The work of four Bay Area artists will appear in unexpected places from September 14 through November 17, 2013, as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents site-responsive projects by the 2012 winners of its signature SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, and David Wilson. For the first time in the history of the museum’s biennial award program honoring up-and-coming Bay Area artists, SFMOMA has commissioned all four recipients to create new work and to present it outside of the traditional gallery context. Encompassing a wide range of media, these diverse projects will be installed in various non-art spaces of the artists’ choosing in San Francisco and Oakland and will be on view for free to the public for two months this fall.
Established to recognize Bay Area artists of exceptional talent with an exhibition, accompanying catalogue, and an honorarium, the biennial award is supported by SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art), an SFMOMA art interest group. The art award has been at the center of SECA’s multifaceted activities over the past half century, offering an inside look at the most noteworthy art being made right here in the Bay Area.
During the SECA exhibition, Abdalian activates downtown Oakland with a sound installation of bells; Faught responds to the Neptune Society Columbarium in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood with textile-based sculptures; Herschend investigates SFMOMA’s temporary art and office relocation through a film shot on site at the museum and presented online; and Wilson organizes a series of self-guided tours that lead to sites throughout San Francisco, starting from a trailhead at the front of the SFMOMA’s currently closed Third Street building.
This unique multi-location presentation of the SECA Art Award exhibition is organized by Jenny Gheith, assistant curator of painting and sculpture, and Tanya Zimbardo, assistant curator of media arts. Gheith and Zimbardo announced the four award winners on December 13, 2012; the selection process included a review of over 250 applications from nominated artists. Fifteen finalists were chosen by the award curators for studio visits and also asked to submit a proposal for a solo commission at a potential location. The four award winners were selected based on the strengths of their previous artistic work and their new proposals.
“This off-site iteration provided us with an incredible opportunity to rethink and reimagine the exhibition model for this long-standing award,” says Gheith. “By presenting four solo commissions sited at locations of the artist’s choosing, we are able to realize projects that highlight their distinct visions and share their work more broadly.”
Zimbardo adds, “There is a dynamic range of art being presented now in the Bay Area outside of the gallery context in the urban environment. This is the perfect moment for SFMOMA to be able to directly contribute to this dialogue around contemporary art in the public sphere through this exhibition and other upcoming off-site projects.”
Location: Downtown Oakland; played once daily during daytime hours; full schedule available at sfmoma.org/secaaward beginning September 3, 2013
Zarouhie Abdalian works with the specifics of a site to create subtle interventions into everyday perception. Often bordering on the edge of invisibility, her minimal installations address the dynamics between visitors and a given site by staging small shifts in sight or sound. Through her research into the history and physical features of a location, she arrives at simple adjustments such as making a window flutter with Mylar or illuminating an abandoned building with lights set on timers. Her refined modifications transform a viewer’s physical or emotional understanding of a specific environment.
For her SECA project, the Oakland-based artist has created a sound installation consisting of brass bells that are programmed to ring simultaneously at a different designated time each day from rooftops in and around Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, at 14th Street and Broadway. For several minutes, each bell will play a randomized rhythmic structure of accelerandi and ritardandos that will sound differently every time. Abdalian is interested in the way that “bells regulate the activities of social spaces—announcing the passing of hours, shift changes, festivals, calls to service, and emergencies—and become powerful mechanisms by which the listener is situated in space.” This experiential piece shifts the listener’s attention and awareness of the city center, a historic place associated with community gathering, performance, and protest. Abdalian first noticed the potential for this site in 2010 through gatherings in support of Oscar Grant’s family that were held in the plaza during the Johannes Mehserle trial. Since the bells are out of view from those who hear them, their sound has no visual anchor, an absence accentuated by the empty bell tower atop city hall. Seven days a week, the bells will play for several minutes during daytime hours.
Abdalian (born 1982, New Orleans, Louisiana) earned her BA at Tulane University and her MFA from California College of the Arts. Her work has been included in numerous national and international exhibitions including Zarouhie Abdalian / MATRIX 249 (August 2–September 29, 2013), currently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum; the 9th Shanghai Biennial (2012), the 3rd Moscow International Biennale for Young Art (2012); and the 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011). In 2014 Abdalian will participate in Prospect 3, New Orleans.
Location: Neptune Society Columbarium, 1 Loraine Court, San Francisco; public hours: Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sat–Sun, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Free admission.
Josh Faught’s work mines the rich histories of craft in sculpture, pairing traditional textiles and homespun techniques such as loom-weaving, knitting, and crocheting with everyday objects that reference domesticity, political slogans, or kitsch. His assemblages typically start with raw fibers that are hand dyed with organic materials such as ground-up cochineal bugs or covered in spray paint or nail polish. These labor-intensive sculptures draw on histories of gender and sexual politics, and precariously balance an urgent sense of anxiety with a nostalgic view of the present.
For his SFMOMA commission, titled Be Bold for What You Stand For, Be Careful for What You Fall For (2013), Faught creates a constellation of hand-woven, fiber-based sculptures that respond to the architecture and history of the Neptune Society Columbarium, a repository for cremation urns located in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. The only nondenominational cemetery in the city, this 19th-century neoclassical treasure houses more than 8,000 inurnment niches that memorialize everyday people as well as cultural figures, artists, and other notable San Franciscans. Faught’s installation is inspired by the visual language of these personalized tributes, and takes the form of two freestanding works of crocheted and woven yarn on wooden armatures and one large, suspended woven sculpture—his largest work to date—that engage with the space’s central rotunda, stairwell, and smaller rooms. His color palette is restricted to hues that artist and designer William Morris articulated in the early 20th-century Arts and Crafts movement—cochineal pink, indigo blue, walnut brown, and weld yellow. “Each of these natural dyes has a somewhat fugitive quality, which extends to some of the thematic narratives in the content of the work around transition and time,” explains Faught. The San Francisco–based artist’s first solo exhibition in the Bay Area also furthers his investigation of emotional support structures and various histories of craft, the queer community, and activism.
Faught (born 1979, St. Louis, Missouri) lives and work in San Francisco. He earned his BA at Oberlin College and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This summer Faught’s work is currently on view at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in Josh Faught: Snacks, Supports, and Something to Rally Around (July 10–August 11, 2013). Faught has had solo exhibitions at Lisa Cooley Gallery, New York; and the Seattle Art Museum, among others. In 2012 he won a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, and he received the Betty Bowen Award from the Seattle Art Museum in 2009.
Location: sfmoma.org/stories; premiering September 14; trailer now viewable here.
Jonn Herschend investigates emotional truth, confusion, and absurdity in everyday life through video, film, installation, and performance. His work often humorously questions how we interpret the validity of information, utilizing the formats of corporate messaging tools such as PowerPoint and informational videos. A recurring theme in his work is the literary device of the unreliable narrator who turns what Herschend refers to as “site-specific fictions” into personal and confused dramas that reveal multiple interpretations of a given situation.
For his SECA presentation, Herschend has a created new film that that will premiere on SFMOMA’s website at sfmoma.org/stories. Shot on location at SFMOMA this past spring, Stories from the Evacuation (2013) takes the museum’s temporary building closure as the point of departure for a behind-the-scenes look at its temporary art and administrative relocation during expansion construction, exploring narratives of risk and personal transition, as well as public and private roles. Herschend interviewed several museum staff members about their perspectives on this time of significant change. “With all stories there is a front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house,” the artist says. “There are stories we present to the world and there is the complicated and sometimes messy reality of how these things happen.” Herschend’s view of the tremendous collaborative effort and planning involved in the museum’s transition phase becomes increasingly focused on one interview subject’s personal backstory.
Herschend (born 1967, Branson, Missouri) lives and works in San Francisco. He received his BA from Boston University and his MFA from the University of California at Berkeley. Recent short films have been commissioned for exhibitions at SITE Santa Fe; Minneapolis Institute for the Arts; the Oakland Museum of California Art; and Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions and film screenings, including solo presentations at Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco; Invisible Venue, Oakland; and in the group triennial Bay Area Now 5 (2008) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Since 2007, he has co-edited the object-based publication THE THING Quarterly (which recently partnered with Levi’s Made and Crafted to launch Moment to Moment) with former SECA award recipient Will Rogan.
Locations: Around San Francisco; visitors can pick up maps at SFMOMA’s closed 151 Third Street building entrance; first map will be available starting Sept. 14.
Wilson’s works on paper and performance-based pieces have explored what he describes as “the many lost corners and in-between stretches of natural and developed space” in the Bay Area, including locations such as Angel Island, Bolinas Beach, and the Marin Headlands. He often announces his participatory gatherings and site-specific installations through invitations that include folded maps with directions and sketches meant to guide attendees to carefully composed situations.
Over the course of his SECA exhibition, Wilson will develop a series of self-guided journeys to six outdoor sites throughout San Francisco titled Arrivals (2013). Each journey begins at a central trailhead located at the main entrance of SFMOMA’s Third Street building where visitors can pick up hand-drawn maps with instructions for the experience. The first map will lead to a eucalyptus grove at the Presidio, where the artist has installed an elaborate, 16-foot-high ink drawing spread over twenty sheets of paper. “I was looking for a spot in San Francisco where there would be a sense of outdoor, natural architecture—a gallery in the forest—and see what happens when a drawing is placed in a living environment,” he says. The drawing depicts another natural landmark in Northern California—Frog Woman Rock, a distinctive rock formation in the Russian River Canyon recreational area that, for Wilson, evokes expectation and the excitement of arrival on his frequent trips to the area. Whether working in large groups or one-on-one exchanges, Wilson’s ephemeral projects often involve collaboration with a rich community of musicians, filmmakers, and other artists. His Arrivals series will continue this interest, featuring tape recordings of song, music, or sound-based performances previously made at each location by Wilson with guest collaborators such as Andy Cabic (of Vetiver), Danny Paul Grody (of Tarentel and The Drift), Colter Jacobsen (of Coconut), Holly Herndon, Sonny Smith (of Sonny & The Sunsets), and Sarah Simon and Kate Sweeney (of Magic Magic Roses).
Documentation of Wilson’s piece will be regularly updated on SFMOMA’s website throughout the exhibition. In addition to the six journey maps, he will use the timeframe of his SFMOMA exhibition as a residency to generate new drawings during his daily exploration of the city, and add them to the trailhead throughout the run of the show.
Oakland-based Wilson (born 1982, Framingham, Massachusetts) received his BA in visual art from Wesleyan University, Connecticut. He was included in the 2010 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art and has held solo exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum (David Wilson: Gatherings MATRIX 233) and Eleanor Harwood Gallery, San Francisco, among others. Wilson organizes the interdisciplinary CLASS sessions (2012–ongoing), a project led with other artistic collaborators, and is currently co-curator with Lawrence Rinder of the upcoming group exhibition The Possible at the Berkeley Art Museum in winter of 2014.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art