She’ll have you in stitches – Visual Artist, Stephanie Syjuco

I’ve been promising myself that I would keep to my art writings and dedicate time to those artist heroes I’ve stored in the large unorganized art bin in my mind.  For the longest time, I’ve been out of commission for reasons not even known to me.  In any case, I digress, as always…

One of the Filipina artists I’ve discovered over the years is Stepanie Syjuco.  Her work, seriously, had a profound effect on the way I view highly conceptual and communal based art.  Syjuco definitely has a way of injecting a healthful dose sociological and cultural issues within her work to make the viewer question the way in which one consumes and perceives ‘other’.  For the scope of this entry, I’ve chosen to focus on one of her Counterfeit Crochet Project, which started in 2006 is an ongoing endeavor.

The characteristics and themes most prominent in her work are ideas of the Black Market and the “Hello Kitty” effect, which a term Syjuco coined whilst working on her master’s thesis in Art Practice from Stanford Univeristy.  For the most part, the consumer is sold, provided a product for consumption, for use, yet the process in which this very product is produced goes through the hands of an individual that may not have the income or even pragmatic use for it (i.e., a handbag, piece of clothing, etc.).  It’s been a wild ride of adventures of Syjuco as she teaches and exhibits across the country.  This amazing artist will definitely have you pondering the goods you purchase but also, much more importantly, contemplating your role on a much more global scale…

Originally Posted: March 15, 2008

Matt Borruso, Full Spectrum Aura

Opening night – Thursday, February 7, 2008

The minute I walked into Matt Borruso’s show, Full Spectrum Aura, at the Steve Wolf Gallery, I became surprisingly nostalgic.  I was reminded of two former classmates who resembled the subjects of Magenta and Turtleneck.  At first glance, one may be struck by the vibrant and elaborate color palette as I was.  It certainly takes deftness and a breadth of experience to use shrill and arresting colors to capture flesh tones and highlights of the face (i.e., the glimmer captured in a pair of sad eyes) the way Borruso has done with his portraits.

As I studied the relationship between colors, I was impressed with Borruso’s desire to utilize and experiment with Josef Albers’s theory on color (as he mentioned in his artist statement).  The heavily bagged eyes, the overly pouty lips that look as though they’ve been licked to avoid dryness, and the shine of an oily bulbous nose are the details that make his paintings oddly captivating.  His interpretation of portraiture provokes the viewer to take into account how one understands ideas of beauty and ugliness.  Although the colors may seem a bit garish at first glance, this is what draws you in.  The blank stare of these clear blue, sleepy eyes had me thinking past the grotesque features Burruso insists we hide or vanquish through various types of cosmetic procedures or measures.  All which we can correct is what we’ve been conditioned to accept as unsightly and unacceptable (i.e., Turtleneck girl’s 5 o’clock shadow or Young Man Fancy’s gargantuan buck teeth).  The colors serve as an unusual disguise to cover up what repulses and opposes our sense of beauty.  Yet this is exactly how Borruso’s paintings and drawings succeed.  They are remnants of our past experiences with something, someone, maybe even ourselves that we have found hideous but in some strange way, you like staring and leering at what you’re not.  Or, perhaps, there’s a bit discomfort because you may be looking at your own imperfections.  If you are anything like me, you start feeling guilty for staring and desire to stop but are unable to do so.  Burruso’s graphite drawings are just as, if not equally, engaging.  You are first attracted to the intricate rendering but within a split-second, you focus on some of the more uncommon facial characteristics of these young subjects and wonder if you should be looking at all.  No pun intended but that’s the beauty behind Burruso’s work.  In looking at more of his work via his blogspot, you will find other portrait oddities.

You will want to check out the threads on the boy in Purple Suede Lederhosen, which serves as yet another testament to Burroso’s expertise and skill in color and use of light perfectly in all the right places.

Originally Posted: February 08, 2008

Packard Jennings and Steve Lambert – Urban Visions Panel Discussion

Talented and humorously prophetic artists, Packard Jennings and Steve Lambert, collaborated with a multi-faceted group of panelists from transportation to urban development consulting and architecture.

Being a native San Franciscan, I’ve seen the cityscape change drastically over the years.  From the addition of the UCSF campus at China Basin to the 3rd Street Rail Line project, I’ve always been quite curious of the urban planning involved in such large-scale projects.  Although fanciful and whimsical ideas of making one’s commute more comfortable and accommodating (i.e., a sauna and gym conveniently located in a neighboring train car) are left up to dreamy planners and imaginative artists and designers, these innovative ideas were discussed during the Urban Visions panel discussion held at the California College of the Arts (CCA) on Monday, February 4, 2008.

Talented and humorously prophetic artists, Packard Jennings and Steve Lambert, collaborated with a multi-faceted group of panelists from transportation to urban development consulting and architecture.  The dialogue was specifically geared towards the city’s current concerns involving urban planning and transportation.  Based on existing conversations and research, Jennings and Lambert, created posters depicting a San Francisco urban plan where the possibilities were not bound by bureaucracy, public opinion, pecuniary hindrances, and physics.  The amusing takes on the San Francisco urban landscape were shown via Jennings and Lambert’s Market Street posters.  The surreal yet inventive depictions of human convenience aim to entertain the onlooker but present citizens with ideas for endless travel possibilities as potential reality.

The overall panel discussion was lively and rife with discussion that crossed over a broad range of issues within any cosmopolitan place.  Transportation consultant, Seleta Reynolds with Fehr & Peers Associates presented current projects that gave the audience a glimpse into what is entailed in her day-to-day job.  Basically, Fehr & Peers Associates look at a large number of transportation solutions that are both feasible and not so feasible (i.e., aerial tram way that would transport travelers from Alameda to Oakland).  Granted, much of what goes on the drawing and planning board may be deemed as virtually impossible, yet it is a way for people to engage in discourse of what is actually possible prior to disregarding rather realistic ideas that may other wise not make it to an urban planning meeting.

Peter Albert, Deputy Director of Planning with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) provided an overview of how creative thinking is implemented into practical solutions to improve and address the overall transportation issues and concerns.  Oddly enough, driving alongside the J line, I’ve always wondered why the train lets the passengers exit right out into open traffic and learned that the SFMTA addresses where these issues are occurring and how they can be remedied.  I also learned of ongoing projects for “Traffic Calming”.  Calming the streets of bustling and densely populated city incorporates tools that include but not limited to road narrowing, speed bumps, raised intersections, concrete islands, closures, and, yes, trees.

Principal, founder, and chair of Public Architecture, John Peterson of Peterson Architects, presented two polar opposite ends of the spectrum in regard to urban living.  Peterson showed the layout for a recently purchased home in one of the more affluent San Francisco neighborhoods that was once rented for $20,000 a month until escrow closed for an undisclosed amount to a wealthy dot com co-founder.  Well, undisclosed at the panel discussion.  The other example addressed the utilization of public space for a more egalitarian benefit – a day laborer station.  This station included multi-level benches for convenient seating and a kitchen to stimulate that particular community and bring in a shared revenue.

As mentioned by Tom Radulovich, Executive Director for Livable City and member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors, there are three primary factors that play an integral part in understanding and creating a livable space – the 3 Ms – Movement, Marketplace, and Meeting.  Radulovich drew comparisons of cities to San Francisco, which included Brussels, Granada, and London.  Although similar in density, there is still a disparity in the advancements and overall innovations in urban design.  Unfortunately, San Francisco falling a bit behind but catching up with the emergence of many sustainable living efforts.  He also emphasized the desire many people have for a walk-able urban environment integrated with natural elements (i.e., foliage, more trees, and all things natural).

Although I left the lecture with a tremendous amount of information and resources, it reminded me of how I define my space and what exactly comprises it.  There were tons of questions and comments after the discussion which dealt with the frustrations and the need to expand the conversation beyond a college theater.  Considering much of what San Franciscans see is already in the construction phase, the discussion reminded me of the importance around discourse and how community arts lends itself extremely well to communicating what citizens can do to create space as opposed to just living in it.

For more information on Packard Jennings, click here
To learn more about Steve Lambert, click here

Originally Posted: February 5, 2008

Jenifer Wofford, Unseen Forces

Opening Night – Friday, January 11, 2008

On the cusp of Downtown tucked away on 14th street and Valencia, you will find the Southern Exposure gallery.  As you step through the red door and proceed to the back of the gallery, you will find two metal detector installations set against a trans formative mural that goes from cityscape to a sprawling lush simulation of a Philippine Islands seascape (large durian boulder included), and a prominent Manila market place – ShoeMart.  The concrete floor and foreboding metal beams on the ceiling are the perfect compliment to Jenifer Wofford’s show, Unseen Forces.  The show itself touches upon the idea of surveillance and detection, which runs rampant in our modern day world.  From high school corridors to a weekend getaway, one encounters facets of security that, at first, become intrusive and over time become a fabric of normalcy and existence.

As Wofford states in her blog, Wofflings, “There’s something so simultaneously wonderful and awful about these clunky devices: they’re situated in such highly fraught but also totally mundane environments, in situations where masses of people must be processed and moved on quickly, efficiently and undramatically”.  Unseen Forces conveys this statement in an exemplary fashion.  Most, if not all, individuals on opening night passed through the pseudo detectors nonchalantly.  I, on the other hand, purposefully avoided them.  Knowing I had the choice to pass through was surprisingly liberating.  One would think there is no psychological effect of passing through something an artist has reproduced from our commonplace knowledge.  Yet it was amazing how Pavlovian it was to not hear the detector go off when I did eventually decide to pass through the makeshift security system.

Similar to Wofford’s collection of drawings and paintings, her installation and conceptual pieces certainly rouse a sense of anxiety and showcases the multi-faceted nature of the every day life we seem to negate due to everything that is mandatory and obligatory.  If it is necessary to pinpoint a primary objective for Unseen Forces, it would have to be the idea of human technologies and our relationships with our collective technological advancements and how the human no longer makes the subject but becomes the subject.

Please check out Jenifer’s site to see more of her work and read her awesome blog!

Originally Posted: January 05, 2008