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SFAQ Review: Carrie Mae Weems: “Subject & Witness” at Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco

Carrie Mae Weems: “Subject & Witness”

Gallery Paule Anglim

14 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

Marc 19—April 19, 2014

 

By Peter Cochrane

 

 

Carrie Mae Weems, "Untitled (Woman walking with candelabra) from "Louisiana Project" (2003). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Carrie Mae Weems, “Untitled (Woman walking with candelabra) from “Louisiana Project” (2003). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

Carrie Mae Weems consistently challenges the narratives of history and representation. Her works shift fluidly between delicate and overt confrontations of established sexual, racial, and political structures. As a photographer, Weems uses the camera as a recorder of the inescapable yet malleable lineages around her, and as an activist tool in reflecting on the state of African Americans today. Inseparable from the absence of positive black visibility in the dominant chronology of the United States, she has stitched together her own vision through representation, performance, and the examination of overlooked and altogether absent realities.

 

Through many works in the show and in her career, the interpersonal connections that work within and break established understandings are portrayed and reconfigured. As observer and performer (both are actively participatory), she is an explorer of untold stories existing within those that have become unquestioned paradigms: male and female, government and citizen, artist and viewer relationships are all equal points of consternation. From either side of the camera, Weems creates informed critiques of dominant power structures.

 

 

Carrie Mae Weems, "Shape of things (female)," "Africa Series," (2000). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Carrie Mae Weems, “Shape of things (female),” from “Africa Series” (2000). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

It is through the encapsulation of Weems’s work at Gallery Paule Anglim—a kind of truncated retrospective—that we come to understand her continuous effort. Hers is a constant message, a call for the realignment of social consciousness in the face of catastrophic oppression. Walking through the space, moving first from photographs of architecture that illuminate a gendered, African creationist story through the sexualized nature of vaginal entryways and phallic columns (“The Shape of Things”), to the last room housing images of silhouetted 19th-century owner/slave figures in various domestic situations upholding class-based relationships (“Louisiana Project”), Weems’s omnipresent political vision solidified.

 

 

Carrie Mae Weems, "May Flowers" (2003). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Carrie Mae Weems, “May Flowers” (2003). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

“May Flowers” is a portrait of three young African-American girls in traditional poses of beauty and relaxed contemplation (think Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe”). Each holds a different gaze that bonds one with another, one with the viewer, and one with the sky—that potent space of innocence and daydreams. Part of a larger project entitled “May Days Long Forgotten,” the girls are also shown dancing around a maypole, wearing crowns of flowers, and generally celebrating spring. Using propagandistic images of smiling children employed by the Soviet government for aggrandizement and social control as a historical platform, Weems inverts the intentionality as a call to action for global human rights.

 

 

Carrie Mae Weems, "Galleria Nazionale D'Arte Moderna," (2006). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Carrie Mae Weems, “Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna,” (2006). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

What is impressive in nearly all of these works is the layered accessibility and the extensiveness of meaning. In a suite of formulaic images taken of the artist in full view from behind, always in a black dress, we stand as counterparts in observation with her and of her environment. In two instances, “Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna” and “Louvre,” created while traveling abroad, Weems stands before the most iconic museums of art in Italy and France. As establishments for modern art and the encyclopedic survey of human creation, respectively, the failure of these organizations lies in her presence alone. Her ghostly figure and hesitant entry signifies the questionable function of both institutions, each largely dominated by the works of white men. If these edifices of pedagogy are overwhelmingly filled with one perspective, where does hers belong? What narratives are really playing out within the walls of these internationally adored buildings?

 

 

Carrie Mae Weems, "Louvre" (2006). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Carrie Mae Weems, “Louvre” (2006). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

The power of “Subject & Witness” lies in the constant alternation of long and short views; in the singular images and the ties between years of information. Taking a sweeping view of the main room in the gallery, the thread that links every body of work clicks together. Weems is a contemporary artist for the reality of this world—there is no hiding behind the thin veil of ignorance.

 

Her slight encoding (we are not necessarily force-fed imagery of violence, or slavery, or institutionalized sexism) creates accessibility and linkages to painful subject matter and calls for our own visions of participation and activism. She presents narratives in a way that begs personal reflection on these histories. Without educating ourselves on the most difficult contours of humanity, we are bound to perpetuate hideous endeavors through the choice to remain naïve.

 

 

Carrie Mae Weems, "The Joker, See Faust (Alternate Image)" (2003). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Carrie Mae Weems, “The Joker, See Faust (Alternate Image)” (2003). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

For more information about the exhibition, visit Gallery Paule Anglim.

 

Previous SFAQ Reviews include:

-SFAQ Review: “Surround Sound” solo exhibition by Ben Barretto at Highlight Gallery, San Francisco.

-SFAQ Review: Javier Téllez: “Games are forbidden in the labyrinth” at REDCAT Gallery, Los Angeles.

-SFAQ Review: David Moises’s “Stuff Works” at Galerie Patrick Ebensperger, Berlin

 

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SFAQ Pick: Solo exhibition by Belgian artist Pieter Vermeersch at Team Gallery, New York.

Installation view. Courtesy of Team Gallery, New York.

Installation view. Courtesy of Team Gallery, New York.

Installation view. Courtesy of Team Gallery, New York.

Installation view. Courtesy of Team Gallery, New York.

 

Currently on view at Team Gallery, New York is a solo exhibition by Belgian artist Pieter Vermeersch. Working from positive and negative photographs of planes, often interior spaces or sky, Vermeersch employs gridding and color-mapping techniques associated with the likes of Gerhard Richter and Robert Bechtle. The resultant paintings are both photorealistic and abstract — exact painterly depictions of utterly ambiguous subjects. His exhibition at Team features large paintings on canvas and wall-murals. Vermeersch’s paintings are without focal points, symmetry, or balance, but are not characterized by this lack. Charged with an underlying sense of relational aesthetics, they strip painting down to its essential qualities of light, color and space, allowing the viewer’s act of looking to combine and elevate these elements.

 

Pieter Vermeersch is on view through April 27, 2014.
For more information visit Team Gallery, New York.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “World on a Wire” exhibition by Club Paint at & Pens Press, Los Angeles.

-SFAQ Pick: “Beside Myself” solo exhibition of new paintings by Carter at Lisa Cooley, New York.

-SFAQ Pick: “Many Places at Once” group exhibition curated by the graduating class of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice (CCA) at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. Opening Thursday. April 17.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “World on a Wire” exhibition by Club Paint at & Pens Press, Los Angeles.

Club Paint. Courtesy of the artists and & Pens Press.

Club Paint. Courtesy of the artists and & Pens Press.

Club Paint. Courtesy of the artists and & Pens Press.

Club Paint. Courtesy of the artists and & Pens Press.

 

Currently on view at & Pens Press, Los Angeles is “World on a Wire,” an exhibition by Club Paint, a  collaborative project of Keith Boadwee, Isaac Gray and Erin Allen. Club Paint has been continuing their efforts as a collaboration for 5 years, rotating paintings between the three artists, each adding and subtracting from their paintings’ shared surfaces, resulting in works that challenge the notion of authorship and authenticity.  Now is your chance to see these works in Los Angeles, as well as visit & Pens Press bookstore which includes small edition print editions, magazines, and artist books.  Club Paint has exhibited widely including White Columns, New York; PROSPECT, New Orleans; Steven Wolf Fine Art, San Francisco; Niklas Schechinger Fine Art, Hamburg/Berlin.

 

“World on a Wire” is on view through May 12, 2014.
For more information visit & Pens Press, Los Angeles

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “Beside Myself” solo exhibition of new paintings by Carter at Lisa Cooley, New York.

-SFAQ Pick: “Many Places at Once” group exhibition curated by the graduating class of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice (CCA) at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. Opening Thursday. April 17.

-SFAQ Pick: “The Written Face” solo exhibition by Rebecca Brewer at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

 

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SFAQ Review: “Surround Sound” solo exhibition by Ben Barretto at Highlight Gallery, San Francisco.

By Leora Lutz

 

 

installation view, Ben Barretto "Surround Sound", image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

installation view, Ben Barretto “Surround Sound”, image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

 

Don’t get your hopes up if you are looking to hear anything—the room is silent despite the title of the exhibition. Instead, the absence of sound, specifically music is made apparent by the objects of its making, such as instruments (guitars) and amplifiers. Not actual, the objects in the room reference and suggest these sound producing things, abstracting them into formal paintings and sculpture that allude to their implied structures and escape their originally intended purpose through the absence of sound altogether. Ben Barretto’s work often explores the functionality of objects, questioning their roles as facilitators to further pass-time. Earlier projects included “Weaves” made with retired rock climbing ropes, “Snap” series of mixed media panels made from athletic trainer pants with snap-closure inseams and “Painting, Paintings” made using paintings as a tool. Following a minimal sensibility, the works in “Surround Sound” exercise both the skill and conceptual rigor that Barretto is known for.

 

 

Ben Barretto, "San Marino Blue" (2014) Automotive Urethane and Electric Guitar Hardware on Panel 36 x 48 in. image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

Ben Barretto, “San Marino Blue” (2014)
Automotive Urethane and Electric Guitar Hardware on Panel
36 x 48 in. image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

Ben Barretto, "Surf Green" (2014), Automotive Urethane and Electric Guitar Hardware on Panel 40 x 30 in. image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

Ben Barretto, “Surf Green” (2014), Automotive Urethane and Electric Guitar Hardware on Panel
40 x 30 in. image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

 

Parallel to the entrance is the piece “San Marino Blue.” After doing a bit of guitar research I learned that the color was used for Fender Jazzmaster’s inspired by the Cadillac El Dorado. Upon closer inspection of the artwork, it is indeed San Marion Blue, which has a dark purple tinge and is frequently used in Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) cars; whereas the El Dorado was Astral Blue or Lake Placid Blue and commonly used for Jazzmasters (but no bother on that previous factoid). Attached to the car automotive surface in Barretto’s pieces are carefully composed selections of metal guitar hardware, including output jacks and a bisection of a pick guard. Other pieces in this series use small lines of cable in addition to the other guitar parts. From a distance they appear as formally composed paintings because of the rectangle canvas shaped substrate and the parts are re-appropriated and augmented rather than allowed to be as they normally are.

 

 

Ben Barretto, Canvas and Staples on Shaped Frame, Decal, Ultimate Support Stand 44 x 31 in. image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

Ben Barretto, Canvas and Staples on Shaped Frame, Decal, Ultimate Support Stand
44 x 31 in. image courtesy of the artist and Highlight Gallery.

 

Two sculptures in the exhibition are unfinished blonde canvases tightly stretched over irregularly formed wood foundations. One leans against the wall where ghost flame decals are adhered to the color and the other is set on an Ultimate Support Guitar Stand. Both pieces seem like custom disfigured cases for holding something that does not exist—a fiction as it were of living a rock-star life and driving fast cars. In the foreground of the installation is “Untitled (guitar cable)” which spans vertically from ceiling to floor giving the illusion that the cable is continuing into the subterranean depths of the gallery’s Kearny Street location. Usually seen in coiled spaghetti at the foot of a microphone near foot pedals the piece subliminally alludes to the work that cables do, bringing sound from the guitar to the amp. Instead, mounted into the gallery floor we are reminded of the silence brought to our attention. Like relics at a car show or museum of rock, these pieces formally question the function of the ready-made for fanatics.

 

Previous review of Ben Barretto’s exhibition, “Self Help” at The Popular Workshop in San Francisco.

 

 ”Surround Sound” is on view through April 26, 2014.

For more information visit Highlight Gallery, San Francisco.

 

Previous reviews by Leora Lutz:

-SFAQ Review: “Thrown a Curve” solo exhibition by Kirk Stoller at Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

-SFAQ Review: “Following” solo exhibition by Margo Wolowiec at Johansson Projects, Oakland.

-SFAQ Review: “Codex” group exhibition and the Kenneth Goldsmith talk, “Non-expressive Writing and the Future of Text” at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “Beside Myself” solo exhibition of new paintings by Carter at Lisa Cooley, New York.

Installation view: Carter, Beside Myself, 2014. Courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

Installation view: Carter, Beside Myself, 2014.
Courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

Installation view: Carter, Beside Myself, 2014. Courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

Installation view: Carter, Beside Myself, 2014.
Courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

Installation view: Carter, Beside Myself, 2014. Courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

Installation view: Carter, Beside Myself, 2014.
Courtesy of Lisa Cooley.

 

Currently on view at Lisa Cooley, New York is “Beside Myself,” a solo exhibition featuring new paintings by Carter. Moving seamlessly between painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, and film, Carter’s work manifests something invisible, an oscillation between absence and presence. The exhibition is aptly titled Beside Myself, a phrase chosen by the artist, because “it’s an intense definition of something ineffable – the idea that someone experiencing such an extreme state of emotion – good or bad – that one is out of one’s body, or has left the body…creating a double.” Carter’s paintings look to Cubism’s attempt to depict one person from all angles at once, portraying through painting the multiplicity of a series of moments.

 

“Beside Myself” is on view through April 27, 2014.
For more information visit Lisa Cooley, New York.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “Many Places at Once” group exhibition curated by the graduating class of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice (CCA) at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. Opening Thursday. April 17.

-SFAQ Pick: “The Written Face” solo exhibition by Rebecca Brewer at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

-SFAQ Pick: “Deep, East, Real” solo exhibition by British artist Tariq Alvi at Michael Benevento, Los Angeles.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “Many Places at Once” group exhibition curated by the graduating class of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice (CCA) at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. Opening Thursday. April 17.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 11.29.48 AM

Rana Hamadeh, Al Karantina Installation view in The Magic of the State exhibition, Beirut in Cairo, 2013. Cabinet with various objects and original documents, 67 x 19 ½ x 63 inches. © the artist, courtesy of the artist

Rana Hamadeh, Al Karantina Installation view in The Magic of the State exhibition, Beirut in Cairo, 2013. Cabinet with various objects and original documents, 67 x 19 ½ x 63 inches. © the artist, courtesy of the artist

Li Ran, Born Again, 2012. Single-Channel & Sound Video, 5’ 30”, Variable Size. © the artist, courtesy of Aike-Dellarco Gallery, Shanghai

Li Ran, Born Again, 2012. Single-Channel & Sound Video, 5’ 30”, Variable Size. © the artist, courtesy of Aike-Dellarco Gallery, Shanghai

 

Opening Thursday, April 17 at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco is “Many Places at Once,” a group exhibition curated by the graduating class of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts. Decades after the “post-studio” turn announced by Minimalism and Conceptual art in the 1960s, Many Places at Once reconsiders the place of artistic production in our era of creative industries and flexible labor. Featuring new commissions and existing works by seven international artists, the exhibition presents artworks that call attention to the nuanced circumstances that characterize the economic, social, and technological conditions in which artists work today. The exhibition includes works by Martin Soto Climent, Rana Hamadeh, Li Ran, Cinthia Marcelle, William Powhida, Ian Wallace, and Real Time and Space.

 

“Many Places at Once” is on view through July 12, 2014.
For more information visit the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “The Written Face” solo exhibition by Rebecca Brewer at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

-SFAQ Pick: “Deep, East, Real” solo exhibition by British artist Tariq Alvi at Michael Benevento, Los Angeles.

-SFAQ Pick: “Master Plan” solo exhibition by John Knuth at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “The Written Face” solo exhibition by Rebecca Brewer at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Installation view. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Installation view. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Installation view. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Installation view. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Installation view. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Installation view. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

 

Currently on view at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver is “The Written Face,” a solo exhibition by Rebecca Brewer featuring a body of recent paintings. Brewer’s recent paintings are rendered as composites of painterly marks, and unconventional shaped and colors.  In many cases the figures present in he earlier works have disappeared. However, her assembled fragments still suggest the human figure even as they break apart and disperse into a landscape across the picture plane. The paintings then become the figure’s interior landscape, a representation of inner life; on the other hand, the entire painting has become a landscape and the viewer becomes the figure.

 

“The Written Face” is on view through May 3, 2014.
For more information visit Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “Deep, East, Real” solo exhibition by British artist Tariq Alvi at Michael Benevento, Los Angeles.

-SFAQ Pick: “Master Plan” solo exhibition by John Knuth at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago.

-SFAQ Pick: “New Flavors and Fragrances” solo exhibition by Sean Raspet at New Galerie, Paris.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “Deep, East, Real” solo exhibition by British artist Tariq Alvi at Michael Benevento, Los Angeles.

Installation view. Courtesy of Michael Benevento.

Installation view. Courtesy of Michael Benevento.

Installation view. Courtesy of Michael Benevento.

Installation view. Courtesy of Michael Benevento.

Installation view. Courtesy of Michael Benevento.

Installation view. Courtesy of Michael Benevento.

 

Currently on view at Michael Benevento, Los Angeles is “Deep, East, Real,” a solo exhibition by British artist Tariq Alvi. The evidence of a true collage artist is consistently apparent in works by Tariq Alvi, but in this second solo exhibition at Michael Benevento the resulting forms are a subtly entropic installation and a collection of digitally printed posters, fliers, and cards.  The title of the exhibition hints at a very serious discourse around psychology, reality/fantasy, and location. Alvi’s resourceful cultivation and reorganization of the information around him is often associated with beautifully meticulous scissor-and-glue work, and there is a considerable element of such scissor work in the exhibited installation Always There, Always Three, but the glue in that work is intentionally and noticeably absent.

 

“Deep, East, Real” is on view through May 10, 2014.
For more information visit Michael Benevento, Los Angeles.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “Master Plan” solo exhibition by John Knuth at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago.

-SFAQ Pick: “New Flavors and Fragrances” solo exhibition by Sean Raspet at New Galerie, Paris.

-SFAQ Pick: Mike Kelley at The Geffen Contemporary – MOCA, Los Angeles.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “Master Plan” solo exhibition by John Knuth at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago.

Installartion view.  Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

Installartion view. Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

Installartion view.  Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

Installartion view. Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

Untitled 2014 Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery. watercolor, gouache, flyspeck and acrylic on canvas 48 in x 72 in

Untitled, 2014.
watercolor, gouache, flyspeck and acrylic on canvas. 48 in x 72 in
Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

 

Currently on view at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago is “Master Plan” a solo exhibition by John Knuth featuring a body of new paintings. For Knuth, the most basic level of alchemy can be transcendent. Whether he is working with sugar, smoke or insects, the common and fleeting are repurposed and given new meaning. Much of his project is centered on the natural world and its potential in the process of art-making. To create the paintings in “Master Plan,” John Knuth feeds watercolor paint to hundreds of thousands of common houseflies. The flies regurgitate the paint on the canvas. As they eat, they digest externally. Every time they land on a surface of something there is a chance they will deposit what they just ate on that surface. That mark is called a flyspeck.

 

“Master Plan” is on view through May 10, 2014.
For more information visit Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: “New Flavors and Fragrances” solo exhibition by Sean Raspet at New Galerie, Paris.

-SFAQ Pick: Mike Kelley at The Geffen Contemporary – MOCA, Los Angeles.

-SFAQ Pick: “Never say it isn’t so, (mimicry)” solo exhibition by Martin Erik Andersen at Croy Nielsen, Berlin.

 

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SFAQ Pick: “New Flavors and Fragrances” solo exhibition by Sean Raspet at New Galerie, Paris.

SEAN RASPET, New Flavors and Fragrances, installation view. Courtesy of New Galerie.

SEAN RASPET, New Flavors and Fragrances, installation view.
Courtesy of New Galerie.

SEAN RASPET, New Flavors and Fragrances, installation view. Courtesy of New Galerie.

SEAN RASPET, New Flavors and Fragrances, installation view.
Courtesy of New Galerie.

SEAN RASPET, New Flavors and Fragrances, installation view. Courtesy of New Galerie.

SEAN RASPET, New Flavors and Fragrances, installation view.
Courtesy of New Galerie.

 

Currently on view at New Galerie, Paris is “New Flavors and Fragrances,” a solo exhibition by Sean Raspet.  The exhibition embodies multiple threads of abstraction, from the systematization of artificial flavors within the pre-existing paradigm of industrial production to a non-mimetic idea of scent perception and molecular structure rooted in the material specificity of substances. Raspet’s research into functional perfumery and the flavor and fragrance industry––is an ongoing aspect of his focus on the underlying materiality of abstract systems, which have included financialization, legal administration, and data processing.

 

“New Flavors and Fragrances” is on view through May 31, 2014.
For more information visit New Galerie, Paris.

 

Recent SFAQ Picks:

-SFAQ Pick: Mike Kelley at The Geffen Contemporary – MOCA, Los Angeles.

-SFAQ Pick: “Never say it isn’t so, (mimicry)” solo exhibition by Martin Erik Andersen at Croy Nielsen, Berlin.

-SFAQ Pick: “Lies Inside” solo exhibition by Math Bass at Overduin & Co., Los Angeles.

 

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