Every year Southern Exposure, San Francisco hosts it’s “no fee” juried show, a behemoth of a group show inviting artists from all over northern California to submit work, free of charge, to be curated by a guest juror- this year it’s the Assistant Curator of Hammer Museum, Corrina Peipon.
As a volunteer during one of the drop off periods, I saw about 100 artists drop their work at the gallery on Saturday morning. Overall I was blown away by the sheer volume and variety of submissions. The work ranged from sculpture to painting to performance proposal; from contemporary to outsider art -although there’s a fairly small gap between any of those qualifications these days. In addition, I was told that video artists were allowed to submit their work online rather than queue at the gallery. So as of Saturday morning, 100 or so videos had also been submitted to be reviewed by the video juror Mary Magsamen, a curator with the Aurora Picture Show. I wasn’t sure how one began to select work from these masses, but I was told that the jurors were required to go over every single piece.
The theme, which changes every year, invited artists to interpret the phrase “This Will Never Work” in terms of an existing artwork or to make a new piece for the show. The title suggests work based on a mixture of political commentary, Hail Mary passes, utopian premises and wacky inventions. Based on the large number of submissions, jurors presumably worked around the clock until Sunday night to select the final show. Artists were informed that the cut off for acceptance was 10pm Sunday night, a cruel late-night deadline for both the artists and jurors involved.
Full disclosure: I submitted a piece that was rejected from the show. The walk of shame to pick up my piece on the Monday was tempered by the fact that many of my talented peers were also not chosen for the show. That said, going to the gallery felt a bit like returning to an ex-boyfriend’s house to pick up a forgotten article of clothing or a favorite mix tape. One such artist, CCA professor Arash Fayez, channeled his heartache by curating a response exhibition “That Didn’t Work: Salon des Refusés,” or “ The Salon of Rejects.” The exhibition is taking place at his project space, doubleBread, at the CCA studios and is featuring a range of works including performance and video screening. It’s up until December 14th.
Fast-forward a week and tens of hours of manpower later by the now fatigued Southern Exposure staff to the opening of the show. With a whopping 48 artists in the show, the exhibition and turn out was as massive as ever, every nook and cranny of the gallery taken over by art and gallery goers. While I can’t say I understand all the choices made by the curator, overall the work was challenging and representative of a wide range of voices.
I enjoyed the humor and over-the-top romanticism in Sam Metcalf’s “Device for simulating the motion of a tumbleweed found in Thunder Basin National Grassland, Wyoming on December 24th.” The subject of the piece, a tumbleweed attached to a rotating mechanical arm, reminded me of the opening credits of “The Big Lebowski” where one lonely tumbleweed rolls its way incredibly through the urban streets and yuppie beaches of Los Angeles.
While there were a lot of large sculptural gestures, some of my favorite pieces were the smaller, quiet ones. Isabelle Smeall’s “The New Yorker, March 18” is a delicate grid of quotation marks cut out of a print publication and paired so that each quote closes around each other.
Jon Gourley’s “It’s Like A Fucking Triangle” is a small monoprint depicting a love triangle between three friends represented by a goth-y diagram of skulls.
Patrick Hillman’s “11 Shirts from Puberty” made of paper and marker is a neatly folded pile of nostalgia.
Jennie Lennick’s “Lynda Benglis and Me” is a fantasy collaboration between the two artists, made of a Sotheby’s catalogue image of a Benglis sculpture collaged with Lennick’s own painting and drawing.
Chris Thorson’s sculpture, “Chameleon (Aiwa),” is a trompe l’oeil replica of a dirty, old channel changer. In my mind the title refers to the object’s uncanny ability to hide in plain site, much like a chameleon. How many times have you cried in frustration, Where is the f*ing channel changer?! And when you do find one, it’s doesn’t work for the device you want to use. Judging from the dirt depicted on her sculpture, this one has been in hiding for some time.
The award for wackiest performance piece in the show was the surreal “The Origins of Chess” by artist Olivia Mole. The performance began with two tweens sitting around a pile of rocks and detritus like a couple of mall rat witches. Because of their contemporary dress, valley girl-style gesticulations and 19th century language mixed with their alternatively rudimentary and campy props, it wasn’t clear in what time or place the performance was set. The rules of the game were simple, but non-linear: a player pulls a card, reads it (“Gender trouble!”) then makes a move (bottle cap moved from right rock to left rock or rubber band moved from left rock to right), next player goes. The sayings on the cards repeated themselves over and over, but the responding moves and game pieces became increasingly grotesque, changing rapidly from bottle caps to fake eyeballs to a pile of fake severed hands. The performance felt slow at points, but overall it was inventive and weird enough to keep the audience trying to figure it out.
I thought it appropriate to finish an article about the life span of the annual juried show with Diego Villalobos’ piece “What Next?!” Villalobos used Southern Exposure’s own hammer and nail for his installation, a hammer poised mid-air in the process of removing a nail from the wall. The piece speaks perhaps to the impermanence of an exhibition and the insatiability of an audience. Which luckily for this year’s rejects means there is always next year.
“This Will Never Work” is on view through December 14th, 2013.
For more information visit Southern Exposure, San Francisco.
-Contribution by Sarah Thibault
Previous posts by Sarah Thibault (below)