December, 2008, The Colony Room @ New Langton Arts
Installation view, Anne Colvin, the Colony Room, courtesy New Langton Arts, San Francisco
The Colony Room
New Langton Arts
September 26—November 1, 2008
By Sharon Lerner
After a temporary silence due to major renovations in their galleries, New Langton Arts reopened on September 26 with a brand new space, the Garage at New Langton. This 2,500 square foot addition differs radically from the now also refurbished gallery spaces on the second floor. The garage—previously used as a storage space—has a raw industrial look and provides an interesting environment that reflects some of the area’s vibe, hectic Folsom street.
Anne Colvin, artist, curator, and the co-founder of TART, an internationally renowned project space based in San Francisco, was the first artist invited to organize events for the garage. Colvin’s Colony Room, conceived as a space to host a set of events, was her personal homage to Muriel Belcher, a controversial character who started the legendary Colony Room bar in London’s Soho in 1948. The original Colony Room was a space in which Francis Bacon used to spend innumerable hours with friends that included artists Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, and Henrietta Moraes. With the intention to mimic that particular bohemian atmosphere, Colvin decided to become Becher’s contemporary alter ego and gathered an eclectic group of artists, writers, musicians and performers from different generations to host the San Francisco version every weekend.
Colvin covered the garage’s walls with reproductions of Bacon’s paintings and illuminated them with dimmed colored spotlights. The bar, which served beer, wine and the special Muriel (a cocktail very similar to a Martini), was crowned by Zachary Scholz’s specially designed chandelier. A few benches and tables served as the perfect setting, and projections on the walls and the uncanny lyrics of Cocteau Twins did the rest.
The programming oscillated between extremely loud and energetic performances (with the occasional interruption by the San Francisco police whenever the noise exceeded the acceptable limits for the neighborhood), and intimate gatherings, around poetry readings, screenings, lectures or simply chatting and drinking.
The opening night consisted of a presentation by Tom Marioni, in which he recreated his famous One second sculpture from 1969. While presenting his memoir Beer, Art and Philosophy, Marioni read passages of the book while cracking jokes every now and then, gradually raising the audience’s expectations for his rapid performance.
On a completely different note, Marc Artur’s The Undead was a two-hour performance spectacle that took on the epic of Morpheus in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The combination of multiple performers moving among the public, out of the Garage into the street and back again, and a Vaginal Davis video screening in the background, made the impression of watching a cutting-edge performance piece in a squatted building in Berlin. On yet another night, an intimate, chilled-out situation was provided by Pete Nelson’s van/brewery and his re-distilled 40 year old scotch.
The Colony Room’s activities ranged from performances by San Francisco based artists Shalo P, Joshua Churchill and Jake Rodiguez to screenings that included Red Without Blue, a documentary that depicts the complexities in the relationship between the Farley twins, as one transitions from male to female, and Owsley Brown and Jerome Hiler's work in progress Untitled (Louiseville Orchestra Project). There was also apoetry reading by Bill Berkson and a selection of The Kitchen 80s videos screened by Dale Hoyt. The overall experience at Colony Room these past two months was very similar to that of hearing the lyrics of Cocteau Twins’ Carolyn’s Fingers for the first time. It produced a particular effect, in between intimacy and estrangement.