Monday, April 11, 2011

Life may imitate art, but art just imitates TV

Although this blog was primarily conceived as part of a grant, one of the things I wanted to fold in are my activities as someone with an interest in the arts. More and more, the line between work and play has blurred and my career is inherently part of my identity outside the office. I guess I take it as a good sign even though I struggle with it. After all, I always said I wanted to have a job I could be passionate about.

Speaking of passions, I still hesitate to call myself an art collector but the fact is that artwork lines the wall of my apartment. There’s even a stack of framed and unframed work in the corner of my studio waiting to find a place. The underlying motivation behind the work I buy (outside of the obvious aesthetics) is that there is a story behind each piece. I may know the artist or gallery personally, or it represents the memory of a moment over the last 9 years I’ve lived and been involved in the arts in San Francisco. There’s something about the connection to both the person and the piece that really enhances the value for me. I look around the room and see different points and places in my life represented. Here’s one example.

 RTC, Guerrero Gallery, 2011
Image by Ken Harman of Hi-Fructose

I met Ryan Travis Christian (RTC) on a Thursday. A bunch of us were at Park Life, listening to Tommy Guerrero play as part of the Space Cake show by Kyle Field and Thomas Campbell, and browsing their spectacular book table (at least, I was).  The first thing I noticed was that Ryan had cartoon hands… literally. He was wearing a pair of rubber cartoon hands he brought with him from Chicago to install as part of his solo show Sad Sacks at Guerrero Gallery. But the more I talked to him, the more I found them appropriate. His animated personality came out immediately; he was exuberant and funny, unintentionally waving those hands around while telling a story. I liked him immediately. Friday we all met up again. This time, at Fecal Face Dot Gallery in the Lower Haight to see the show Ryan had curated there of Chicago-based artists called West, Wester, Westest. It’s an early night- a drink at Danny Coyle’s, a sausage at Rosamunde, and a long goodbye to everyone standing on Fillmore Street- before I head home and the folks go back to finalize Ryan’s show at Guerrero.

 The cartoon hands as part of a video installation
Image by Ken Harman of Hi-Fructose

Saturday is the big event. Ryan’s work is in the front- a large mural when you enter, framed pieces around the gallery, and a projection involving the aforementioned cartoon hands (pics here and here and here. I can’t do it justice). In Sound and Shape, Chris Duncan and Jason Michael Leggiere have built a modern harp-like instrument on a mirrored floor that people wander in and through plucking strings that emanate sound through the back room. 

The next few hours spent at the gallery are filled with old friends and new ones. Those of us left at the close head over to JaynBee Club for a few more drinks, some pool and conversation. As the bar closes, no one really seems to want to end the night. There’s the electricity of a successful show and good company. We head back to the gallery for a while until we finally call it a night. Except even then it’s not quite done. After hugs from RTC, I join a caravan of friends getting a ride home. Squeezed into a car with a bike encroaching over the back seat, hilarity continues all the way to my house where I get out, realizing that Daylight Savings Time has now made my bedtime 4:30AM. But it was worth it.

RTC works in graphite which is mind-blowing when you look at his art and realize it’s essentially done in pencil. A mix of sharp comic images within themes of sex, lawn care, parties, dreams, entertainment, petty crimes and cars are composed within abstract lines, patterns and shading. Some parts look erased while others are so darkly colored that it feels like he’s intentionally removing or covering things that may be too personal.  There’s definitely a story behind each piece and although he doesn’t like to explain everything behind the work, RTC promised to send me the details about the inspiration for the piece I was fortunate to purchase. Now, the real question is- where will I put it?

Ryan Travis Christian, "Haydays"
11.5" x15", graphite on paper

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