Art Culture

San Francisco’s Amazing New Generation Galleries 2021

| September 14, 2021 | 0 Comments
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Desiree Holman – Surplusage – Courtesy of the artist and Silverman Gallery

San Francisco magazine featured a story in its April arts issue about the city’s changing gallery scene. The premise: A handful of “young and hungry” gallerists are working to transform San Francisco from a backwater to an international power center for emerging contemporary artists.

The question asked and answered throughout is whether recent developments in the Bay Area signal the emergence of a “major” contemporary art scene comparable to that of Los Angeles. Numerous obstacles are noted, from San Francisco’s “tiresome counterculture associations” to the area’s risk-adverse, scene-deadening collectors who “despite their cultural pedigrees, are not unlike magpies: drawn to all things shiny.” Ouch.

The unabashed LA-envy is a little jarring for a San Francisco publication, but of course in the realm of contemporary art it makes perfect sense. As author Franklin Melendez notes, the Bay Area has great museums and some fine contemporary art galleries showing (primarily) established, mid-career artists. It also has some excellent arts schools and a ton of creative output. But historically, it hasn’t been a place where emerging artists gain international recognition. If there is such a place on the West Coast, it’s Los Angeles.

That hasn’t been the case for long; just twenty years ago, Melendez writes, LA was “a gallery no-mans land”. I don’t know the history well enough myself, but in Melendez’s telling the important changes began in the mid-1990s and involved a synergy generated around a number of small, out-of-the-way galleries featuring some outstanding local and national talent, coupled with a surge of interest from collectors and from the press.

Offered as evidence that a similar “citywide renaissance” may soon take hold in San Francisco are profiles of four relatively new, mostly off-Geary-Street galleries that have made a splash with a potent mix of high-profile representation and just the right amount of hipsterdom . Featured are Ratio 3Silverman GalleryTriple Base Gallery, and Fecal Face Dot Gallery (an outgrowth of the like-named blog.) A second set of “critical new guard” venues given brief mention includes Jancar Jones GalleryThe Luggage StorePark LifeNew Langton Arts, and Altman Siegel Gallery. It’s an intriguing list overall and, renaissance or not, at least suggestive for an afternoon of edgy art viewing.

Of the group profiled Melendez’s thesis is perhaps best advanced by Ratio 3 and Silverman Gallery. At Ratio 3, owner Chris Perez has generated some international buzz while bringing recent and rising stars like Ryan McGinley to a perilously obscure warehouse location at 1447 Stevenson Street. The current Ratio 3 exhibition Liberation on Contact includes work by Jose Alvarez, Mitzi Pederson, and 2008 SECA Award winner Jordan Kantor among others. All interesting, but the geometrical, monochromatic linen weavings by Ruth Laskey were what held my gaze the longest. That show closes May 30; the gallery will be hosting solo shows by Pederson and Alvarez later this year.

The “young and hungry” tag would seem to apply well to Jessica Silverman, who at the age of 26 is showing nationally recognized artists at her Silverman Gallery at 804 Sutter St. The current exhibition of work by Desirée Holman received an Art Forum “critics’ picks” review, and along with her 2008 SECA honors is sure to add to Holman’s growing reputation. Titled “Reborn”, the Silverman Gallery exhibition includes colored pencil drawings and a single channel video that explore the psychological and cultural implications of the highly refined doll craft practice known as “reborning.” It’s all just a bit out of reach for me, but the work is impressive.

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From Reborn by Desiree Holman. Courtesy of the artist and Silverman Gallery. Photo credit: Kalissa Conlon

Other San Francisco gallery shows of note:

Altman Siegel Gallery at 49 Geary (4th Floor) is showing Postcards & Calendars by conceptual artist Matt Keegan, through May 23. Keegan is one of the under-33 artists represented in the New Museum Generational: Younger Than Jesus, exhibiting here for the first time in San Francisco.

Triple Base Gallery opens Intricacies of Phantom Content, a solo exhibition by San Francisco artist Hilary Pecis on May 15. 3041 24th St.

Same Loud Nopaintings and an installation by Damon Soule, opened May 7 at Fecal Face Dot Gallery, 66 Gough St.

The recently-opened Pae White exhibition at New Langton Arts (1246 Folsom) is fantastic. In Between the Outside-In features two video installations show multilayer, morphing animation sequences based on 3D digital imaging of an oak tree, a manzanita grove, and a raspberry bush from a site in the Sierra foothills. Juxtaposed on multiple axes is the show’s third element, a collection old and recently-made ceramic vessels from the same locality.

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Pae White, In Between the Outside In, at New Langton Arts

The group show Trace Elements opens at the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Gallery at 401 Van Ness. Newly commissioned works explore the small but significant “trace elements” of the city, in an attempt “to reveal or reconcile some of San Francisco’s hidden secrets”.

San Francisco magazine featured a story in its April arts issue about the city’s changing gallery scene. The premise: A handful of “young and hungry” gallerists are working to transform San Francisco from a backwater to an international power center for emerging contemporary artists.

Category: Contemporary Art

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