All Aboard the Art Express

Okay, this is getting obnoxious. For the second time in two weeks I’ve arrived at an art exhibit that isn’t open despite evidence to the contrary.

I Muni it way the hell over to Dogpatch to catch Tammy Rae Carland’s show An Archive of Feelings and then wander about 3rd. Street trying to find the gallery. I pop into Sundance Coffee and the guy working the counter is confused when I ask about the Silverman Gallery since he says it up and closed doors recently. He points out the stairwell that leads to the door of the defunct operation so I head down to see if they left a note or sign about a new location. No note, but he’s right: through the glass I see blank walls and paint buckets on the ground. Maybe I should change the name of the blog to Through the Looking Glass. In any case, an archive of my feelings at this moment would not likely fall on the side of sanguine.

Luckily the 22 Fillmore stop is right across the street and it’ll get me to where I’m going next: the Renegade Craft Fair. (Let me just say as an aside that the trend to label mundane activities as outlaw elicits reflexive and unrepentant eye-rolling from me. You’re engaged in the felonious pursuit of wallet creation and purse making?). I look around for a hat (I’m going a little hat crazy these days) and finding none see if there might be a gift to send to my friend Jill in NYC. Man is this event girly, but it’s beautiful out at Fort Mason today so I’m glad I made the trip. No fog in sight and the view of the bridge and bay is fantastic.

I take it all in pretty quick and leave empty-handed, grabbing a bite to eat at Caffe Union. The Irish-American in me says “yes to say yes” to their version of the Reuben: corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing sandwiched between two herbed potato pancakes. The sound of it is so good, the food itself is almost an afterthought.

Can I possibly hit one more? Sure I can! We need to redeem this day somehow. I catch the 47 Van Ness and hurtle (hyperbole ahoy) toward my last stop: the William T. Wiley exhibit at SF Electric Works.

There’s a real showstopper here, but it’s going to have to wait because I’m totally fascinated by a series of artworks in the front of the gallery based on the character Punch (I’m kinda gagga over puppets). They’re sculpted perhaps in paper mache, but it’s hard to tell because there are layers of masking tape on the figures. I love this. It reminds me of the Red Moon Theater Company shows I used to attend when I lived in Chicago. Paint applied with broad strokes to the constructions and all the seams showing. It gives the figures in Wiley’s show the feeling that the time between their conception and execution was brief – as if Wiley could be essentially sketching and painting simultaneously. It seems a wonderfully immediate medium to sculpt in. We’ve got Punch Meets the Slanted Step where the character is viewing a panel, a substitute head tucked under one arm. Would that we all could break out an alternate head from time to time to help make sense of things. Whether Punch has come to some kind of realization is unknown, he’s staring pretty intently at that chalkboard-like drawing of the step and his dunce hat is still perched on his head, littered with Wiley’s scribbles about O.O.E. (Only One Earth, the real theme of the exhibit, despite the catchy title Punball). There’s also Punch at the Tower of Purity (by the way, insane props to Electric Works who made the list of sculptures available as a pdf on their site. I had written down a bunch of the names from memory when I thought about it a few blocks away and invariably mangled them). Punch is now a kind of chimera, human head with a bird body but the usual Wiley notations indicate he’s also a war veteran. Between Wiley and Twombly I’m finally coming around to the utility and liveliness of incorporating text into artworks. Punch is again transfixed. This time he stares at a skyscraper of the Transamerica Pyramid variety. Punch certainly spends more time these days trying to understand rather than busting heads at the appearance of every annoyance. Looks like Wiley has found the perfect stand in for us.

About this time one of the Electric Works folks comes by and offers to answer any questions I might have. Electric Works must have done their hiring through some agency in Nirvana because both of the people I’ve met have been fantastically helpful but vanished into the background the moment I became absorbed in the exhibit. I ask him about the kind of reverse shark fin on Punch’s back. I don’t really remember seeing that before. Apparently it’s a stylized hump: a kind of stock trait for comic characters. I mention how much I like the Punch stuff and he points out Punch as Ol’ Blue Eyes in the corner. Punch does indeed look like he’s about to belt out a tune, cane in one hand and legs kicking up in the air.

And of course there’s the pinball machine. Wiley’s hand decorated version is on one side of a wall, the original around the corner. The plunger seems a bit sticky but after a while I think I’ve got just the right pull. I’m a little rusty it seems. Maybe I should do some practicing over at Brain Wash.

I take a bit of time to explore the store. Man, I’m coming back here when I need a gift. My co-worker Heidi who tweaked me to the fact that the show had been extended in the first place walked out with a pair of amazing headphones. Viewmasters and custom reels with subjects like Kafka also available for your viewing and shopping pleasure.

I decide I’ve had enough of busses for today. I’m walking home from here. Some guy in an alley is playing basketball using a street sign as a backboard. An empty King Cobra can zips by (people still drink King Cobra?). Every gas pump is occupied as I near the corner at Harrison, despite the prices. I realize that I’ve long since forgotten how annoyed I was about the closed gallery this morning. Pinball will do that to you. I’m reminded of climbing into a reindeer suit at a Paul McCarthy show, red faced but grinning like an idiot. The Japanese businessman who sat down in the wooden hut next to me was in the same predicament. We laughed at each other’s discomfort. I’m remembering also the Babilonia show in Berkeley where the gallery guide let me climb into Kenji Yanobe’s little atom car on display. More stuff we can participate in please. Wiley’s exhibit is so attractive because after a room full of art that says “don’t be stupid folks” and “try to remember we’re in this together” it then nudges you with an elbow and says “hey, let’s play some pinball.”

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5 Responses to “All Aboard the Art Express”


  1. 1 Escapee July 13, 2008 at 3:23 am

    I like the way you write and admire your passion for art.
    You must really love going to exhibitions.
    Are you an artist yourself?

  2. 2 Escapee July 13, 2008 at 3:24 am

    hmm did i or did i not leave a comment before?

  3. 3 hideoussunday July 13, 2008 at 4:45 am

    You did, you did! Apparently I have to approve comments before they will display. I’m new to all this so I’m hoping that there is an override of some kind. I’m gonna dig through the options.

    Thank you so much for your comment! I do love going to exhibitions (even when they turn out to be closed *grumble*) and the real problem is getting a post up in some kind of timely manner. I’ve got a queue of stuff at the moment. If anything I’m finding it hard to see all the ones I’m interested in.

    Not an artist myself unfortunately. Not much of an art critic either, so I decided right off the bat that my reaction to an exhibit is fair game- even if I blunder big time and miss the “big meaning” behind a work of art. Reading other people’s blogs is always a big help (my coworker Heidi has one called “Engineer’s Daughter” on Typepad that I think quite good).

    Thank you for stopping by Escapee!

  4. 4 Beverly Kaye October 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Fascinating blog! Glad I found it, since one needs more than art and a sandwich, or a game of pinball to get through the day.

  5. 5 hideoussunday October 8, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    True, true, they certainly made for a particularly long day that’s for sure. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


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