sfai news

September 05, 2012

SFAI Exhibition "Temporary Structures" Explores Impermanent Architecture and Systems as a Site of Human Interaction, Spectacle, and Fun

The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious contemporary art institutions, is proud to present the interdisciplinary exhibition Temporary Structures, featuring over a dozen acclaimed international and Bay Area artists. Co-curated by Glen Helfand and Cydney M. Payton, this major group exhibition includes architecture, installation, video, film, illustration, and performance art.

Temporary Structures is on view in SFAI's Walter and McBean Galleries from September 14–December 15, 2012, and is free and open to the public. An opening reception will be held Friday, September 14 from 6:00-9:00 pm. Join SFAI for wine and appetizers; enjoy a special climbing performance as part of a Paul Kos installation; and meet several of the exhibiting artists, including David Gissen, Amy M. Ho, Paul Kos, Christian Nagler and Azin Seraj Ben Peterson, Jonathan Runcio, and Together We Can Defeat Capitalism.

Taking root in the exciting possibilities of impermanence and inspired by San Francisco’s colorful history of World’s Fairs, the exhibition includes works—many of them site-specific—concerned with architectural aspirations, follies, and momentary acts of cultural transformation. These works explore aesthetic, political, and social ideals, ranging from the rise of consumer culture to 19th-century French uprisings to the recent Occupy movement, and help bring new meaning and understanding to the past and present.

The broad allure of World’s Fairs, and their use of temporary pavilions in the service of now-questionable views of internationalism and entertainment, is a key element of the exhibition. San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, designed as a gateway for the exhibition halls of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, today serves as a “permanent” landmark, owning to the retrofitting of its original wood and burlap-fiber bones. The Palace represents a growing collection of temporary-in-design, yet lasting, structures around the world, including those captured in the works by exhibition artists David Gissen and Michael Robinson, as well as in Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime, which will be screened in conjunction with the exhibition.

With their late modernist architecture and long history of hosting impermanent exhibitions, SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries are also central to the artwork in Temporary Structures. Revealed for the exhibition is a 1985 wall work by Paul Kos that has been interned under sheet rock for over a decade. Also remembered is David Ireland’s stunning pour of concrete down the galleries’ signature staircase in 1987, a kind of lava flow descending. Amy M. Ho’s video projects have a similar focus on the galleries’ staircase, imposing imagined possibilities and uses on the space. Jonathan Runcio’s newly commissioned piece points to additions to and subtractions from the building since its “completion” 40 years ago. Some elements of the galleries have even been shifted—the entrance reworked, the skylights opened, a wall removed, new structures built—to make transparent the adaptability of fixed space and renew engagement with the perhaps-familiar place.

Yet another visual subtext for Temporary Structures takes hold in late modernism. The iconic utopian capital city Brasilia (and politically failed UNESCO World Heritage Site) is prominent in works by featured Polish artist Pawel Althamer and collaborative architects Roberto Behar & Rosario Marquardt. Althamer’s video Brazil chronicles the journey of space travelers who have returned to earth to wander the futuristic architectural landscapes of Brasilia. Behar & Marquardt’s site-specific commission dialogues with the architecture of the Walter and McBean Galleries, transforming the entrance into a fantasy that echoes the architectural forms found in the urban plan for Brasilia. While not a direct reference to Brasilia, Ben Peterson’s epic drawing Ships Wake (2011) shares in the whimsical and haunting nature of imagined communities, cobbling together from unlikely elements of a shantytown and cruise liner.

Participating Artists

Pawel Althamer, Roberto Behar & Rosario Marquardt, David Gissen, Amy M. Ho, Paul Kos, Roy McMakin, Christian Nagler & Azin Seraj, Ben Peterson, Michael Robinson, Jonathan Runcio, Mungo Thomson, and Together We Can Defeat Capitalism

Schedule of Events

In addition to the works of art featured in the Walter and McBean exhibition, Temporary Structures includes a series of events, performances, artists talks, and film screenings that point to the relationship among temporary architecture, social structures, and spectacle, addressing both sites and the culture, dialogues, and economies they produce.

The exhibition and all its associated events are FREE and open to the public. Space is limited for some events, and advance registration is recommended where indicated. For a full schedule, visit: www.sfai.edu/TempStructures

About the Curators

Glen Helfand is a visiting faculty member in SFAI’s History and Theory of Contemporary Art program. His writing, concentrating on contemporary art and culture, appears in Artforum and numerous other publications, and he has curated exhibitions for the de Young Museum, San Jose Museum, Mills College Art Museum, and Dust Gallery in Las Vegas.

Cydney M. Payton is former CEO and Chief Curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. She holds an MA in Curatorial Practice, Concentrating on the History and Theory of Architecture, from California College of the Arts.

About the Walter and McBean Galleries

The Walter and McBean Galleries on SFAI’s 800 Chestnut Street campus house exhibitions, workshops, and other alternative and experimental avenues for presenting work by international contemporary artists. All SFAI’s public programs and exhibitions are FREE and open to the public. They are supported, in part, by the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.


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