A Hip “Hop”: In Search Of

Wednesday, March 11th, 2:00pm… my work for the day completed, the sun beaming through the window… I have to get outside. But, where to?

The answer… a self guided gallery hop! So, I head off on feet, via the Panhandle, down to Hayes Valley. A few galleries I visited in the past were in that hood, so it seems like the ideal jumping off point for learning and seeing more. Thankfully, I was right.

Sweet Dreams I, by Fernando Reyes

Sweet Dreams I, by Fernando Reyes

But, let’s rewind for a moment… for a few years now, a dear friend of mine has amassed quite a collection of fine art, primarily paintings by local artists. Each time I visit his home a new piece has found its way onto his walls. I enjoy seeing what kind of work appeals to him, as it is quite different from my own taste. But, I can more clearly now see the vision he has, and what speaks to him. He is often drawn to nudes, a subject that I am not as drawn to, at least not for showcasing in my home. Am I a prude, I worry? No. But, I think there’s only room in my home for two naked bodies. Or, perhaps there’s just something too raw, real and vulnerable for me about nudes in my home setting… still a midwestern boy at heart, as much as I fight that label.

I’ve always been more drawn to woodcuts, silkscreens, and prints, but something about seeing the fine work in my friend’s home and the pleasure that collecting has clearly brought him has opened me up more fully to appreciating what an artist’s vision on raw canvas can inspire. There is certainly something more visceral and immediate about experiencing such art, rather than prints behind glass, and in a frame.

Simultaneously, I have painted a few rooms in our apt. home. The family room is now a nourishing avocado green. One wall, which used to be occupied by a collage of family images, is now waiting for that perfect piece of art. (When I repainted, I was horrified to discover how many holes I had put in our walls over the years to hang artwork, so now I’m aiming to float all of our art from the moulding… no nails!). Problem is, that piece hasn’t shown up yet, or I haven’t realized it if it has, so the wall waits patiently. This does change the nature of my “hop”… giving it more of a purpose than pure enjoyment. Being a graphic designer, I’m periodically tempted to create something of my own, but each time I talk myself out of it, remembering that I would love to be a small-time (even a one-time) collector and own my own first real piece of “art”.

I find that I’m generally drawn to more literal subjects, rather than abstract. I also want something that’s going to offer some levity, or light to my life, and make my heart sing when I see it. Although “edgy” is generally more celebrated in my urban demographic and profession, I want something more buoyant. If it’s going on the most prominent wall in the house, and I’m going to live with it 24 x 7, I have to love it. I suppose that raises the bar pretty high. Once I break the seal on buying art, I don’t think it’ll be such a tall mountain to climb. I’ve found it’s easy to find aesthetic styles I like, but not as easy to find subjects I like, and nearly impossible to find the nexus of the two!@#$

Cloud Watchers, by Carol Aust

Cloud Watchers, by Carol Aust

So, back to my hop… I started with a return visit to Zonal, where I again admire the work of Carol Aust. She offers an ideal combo of style and subject. Her work is very warm and human, with an expressive sense of style and beautiful use of color. She is a great visual storyteller, and I especially love that quality in her Cloud Watchers, Front Porch Hug, and the painting of a jumping man (for which I don’t know the name) that is hanging in the Zonal basement. Enjoy her own “Painting a Day” blog here.

Next up, I return to Reaves Gallery. A few months back I was fortunate to attend a showing there with my friend which featured work from the Lost Art Salon, as well as work by Fernando Reyes. Fernando’s recent work is stunning, large-scale nudes, male and female, with vibrant, unexpected color choices (earth tones/neutrals combined with nearly day-glo oranges, for example). Some of the pieces present the nudes in a camouflaged manner, as subjects in stained glass window, where each pane of glass is a different color. He has a very clear vision of who is as an artist, and how he sees the world and the human figure.

Sharon R. Reaves, owner of the gallery gives me a preview of her further collection/consignment out back as well. She also VERY kindly maps out the other, nearby local galleries that I may also visit on my hop. I was so appreciative of her brief “primer”. Consequently, she and her gallery offer ARTaboutTOWN, a 1/2-day-long limo’d event which educates and empowers collectors of all levels. It includes brunch, lectures, gallery tours, (incl. artists’ private studios+), and more. Hmmm… that might be just what my upcoming b-day ordered!

Collage by Christopher Stokes

Collage by Christopher Stokes

Then I’m on to Bucheon Gallery, on Grove, near the heart of the classical performing arts quarter. (I’m beginning to think dog as pet is a gallery requirement!) It appears they are between shows, so my visit is very brief, but I enjoy the diversity of work there. I again peruse the wonderful mixed media collages by Christopher Stokes at Inside Modern. He uses collected graphics and random paint splotches, graphic rules, and shapes to create very textural, layered, but minimal collages. I love his work, and am inspired by it. I pass by Fecal Face Dot Gallery, but they aren’t open. However, I can see through the window a amazing, dimensional mural installation “The Ambush”, by SF-based artist Jeremy Fish.

Then, on to two galleries directly across from Zuni Cafe. Lincart is featuring wood sculpture by Richard Haden and paintings by Jeff McMillan, who both offer shows that are highly conceptual in nature. They have a great studio space, formerly occupied by the great cacti store (was it called “Red Desert”?). Robert Berman Gallery (a dealer up from Los Angeles), next to Lincart, doesn’t officially open until April, but I am able to sneak a peek. His studio features a giant atomic bomb cloud image made up of thousands of tiny paintings, serving as “pixels” to create the larger image. I have seen this technique used a lot digitally, but hadn’t seen such a stunning, hand painted, physical embodiment of the same concept. Each of the smaller paintings is of a plant or flower, which makes for quite a stark contrast conceptually to the larger image, of course. And, finally, the Market Street Gallery, which features in “Icons That Last” vibrant coffee house paintings by Richard L. Perri that evoke a simpler time. This time I am greeted by two cats. So, it seems it’s just pets in general are a gallery must. Me likes! All this in one neighborhood, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. I love SF!

Next time I have the opportunity to “play” like this for an afternoon, I’ll be heading off to Art Haus (4th & Brannan), and Hang (Sutter), both of which were given a thumbs-up.

Woods #1, by Laurie Sverdlove

Woods #1, by Laurie Sverdlove

On a different note, while passing through the hallway at the UCSF hospital recently, I discovered the work of Oakland artist Laurie Sverdlove. They have posted there some of her small gouache paintings. I was immediately drawn to their graphic, and almost charmingly primitive style, some with a touch of whimsy. On her website I love her oils on canvas, particularly “In the Woods: Black & Green” and “In the Woods: Flowers & Rock”.

I just might attend ArtSpan Benefit Art Show and Auction this saturday to enjoy the offerings and people there.

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