2 Galleries in 5 Blocks = Worlds Apart.

As we approach rainy season in San Francisco, art openings begin. April brings a fresh, ripe set of shows that finally caught my eye. On Saturday, faced with the unsurmountable choice (hint: sarcasm) between tailgating at Oakland A’s exciting opening day and about a dozen art reception openings, I chose to attend receptions for two galleries on Market Street: Varnish Gallery around 1st and Market, and the Luggage Store Gallery at around 6th and Market. I’ve heard of both before, in fact, I think I went to a swanky New Year’s Eve party that a bunch of tech people threw at Varnish for a few years back- and I heard about Luggage Store Gallery being a great gallery featuring up and coming SF artists back when I was in LA. Anyway, I guess my point is that I went to these galleries because I had some connection to them, not because I felt particularly adventurous. I assume most people go to art shows because they have *some* connection to them.

First show at Varnish was called, “The Have and Have Not Group Show,” curated by artist Lee Ballard. This show opened on Saturday, but will be up until April 28th, 2012. This one received a lot of fanfare, most notably from Hi-Fructose Magazine, featuring a nice collection of images of pieces in the show. The gallery is a cozy space tucked away in a small alleyway near Yank Sing and Golden Gate University, but it was jam packed with impeccably dressed, rockstar artist types with PBR (ah yes, SF hipsters)  and a glass of wine in hand. Image

Coming from the back door, the first thing that caught my eye were Brad Isdrab’s robot looking dudes:

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Definitely enjoyed their prominent display near the back of the room, guarding the pieces on the wall. They reminded me of those wooden proportion models I have in my studio, the kind you use to study anatomy, except these were whimsically primitive and fun.

Next, I saw Scott Campbell’s pieces, which were toward the side wall. These caught my eye because I actually own a piece by Scott Campbell I bought years ago at Nucleus Gallery in LA, I was happy to see that his work was at a reputable gallery years later.

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Next, I checked out Jon Wayshak’s pieces along the back. I was blown away at each of his elaborate illustrations. It had a decided comic book style, but his technique was more artistic and his compositions were exquisite. The pieces were both comical and horrific, the style both organic and polished. These blew me away.

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My favorite piece of the show was by Rick Berry, who I scrambled to look up after the show. His use of color, lines, and movement capture a mood and aesthetic I can only hope to achieve one day.

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All in all, great looking show with impressively high caliber pieces. No crazy adventurous, avant-garde installations- but I appreciated that. Sometimes there’s value just seeing great mixed media work without all the conceptual weirdness. There were a lot of pieces here where a serious collector would say, “Yes, that looks like it has tons of value and I would buy that,” which is more than what I could say about some other galleries. I also appreciated the fact that the show’s theme was apt, relevant to our current society, and the show highlighted the immense talent in contemporary mixed media artists today.

Next show was at the Luggage Store Gallery, called “Me and My ____.” This one was in a markedly different space, upstairs overlooking the shadier side of Market Street. I’ve been to this gallery before, but they seemed to have done some renovations to it that looks great:

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Most of the work were installations, and the space was great for it. I’ll save the critique and go straight to pictures:

This room was transformed into a crazy surreal experience of rapper saints and milagro-inspired decor.

 

This show had a decidedly different clientele, mainly grungy looking art students and musicians (possibly). I really quite enjoyed the passion the pieces conveyed, and the courageous compositions and subject matter. The space was great for cutting edge installations, and walking into each space transformed your surroundings and perspective.

Overall, very cool space, tons of great installations that made you chuckle and reflect- but seemed a bit esoteric and insular to the conceptual art aesthetic. I imagine that to most people, this gallery would be cool to check out but the work is not particularly accessible to most.

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