February 2009, Freak of Nature @ 111 Minna Gallery
FREAK OF NATURE
November 6 through November 29, 2008
111 Minna Gallery
111 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
By Arden Sherman
The warehouse galleries of 111 Minna look more like an austere SOMA bar than a contemporary art venue. The laid back atmosphere is fitting for the current group show Freak of Nature
, which features two-dimensional work by fifteen California-based emerging artists. Conceptualized by Lisa Ostapinski and co-curated by Gabe Scott, the show ties together artists exploring an ethereal place where nature abuts manufactured landscape. Through the show the curators hoped to facilitate artists' responses to current ideas on ecological disaster and genetic modification.
Freak of Nature's
artists work in a similar style, which may reflect the proximity of the artists with those of the SF Mission School. They demonstrate an appreciation for craftsmanship and the deliberate presence of the artists' hand in their work. One artist of particular interest and thematic relevancy was Alexis McKenzie, whose eerie collages mix images of Victorian paper-dolls, plants, animals, sea-life, and geology onto a stark paper canvas. Colleen Sanders works within similar thematic territory, but with colored pencil. Then there is the work by Hilary Pecis, who creates a layered landscape through tiny pieces of paper cut out of fashion magazines, manipulating advertisements into environments. Christopher Russell's landscapes are often filled with anachronisms which his oils then highlight into an alien luminescence.
Despite a few bright lights however, running a fine-tooth comb through the artist list would have created a more thought provoking and coherent show. The multiplicity of artists also heightens the over-stimulating atmosphere of 111 Minna, with chairs, tables, loud music, a band stage
, and two
bars that distracts any viewer's experience with the work. As if there wasn't already enough to take it, the gallery itself effectively acts as the showroom for Fecalface.com
and it's stable of San Francisco contemporary art stars. For better or worse, the website can act as a litmus test for good contemporary art in the city, and this fact might account for the homogeny of the work in Freak of Nature
as much as the show's unifying theme.
Freakish as Freak of Nature
can be, the show presented a feat of engineering on the part of Lisa Ostapinski and Gabe Scott. Assembling fifteen of the hottest SF artists is no easy task, and the show demonstrates their enthusiasm and admirable motivation. As a coherent exhibition, Freak of Nature
would have benefited from some restraint in the selection of its artists and a venue that drew less attention to itself than the work hanging on the walls.