and had a change to talk with Amy Seefeldt; and Victoria Highland, whose large city-scape on a hill in front of a bay (where have I seen that before?) was one of the better large-scale paintings I saw. Heidi McDowell had an interesting large-scale painting featuring a young girl at Lassen National Monument, which I visited last year. The recent work of Melisa Philips is perhaps closer to my own interests. One of her paintings featuring stenciled text is shown to the right. I have discussed here on CatSynth in the past my interest in text within visual art, and whether the words and letters are simply visual elements or retain their meaning. Melisa Philips and I had an interesting conversation about this topic. Additionally, her earlier work includes some of the more interesting female figures I encountered on this particular day.

It is hard to tell specifically where Potrero Hill ends and the Mission begins, and many of the venues on this particular trip sit in that ambiguous area of old industrial buildings dotted with lofts and art spaces. Within these spaces, I encountered not only traditional fine art, but other media as well, some which would have been traditionally classified as “craft.” There were several jewelry makers, for example – there is a fuzzy dividing line at which things like jewelry become art, perhaps when they become more an item to collect and display, rather than to wear. There were the chandeliers by “adventurer” Derek E. Burton, which were quite intricate and intriguing, and although they are completely opposite of my personal style and the style of CatSynth HQ, I enjoyed hearing Derek’s story and his passion for his work. Aliza Cohen presented mix-media art, but it was her wool pillows that caught my attention. I did also encounter more traditional media, such as the photography of Christine Federici that incorporated some architectural and space details, as well as a mixture of natural and artificial textures.

Interestingly, it seemed that “modern” art, which is my main interest, was a distinct minority among the works encountered on this first trip. Certainly, there were many artists working with abstraction, but overall it did not have the stark geometric or textural qualities that I have come to expect.

When searching for “abstract” on the main website, the work of Pauline Crowther Scott showed up on the list. Her works features images of cats. Cats and abstraction seem like a good combination, so I made the trip out to her home studio in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. The trip to the narrow and sometimes vertical streets and older houses in this neighborhood in the southeast of the city, on a somewhat chilly late afternoon, was an interesting experience in itself. Scott’s work was much less abstract than I had expected (she was in fact surprised by the designation), but she did have several works featuring cats that were added to earlier (and indeed somewhat abstract) images. One example was Three Cats on a Bedspread.

South of Market and Mission Bay

This weekend featured open studios the South of Market (SOMA) area, which is my own neighborhood. Overall, the works I encountered were decidedly more modern, and often seemed to take inspiration from the industrial and urban surroundings. Indeed, the mixed media works of Rebecca Kerlin draw upon the highway overpasses, such as I-80 and the approach to the Bay Bridge, that I have featured in many posts here at CatSynth, such as in this Wordless Wednesday post. Her work incorporates photos of familiar landmarks and details into mixed media pieces.

One of my longer pieces about walking in SOMA included this photograph featuring an onramp to the Bay Bridge over Bryant Street, near the landmark Clock Tower:

It turns out that building in the foreground contains several artist studios. Among the artists at this locations was Paule Dubois Dupuis. Her work includes large abstract modernist paintings, the type of art I am currently quite interested in. Some of her pieces also included stenciled text, another common theme among works that draw my attention. In addition to the art itself, her studio is in quite a location, with windows that look out onto the bay, the industrial/office buildings and the highway supports, depending on the direction of one’s gaze. I was inspired to take this photo:

At Clara Street Studios, I encountered the work of Jerry Veverka, whose work involves plays on architecture and geometry, with some surrealist elements. I had seen an example at the SomArts exhibit, and was particularly drawn to his “Impossible Cities Series,” an example of which is displayed to the right. (Click on the image for a full size version at his website.)

Two other photographers I also encountered at included familiar sights from both New York and San Francisco in their work, and I had fun identifying and discussing them. I have unfortunately misplaced both photographers’ contact info (and I cannot find them on the original list. Hopefully, I will be able to get in touch them soon.

Back at Soma Artists Studios (same location as Rebecca Kerlin), I saw an interesting progression the work of Flora Davis. Her early work featured oil paintings of cats, while her more recent work involves sheet metal. They were quite separate, indeed they were displayed in two separate studios. However, I think it would be interesting to place one or two of the smaller cat paintings next to her multi-panel metal works, and considering them as a unit. Indeed, it would summarize my experience as modernism, abstraction, geometry, and cats.

After an exhausting but rewarding walk around the neigbhorhood, I did have to time for a brief excursion south to some studios in the Mission Bay area, which includes much of the old industrial waterfront.

The view behind the studios at 1 Rankin Street onto the Islais Creek Channel were quite inspiring, even without the presence of art. Fitting with the environment, this studio featured metal sculptures. The large sculptures of Béla Harcos greeted visitors. No matter how much I am supposed to be looking for prints and paintings, I am still drawn to abstract metal sculpture. Rebecca Fox also had large works on display, and I able to glimpse her workspace and her collection of metal waiting to be used. The “artist blacksmith” Wolf Thurmeier has some smaller, even “miniature” abstract metal sculptures (what I would consider “apartment-sized”), forged from recycled metal.

The Anderson Collection

Quite by coincidence, I also had the opportunity this weekend to attend a private tour of the Anderson Art Collection. The collection is located in Menlo Park (south of San Francisco, near Stanford University), and features late 20th century and early 21st century American art. It includes over 800 works, spanning about five decades and several notable styles and schools, including color fields, minimalism, the New York school of the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg). There were also recent computer-assisted works by Chuck Close, as well as emerging artists that the Andersons are supporting. One interesting discovery for me was Frank Lobdell. I will have to look for him on the outside. I found it interesting how some of his work resembled the Jasper Johns’ prints featured in the collection (especially the reductions in the very detailed brochures).

This visit to one of the premier private collections was an interesting contrast to many local independent artists over the past week. I would to think that my art experiences will continue to include both.