Scott Williams, Studio Installation
Brent Green, To Many Men Strange Fates are Given
September 15 – October 20, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 6-8pm
Wednesday – Friday 10:30-5:30
Steven Wolf Fine Arts
2747 19th Street, A
San Francisco, CA 94110
BRENT GREEN: Artist’s Talk at SFAI
Monday, September 17, 7:30pm
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street, SF CA
This fall, Steven Wolf Fine Arts will recreate the studio interior of painter Scott Williams, best known to San Franciscans as an early aerosol street artist who painted murals, cars and interiors using a spray can and stencils. His primary medium though, since at least the 1990s, when he exchanged spray can for airbrush, is painting scaled for the easel, and books. Williams makes cinematic, stencil montages with a masterly technique. He has painted landscapes, rock posters and political propaganda, drawing from punk flyers, Asian woodcuts, obscure comic books and a deep well of literary sources.
One of his most intriguing creations is the interior of the Victorian Mission flat that he has lived in for the past 25 years. The residence, studio and gallery is a mixture of wall stencils, decay and paintings that hang on the wainscoting and stack on the floor like sloppy layer cakes. The space is a link to an era of San Francisco studios that flourished before skyrocketing rents, gentrification and the evolution of live/work spaces into generic corporate interiors. The installation will include paintings from every stage of Williams' career, new stencils made directly on the wall, and fragments of the studio itself.
This isn't the first time Williams has been projected into a conversation about gentrification. As a young artist, in 1983, he was evicted from the Goodman Building on Geary Boulevard between Gough and Franklin. One of the last of the artist hotels in San Francisco, the Goodman's residents fought the city's redevelopment in the name of a utopian communal live/work situation that challenged the normative paradigm of domesticity and labor. After years of court battles, the residents lost, but the case gave rise to an awareness of non-traditional living spaces in a city that was rapidly gentrifying along late capitalist lines.
The irony of recreating Williams' studio in a gallery that is gentrifying his very own neighborhood only seems to energize the fragmentary and unstable character of his work. His portraits of Josef Stalin, which oscillate between ironic takes on authoritarian art and a genuine affection for the left, seem likely to drift off the compass of meaning entirely. In a space often devoted to artists just out of art school, his cowboys and Indians paintings, which have the air of movie landscapes peopled by toys, will look like the Photoshop worlds they prophesied.
In general, Williams' characters seem strangely detached from their sources. Like magical phases that have been spoken so many times they grow uncanny, they lurk at the edge of something we once knew. His process of selection, arrangement and deployment through stenciling seems to vaporize meaning, leaving the viewer in an Phillip K. Dick atmosphere of paranoia, lucidly described by one of his long-time book collaborators, the poet Fred Rhinne.
"If you could see through the fog and murk that passes for an atmosphere hereabouts you might notice the subtle documentation of the citizenry.... You might notice that you are in a tinny funhouse mirror burlesque of an American city... We call it Frisco."
Continuing his tradition of applying new technologies to his staunchly DIY, American folk roots, the sculpture To Many Men Strange Fates Are Given is built with deconstructed LCD screens, an elaborate welded steel frame, polarized lenses and sets of delicate machine-milled wooden audio horns, all serving as a platform for a new hand-drawn three-dimensional animation displayed on two layered panels simultaneously, harkening back to the tradition of animating on glass. The animation can only be seen when the viewer looks through the polarized lenses located at three stations on the sculpture; otherwise, Green’s film is invisible.
The story centers on the tale of the woman who sewed the spacesuit for Laika, the dog sent into space by the Russians in 1957. Pulsating with the intensity of the artist’s own signature narration, the sound track articulates themes of progress and insight, of invention, wonder and faith. To Many Men Strange Fates Are Given demonstrates both the technical and formal progress in Green’s artistic journey and reflects the increasing deftness with which he handles humanistic themes in his storytelling, carving out from his self-taught roots a new and sophisticated handmade aesthetic, sustained by a stark political agenda that runs through his lyrically composed allegories.
For more information please contact Steven Wolf Fine Arts at 415.263.3677
or email [email protected]