Art Fair Finds

23 May

I tromped across San Francisco Thursday night to czech out the menagerie of art fairs. The SF Fine Art Fair in Fort Mason was a great start last year, after a 10 year stint of nothing,  but I am glad for the addition of  artMRKT and ArtPadSF to this year’s roster. A more comprehensive representation of the current local and national art scene is split amongst the three venues. ArtPadSF was a win with its engaging atmosphere at the Phoenix Hotel, lacking all certain stiffness. Below are favorite pieces from all three fairs! Enjoy. (Excuse the less than straight photos..I need to work on keeping steady as I’m half kneeling on the ground in in heels while hoping my ass isn’t falling out of my jeans.)

Jamie Vasta : "Fillide, 1596" " : Patricia Sweetow Gallery : ArtPadSF

Jamie’s show After Caravaggio is up for only a short while longer at Patricia Sweetow Gallery. Get there quick if you haven’t examined these works of strictly glitter. Her current series is an homage to the anniversary of Caravaggio’s 400th birthday. Jamie uses her own friends to act out some of Caravaggio’s most celebrated paintings and documents them in craft glitter in a most exceptional manner.

Margaret Bowland : Babcock Galleries : artMRKT

Daughters : artMRKT

Thomas Wood : "The Pollinators" : Lisa Harris Gallery : SF Fine Art Fair

Martin Spei : "Dean/Train" : gf contemporary : SF Fine Art Fair

Martin does many humorous, yet knowing, bronze sculptures of “the working man.”

Slinkachu : Villa del Arte galleries


San Francisco’s Art Fair Explosion

11 May

"Identity Theft #1," Travis Somerville, 2011. Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery.“Identity Theft #1,” Travis Somerville, 2011. Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery.

I talked to artMRKT founder Max Fishko about this year’s proliferation of San Francisco art fairs. You can find the article on KQED’s online Arts & Culture blog.

My Journey into San Francisco’s Crab-Infested Restaurant Waters

11 May

At the peak of San Francisco’s crab season I cooked up some delectable goodies with Maverick restaurant and Vietnamese pop-up Little Knock. Recipes and article can be found at The Bold Italic.

Rice Paper Scissors : Vietnamese Pop-Up Cafe

8 Feb

In celebration of Vietnamese New Year, street food vendors Valerie Luu of Little Knock and Katie Kwan of KitchenSidecar threw their first Vietnamese pop-up café and called it Rice Paper Scissors. The guerrilla-style, street food fare featured Valerie’s Crab Sautéed Glass Noodles and Katie’s imperial rolls, snail pho and sticky rice dessert with mung beans and lotus seeds, and other yummies.

With a sizzling pan to her left and wok on her right, Valerie served up a hot and flavor-packed family recipe her grandma served this past Christmas. Valerie says when people think of Vietnamese food, they tend to think of Pho and stick with it. So she wants to get people to try what she grew up eating. She finds this a good excuse to hang out with her grandma and learn recipes and preserve that part of her identity through language and food. When in Saigon, she saw an old lady in her pajamas, cooking up food in an ally way with motorbikes buzzing by. No fear. Valerie palled up with Katie to recreate that culture in San Francisco.

Photo Courtesy of Valerie Luu aka Little Knock

I met with Valerie the following day to help her prepare the Crab Sautéed Glass Noodles for the Underground Market put on by forageSF.

She works out of the rentable kitchen space at La Victoria’s Mexican Bakery & Café.

It was Friday afternoon and we shared the kitchen with a slew of street and underground food entrepreneurs, preparing for their own weekend ventures.

Spanish radio blasted heartfelt ballads from the speakers and the smell of freshly baked cookies enveloped the kitchen.

We started by hesitantly picking up and throwing live crabs into a giant vat of boiling water. It takes 20 minutes until the feisty crabs are no longer intimidating. In that time, we chopped a few pounds of onions and cried insurmountable amounts of liquid, punishment for the mass slaughter. Twenty minutes never felt so long.

But when it came, Valerie gave me some crab cracking tips that resulted in nice chunks of juicy, crabby innards.

First, move to the back of the crab and separate the top shell from the body with your two thumbs. Pour the liquid and fluffy white crab brains, also called crab butter, into a container for later use (Secret Sauce). Leave the yellow stuff, that’s the crab’s digestive system. Some consider it a delicacy but it contains chemical contaminants so I don’t suggest it. Once the shell is off, you will see some thin, white, loosely attached gills that you need to remove and also discard. Then twist off the legs at the joint connecting to the body. Take the body and break it in half with the triangular shaped belly flap facing you. And use a nutcracker and the point of a crab claw to fish out the meaty parts the best way you know how!

Valerie pre soaks the glass noodles in warm water 30 minutes before she starts cooking at the Underground Market. She tells me glass noodles are made from mung bean starch. Because the noodle itself is bland, it acts as a blank canvas to absorb the flavors in her “Secret Sauce.” Not to worry. The ingredients are listed at the end of this article.

At the Underground Market, she will boil chicken broth in a wok and add the pre soaked glass noodles. In a separate pan, she sautés yellow onions, garlic, mushrooms and crab. When the noodles absorb the chicken broth, she adds the “Secret Sauce.” When the noodles and sauce have made a dark caramel color, she adds the sautéed crab and other ingredients into the wok. Mix. Plate up, garnish and serve.

Do It At Home

Rice Paper Scissors will be popping up once month in to-be-determined San Francisco sidewalks and alleys. Find updates on Twitter @littleknock  and @kitchensidecar. In between Pop-Up’s, Make Valerie’s Crab Sautéed Glass Noodles with the ingredients listed below.

Secret Sauce – to taste

Red Vinegar, Hoisin Sauce, Sriracha, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Crab Butter


Dungeness Crab, Glass Noodles, Yellow Onions, Wood Ear mushrooms, Garlic, Chicken Broth, Garnish with Cilantro and Green Onions

And in the locavore spirit, Valerie suggests you go crabbing at Fort Point near Crissy Field. All you need is a license, a big net and some chicken for bait. Let the net sit from 20-30 minutes before pulling it in to check your catch. Don’t forget to throw back the little guys!

XMAS is coming … Wendy Nichol : Yes Please

9 Dec

I advise vegetarians to close their eyes because Wendy Nichol’s Lambskin Gatherer Bag is going to be painfully glamorous.

Objects of Human Making @ SOAP Gallery

13 Aug

above photo courtesy of Carrie Hott :: Artist : Adam Hathaway
You can use the soap but you’d only be getting another man’s blood on your hands, literally. Artist Casey Logan alludes to Christ’s blood as a mechanism of salvation when incorporating his own blood into a bar of soap. His piece, This Soap Won’t Get You To Heaven, is part of Objects of Human Making, this month’s exhibition at SOAP Gallery. The show is an exploration of how something so mundane as lye and animal fat can connote hygiene, cleanliness and even reach into the more metaphysical ideas of purity and order.

The exhibition’s title was taken from Francis Ponge’s 97-page ode to soap, a project begun in France during WWII when the commodity was dearly missed. Guest Curator Carrie Hott asked 6 artists to create work based on a deep consideration of this basic element of human culture, the namesake of SOAP Gallery. The show consists of 9 greatly contrasting and well thought out pieces, befitting the gallery’s intimate space.

Leading into the space is Erica Gangsei’s trio of hand made attempts of mass produced toiletries including a toothbrush, toothpaste, and lump of soap. I enjoyed most the accompanying stack of dated pamphlets from some sort of entomology society that Gangsei provided. Whether the pamphlets were real or fabricated by the artist, located on the inside were requests that the government require all consumer products be labeled with a significant historical background of both the product and producer and a full account of the source materials and their capabilities. An awesome way to keep an informed public. I vote yes.
above photo Courtesy of Carrie Hott :: Artist : Sunaura Taylor
Sunaura Taylor reflects on soap as a form of order and structure by arranging a powerful collection of black and white photocopied images into a large, neatly tiled square, covering the gallery’s back left wall. Most of the images are accompanied by a small narrative documenting the exploitation of people with birth defects and missing limbs circus curiosities in the 1920s and ’30s. Taylor doctors the images with oil paint, directing the eye with yellow arrows and painting the nakedness onto clothed bodies, as if nudity is the reason everyone is staring. The figures placidly sit and smile at the viewer from the overwhelming number of index card sized pieces of flimsy computer paper. Taylor also incorporates charts of quartered animal parts, labeled for different classes of consumption. The charts are larger, maybe 8 1/2 by 11 inches and in color. Taylor informs and preserves these inhumane and unsoap-like practices into a mosaic that is unassuming at first, but once you read the narratives and get to know the people, it forms a great presence within the gallery space.
Objects of Human Making explores soap’s many facets, some to the point of Ponge’s fetish-like capacity, and successfully takes soap away from a dull utilitarian perspective. But it could also be taken as a reminder to take everyday objects into deeper consideration. Most soap is made of animal fat (creepy) and lye, a chemical also used to cure green olives, clean your oven, or burn a whole in your hand to prove to Brad Pitt you’re a man that knows he’s gonna die someday! Fight Club anyone?

On view August 7-29th

THE SUN Ceremony @ Berkeley Art Museum

12 Jul

Expecting to be handed a set of drumsticks upon entering an art museum is not entirely normal. But it was entirely awesome the night of THE SUN ceremony at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

photos courtesy of Terri Loewenthal

A core group of 40 musicians, artists and friends facilitated the audience-inclusive ceremony paying homage to the sun, our earth’s principle source of vitality. Oakland based artist Chris Duncan orchestrated the sound based group through a fellowship at the Kala Institute in Berkeley. The resulting ceremony of drums, cymbals, silence and singing is reminiscent of the Sun Dance practiced by Native American tribes as a celebration of renewal and rebirth, minus the dancing, fasting and self-torture.

Anywho. Let’s get back to the night of the ceremony.

Museum doors opened to a steady drone, which set the tone for the layers of sound and light projections to progress, peak and diminish as a loose representation of the sun’s daily cycle. A large, white painted, excellently papier-mâché orb began to rise as vocal announcements of “THE SUN” reverberated from a live recording. It continued to rise as drum calls were initiated and the beats swam through the museum while projectors from above cast light upon sun.

Once the sun hit its peak, the proverbial wall between audience and performer was broken and all who held one of the 130 pairs of drumsticks beat the surface before them, unifying presence and energy. Simple, color-coded music sheets posted throughout the area notified the audience-as-performers when to stop the Sun Jam and play upon the 22 cymbals hanging from the museum’s soaring ceiling. Cymbals stopped. White costumed performers sang as they perched from the overhangs of the galleries above and others made their way down the walkways and joined those singing on the ground floor’s center gallery. Silence, even the ambient drone. The sun begins to set. Dark spirals are projected onto the sun, diminishing its brilliance.

A young lady with light brown, braided hair wrapped around her head casts salt upon a large metal plate. Eight performers of various white costumes double-fist large green bottles and blow for the low tones as the young lady sings her distant, unearthly child’s cry. The microphone she holds is attached to a Chladni plate and the vibrations move the salt into pictures. The metal plate resting above a speaker follows the research and design of eighteenth century German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni, who played around with nodal patterns, making sounds visible in other words. The pictures, she said later, dictated what she sung and what she sung dictated the pictures. Her name is Meara O’Reilly and she is a sound designer, instrument builder and former member of the band Feathers.

THE SUN ceremony is the first of four performances programmed by Oakland based artist David Wilson in conjunction with his Gatherings exhibit and the Berkeley Art Museum’s L@TE program. Judging by the success of THE SUN, I suggest you check out what lies ahead in the upcoming Friday night performances.