Banksy Does New York

Above:  Everything But the Kitchen Sphynx

“A 1/36 scale replica of the great Sphinx of Giza made from smashed cinderblocks. You’re advised not to drink the replica Arab spring water.”  ~Banksy

Other Cinema presented Street Art Saturday night, a program beginning with shorts and a lecture, anchored with Banksy Does New York, a documentary of the anonymous artist’s month long “residency” in the streets of New York.  Banksy sparked a daily treasure hunt by creating an original work each day in October 2013, presenting each piece on his website with no location. Check out the trailer here.

I lived through this event, waking up each October morning to experience daily reveals of brilliant wit and prank, and watched the phenomena unfold on social media in real time. It’s an experience hard to replicate in retrospect, but the documentary captures the thrill and frenzy. It follows Banksy-hunters around Manhattan and its boroughs and records the social fallout of exorbitantly-priced artist acts publicly abandoned in obscure corners. The film provides followup on the fate of the artworks, and offers interpretations by cultural theorists and participants. Mayhem ensues as public response becomes performance, where the pieces get variously defined:  valuable loot by opportunists, crime by the police, precious “cultural currency” by connoisseurs, and irrelevant by gallery owners.

The film was preceded by a slide lecture by Russell Howze, author of Stencil Nation.  Howze, an expert in all things stencil, presented the history of stencil art from Indonesian cave art to Banksy and beyond, with a focus on Banksy’s 2010 six-day tagging of  San Francisco. I am eager to hunt for what survives of these works, locations listed here.

With Banksy/Not Bansky comparisons, the slideshow illustrated Banksy precursors and influencers, fakes, and Banksy-esque conspirators worldwide, such as Hanksy and Bambi. It was a fascinating report of the fluid and unregulated world of street art where influences move quickly, artist brands shift to ephemera, and stencil culture extends to war zones. Check out Russell Howze’s website:  http://www.stencilarchive.org

Saturday Stroll Uptown

Above:  Healing Spirit by Robert Beier

Oakland Art Murmur offers a free guided Saturday Stroll each month, third Saturday, through a different gallery district of the city. This month’s Stroll, themed Luminosity, explored gallery-rich Uptown along 23rd and 25th Streets, capping off at the uniquely fun Classic Cars West, a vintage car showcase/art gallery/vegan beer garden on 26th.

Curator Donna Napper began the tour at  Chandra Cerrito Contemporary where she serves as Artistic Director. Cathy Cunningham-Little‘s glass LED sculptures refract colorful, layered, geometric light beams. They hung on the walls like enchanted jewels, a highlight of the walk. Next door at Johansson Projects, we enjoyed two slow-moving light works by Craig Dorety. Influenced by light artists James Turrell and Jim Campbell, Dorety creates electronic flower bud-like sculptures whose hues transform over time. Dorety’s work belongs to the growing influence of LED and technology-based artwork in the Bay Area and abroad.

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Pictured: Field of Tulips and Green Forest by Craig Dorety

Further aligned with this theme of “luminosity”, Krowswork Gallery presented Divine Invasions: Six Male Artists Allying with the Divine Feminine. I found Robert Beier’s pieces especially enjoyable.  His saturated digital drawings, primitive in style, belie a pleasing knack for composition and an authentic communication of spiritual states.

The day included visits to Mercury20 and Manna Gallery where several artists and curators discussed their work in person and gave us a deeper understanding of their motives and sources. Overall, we experienced a wide variety of art in this fulfilling tour of Uptown Oakland’s gallery scene.

Timeless Motion at Shapeshifters

Shapeshifters Cinema, an important East Bay meeting ground for local experimental filmmakers, takes place at Temescal Arts Center on the second Sunday of each month at 8pm.  This series celebrates live cinema performance with a gratifying bias toward old-fashioned celluloid and the technology that accompanies it.

Last night, six artists from the SOMArts Gallery Timeless Motion exhibition collaborated for an evening of multi-screen projection with live audio mix.  I counted at least seven devices – Super8, 16mm, live video feed, and a couple overhead projectors from my 1970s days in elementary school.  Media machinery occupied half the seating space offering every spectator a unique eyeline with clunky silhouettes of technical sprawl.  Artists moved in and out of the space for contiguous and overlapping performances, unified by the sounds of DJ Cyrus Tabar who stepped in last minute with an enjoyable mix of rapidly composed audio when the original sound designer cancelled due to a car accident.

While the spirit of experimentation created an energized space for play, I would have loved more thematic coherence, or perhaps more demarcations between artistic voices.  Visual juxtapositions were hit-or-miss.  Keith Evans’ abstract live video feed of jellyfish skins attached to a rotating Super8 reel provided the most curious invention.

 

Timeless Motion 3

Photo by Gilbert Guerrero

Above: Photo by Bojana Rankovic

Jewel City at De Young Museum

Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the De Young Museum closes January 10th!  This historical exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the World’s Fair in San Francisco by displaying key artworks included in its international exposition a hundred years ago.  “International” refers to American and European art only, in this case.  The exhibit explores the pivotal era between late 19th century impressionism and the early stages of modernism, as seen through a more conservative American bias at the time.  Impressionism clearly flourished, having reached a state of mastery in surprisingly diverse styles.  Sheer skies, glinting flower fields, and porcelain nudes populate scenes of natural beauty and repose.

But the paint strokes were getting broader and more unkempt by 1915 and European radicalism was beginning to interrupt the quiet delicacy of the previous era.  The exhibit encompasses this tension.  A wall of more modernist American works, slandered at the time because of their unconventional styles, appear unremarkable to our eye today.  But the final room of Italian Futurists shows just how far ahead the Europeans were conceptually.  Their more angst-filled fare expressed movement, time, fragmentation and abstraction in new ways that rocked the art world of 1915.

Spehrical Expansion of Light, Centripetal by Gino Sverini.jpg

Gino Severini, ‘Spherical Expansion of Light, Centripetal,’ 1913–1914.

Above:  Nikolay Fechin, ‘Lady in Pink (Portrait of Natalia Podbelskaya), 1912

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Playing now at the San Rafael Film Center, this documentary celebrates a fully liberated woman and art collector of the 20th century whose enormous influence on the art world dominates to this day.  Obviously, Peggy Guggenheim’s life cannot be contained by a 97 minute film, and the film’s earnestness to pay her tribute gets bogged down in details.  The film is so chock full of names, faces, and art objects, it leaves one rather dazed by the end, and its rapid survey requires a conversant familiarity with key figures of the 20th Century avant garde.  Yet it fascinates, describing her friendships and liaisons with the likes of Marcel DuChamp, Jackson Pollock, Samuel Beckett, and Max Ernst, to name a few.

More significantly, the film chronicles Guggenheim’s escape as a Jew from Europe in World War II on the brink of Germany’s invasion of Paris.   Risking her own life, she amassed an entire museum’s worth of artwork for the sum of $40,000, even retrieving works off the walls of the Louvre deemed “not worth saving” under the encroaching attack of Hitler.  She went on to establish The Art of This Century in New York City, a radical museum concept that allowed visitors to spin paintings around.

Most of the film winds around a set of audiotapes found in a basement by the filmmaker.  These tapes held Peggy Guggenheim’s last interview, and she answers the most probing  questions with unfettered honesty.  She freely describes a troubled family, multiple marriages, and an unmatched commitment to art collecting.  Art Addict paints a paradoxical life of a woman highly social yet isolated, sexually liberated but often unwanted, and an outsider who placed herself at the epicenter of the modern art world.

Saturday Stroll in Temescal

Every third Saturday of the month, Oakland Art Murmur offers Saturday Stroll district tours on foot.  Today it began at Interface Gallery, a one room space in Temescal Alley next to tiny specialty shops offering doughnuts, ice cream and exotic plants.  I am well acquainted with microcinemas but this was my first experience with microgalleries.  The Interface exhibition currently displays a single painting by Linda Geary (pictured) and a single sculpture by May Wilson.  Curator Suzanne L’Heureux passionately shared her process of starting a gallery, her curatorial process and the background of the artists.   She then led the Stroll (about a dozen folks) a few blocks away to the Royal Nonesuch Gallery at 43rd & Telegraph wherestood Free Alterations: A solo exhibition by Sarah HotchkissHotchkiss’s playful pieces colorfully drew attention to flaws in the physical space, though the concept suffered a bit as it served more as an inside joke among gallery staff.

While I loved the minimal offering at Interface and its spotlighting of a mere two (TWO!!) works, the Stroll as a whole left me hungry for more.  Two tiny galleries, and the event ended before the two hours advertised.  A seasoned Stroller told me it usually includes more gallery visits and sometimes runs over two hours.  I’ll have to check out a future stroll.  It seemed to be a great way to comfortably meet fellow art lovers, take in a neighborhood, hear directly from curators and artists, and check out local art.

 

Photo by Kristin Cato