Barrish Studio Open House
Dogpatch – San Francisco, California
November 3, 2013
“Doing the Barrish Bash”
By John Held, Jr.
‘Tis the season for Open Studios, but nothing prepares one for this. Jerry Barrish has a beachfront home in Pacifica and a studio located in the former industrial wasteland of Dogpatch, amidst the burgeoning gentrification of coffee houses, restaurants and other meeting places of the newly arrived technocratic bourgeoisie beginning to populate the neighborhood. But Barrish has been ensconced there for a long time, and has a tradition of opening up his studio once a year for the edification and entertainment of his friends.
A former filmmaker (SFAI BFA 1974, MFA 1975), he began making sculpture from found plastic flotsam and jetsam found on his Pacifica property in 1989. Turnaround being fair play, this years Barrish bash featured a documentary film being developed on him by local artist William Farley and produced by Janis Plotkin. “Objects of Desire: The Life and Art of Jerry Ross Barrish,” is based on the premise that, “sometimes an individual is compelled, in the face of daunting odds, to find an identity by making art and becoming an artist.” A segment from the unfinished work can be viewed online.
Previous to his artistic studies, Barrish founded a bail bond business in 1961 at the age of 22, which came to the aid of anti-war protestors, civil rights and free speech movement advocates in the turbulent Sixties. He currently serves as volunteer Artistic Director of the Sanchez Galleries at the Pacifica Center for the Arts. This year’s studio affair featured a wide assortment of San Francisco Bay Area intellectuals of all stripes, be they artists, art historians, editors, journalists, gallerists, photographers or musicians, reflecting the diversity of the artists’ interests, activities and wide circle of friends.
Nurtured on hot dogs whipped up by Let’s be Frank, a jazz combo, and the sights and sounds of a working artist’s studio, this had the feeling of a secretive adventure into the heart of the creative process. Hot off the heels of the successful showing of “Cast & Crew” at Skyline College Art Gallery, San Bruno (September 9-October 26), the work from the exhibition was once again safely distributed around the studio. Seeing the work situated in the space in which they were created, among the raw materials from which they emerged, made the experience all that more fresh and rewarding.
The history of assemblage in Northern California is long and storied. It continues in the work of Jerry Barrish, who recycles plastic remnants into fanciful characters and objects. They are eerily similar in look and feel to Richard Shaw’s ceramic works, the difference being that works by Barrish are composed of found materials, while Shaw uses similar components as a starting point for his trompe l’oeil porcelain creations. Barrish’s work is anything but trompe l’oeil, reeking of the ingredients of their construction. I’d love to see a two-person show of their works one day.
Open Studios are usually a means for emerging artists to make their work known to cultural aficionados scouting the latest trends. Much too accomplished to be branded as “emerging,” his work exhibited at regular intervals allowing his many fans an opportunity to keep abreast of his latest developments, nevertheless, Barrish maintains a yearly open house mainly to thank his many fans and friends for their support. It’s a great way for an artist to give back to the community, and typifies the liberality of this artist, who has had an enviable record of generosity not only in the artistic community, but also in the social and political fabric of The City he has called home throughout his life.