San Francisco Center for the Book is one of my all time favorite arts organizations. It is because of their open embrace of artists, abundant nourishment for creative pursuits, and leadership with warmth, synergy, and inventiveness. They are truly a place of light.
I was thrilled, then, when I discovered last year that some of my favorite galleries from the Geary Street area were moving close to the Center for the Book. I have the notion that the galleries and the Center have been nurturing complimentary but different audiences, and I think those audiences can cross over in some wonderfully beneficial ways for all parties involved. I was even more thrilled therefore, when I went to visit this week and experienced a beautiful harmony among the exhibits. I don’t think the parties involved planned it that way. I think it just happened. Here’s what I saw:
My jaunt began on Utah Street, at Catherine Clark Gallery, which featured Nina Katchadourian. Though technically the works are photographs, the show has little to do with photography, and more to do with language and concept. All of the images are of books, with the titles neatly arranged to express witty or poignant thoughts. Katchadourian likens these works to portraiture and the process of creating them to songwriting. Shown here are a couple of my favorites. The show is nearing its end, but has been extended. You can still catch it until February 22nd.
Upstairs at the Hosfelt Gallery, is the work of renown artist William T. Wiley. The paintings seemed after my own heart – using imagery and language together, and evoking an edgy, urban feel, with sophistication and content to keep you studying them for a good long time. Most of the exhibit is large format paintings on canvas. The scale of the works combined with the small writing have the combined effect of giving the viewer one reading at a distance and another up close.
At Jack Fisher Gallery, I found the work of one of my favorite artists, Tony Fitzpatrick, who was showing there with Heather Wilcoxon. Tony’s work is small in scale, and includes etchings and collage-drawings on paper. It’s bright, high-contrast, and richly active. It pulls autobiographic, pop, and ephemeral imagery and language together with a feeling of jazz. It happened that the reception was starting in an hour, and Tony had flown in from Chicago. Not wanting to miss the event, I took a walk down to the Center for the Book to hang out until the reception began.
At the Center, I found Jennie Hinchcliff co-curator of the mail/art/book exhibit that opens on Valentines Day. She was installing, and I offered to help, but she was nearly done. As we chatted about the show, I surveyed the collection. Hinchcliff had put out a call for entries last summer.
Naturally, given the mail art theme, the entries arrived through the mail as original artwork. As the deadline approached, Hinchcliff was going to the post office multiple times per day, collecting one or even two whole mail containers chock full of entries.
As I was taking in the pieces, it struck me. The mail art exhibit is harmonizing with Fitzpatrick’s work. Can you see it in these pictures? I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. Is it a resonance with the pop culture or retro imagery that the book and mail artists happen to also be tapping into? Is it the use of ephemera by most of the artists in question? Is it the balance between imagery and words? I feel there is a certain rhythm in the visual details that works as a musical call and response between the two shows – a soloist and chorus.
Certainly among the exhibits at Catherine Clark, Hosfelt, Jack Fischer, and the Center for the Book, we have a band of works that are experienced visually as well as textually. Nina Katchadourian’s work would speak to many book artists and their followers – an audience that tends to appreciate the clever witticisms of language. Then we have the call and response between Fitzpatrick and the mail/art/book artists, and Wiley’s paintings, which though neither bound nor printed, are their own books, displayed on walls instead of pages.
I hope you’ll make a point of visiting this sweet suite of shows. The times to view the exhibits are:
- Catherine Clark: Tues – Sat 11-6
- Hosfelt Gallery: Tues-Sat 10-6
- Jack Fischer: Tues-Sat 11-5:30
- San Francisco Center for the Book: 7 days a week, 10-5:30 *
(*reception Feb 14th 6:00-9:00 pm)