Southern Exposure Debuts ‘This Will Never Work’

From left to right: Abigail Clark's "The Rovers;" Diego Villalobos' "What's Next?;" Christie George's "Don't Qwote Me;" Jennie Lennick's "Lynda Benglis and Me." Photos: Sarah McClure

Over wine, artists and attendees stood shoulder-to-shoulder at Southern Exposure‘s Friday night opening of its juried art exhibition “This Will Never Work.”

Selected from more than 500 entries, nearly 50 local contemporary artists showed  work  that included a torn page from Sotheby’s catalogue painted with watercolors, a tumbleweed from Wyoming simulating movement, soil harvested from the Tenderloin and framed in porcelain, and a performance piece that featured two neon-clad girls “playing chess” with props like rubber hands.

With an aim to support local, emerging artists, the annual exhibition is open to artists living in Northern California. This year’s 48 participants included eight from Bernal Heights or Potrero, 13 from Oakland or Berkeley, 12 from other San Francisco neighborhoods north of Market, four from other cities, and 10 from the Mission District as well as one artist with Mission’s Creativity Explored.

For many of the selected artists,  this was their first major exhibition.

“Southern Exposure is a hub for artists and is very involved in the community,” said Valerie Imus, projects and exhibitions program director. “This type of work allows us to show the work of so many artists — it’s rare that we show 48 artists at one time.”

“It’s a democratizing process,” said Imus, referring to the juried selection process by Corrina Peipon and Mary Magsamen of Hillerbrand+Magsamen. “You see so many people coming in. It’s amazing to watch.”

Peipon, an assistant curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, spent several days in the Bay Area reviewing submissions.

“We consider bringing in an outside juror as a crucial part of the process to maintain objectivity and give artists a chance to show their work to curators beyond the Bay Area arts scene,” said Sarah Hotchkiss, communications and outreach Director at Southern Exposure.

When asked if any of the artists integrated current issues such as eviction, gentrification, or the impact of the tech industry, Imus pointed out artist Rebecca Foster’s installation/digital print, “FAQ: What You Need to Know About the NSA’s Surveillance Programs.”

The piece covers a wall several feet high and is made up of several printed out pages from a memo sent by the Department of Justice.

The memo was the ACLU’s request for information about the NSA’s surveillance program. The entire text was redacted.

Another artist, Todd Lavine, catalogued YouTube video stills that individuals shot with their phones of scenes in Syria and Damascus. Called, “Mist of screams dreamt on July 16th, 2013; photograph of documentation of the bombing of a funeral procession in Damascus on June 30th, 2012,” includes the actual number of YouTube views: 8,344.

The artist might be commentating on how images circulate today and how we approach disaster through media like YouTube, Imus suggested.

One returning artist, Bernie Lubell, has been involved with Southern Exposure since the 1980s. His piece, “Choose to Choose” represents a model of the economy, and features mixed wood, spring strings and electronics. Viewers can participate by “adjusting” inflation and unemployment through a series of levers and pulleys.

“There is this supposed relation between unemployment and inflation,” said Lubell, who started the piece a few years ago.

San Francisco has always been a “Gold Rush city,”  said Lubell, who has lived in Haight-Ashbury and Bernal Heights since 1971. That culture of constant change, the rush to make money whether it was the Gold Rush, the dot-com  boom of the late 1990s or the tech boom of today – change is a part of the Mission District, he said.

In its 22nd year, this month’s juried exhibition continues to be able to provide hundreds of artists with a public space, and without charging them a submission fee. It is underwritten by contributions and grants, which increased by nearly 38 percent this year to nearly $500,000.

Artists include Calen Barca-Hall, Alexis Alicette Bolter, Jessica Cadkin, Abigail Clark, Randy Colosky, Scott Constable/Wowhaus, Ilana Crispi, Gabriel Edwards, Emily Alden Foster, Rebecca Foster, Steven Froman, Anna Fryer, Mark M. Garrett, Christie George, Michael Goldman, Jon Gourley, Daniel Green, Jenna Hanson, Aaron Harbour, Jamil Hellu, Patrick Hillman, Clint Imboden, Mark Johnsen, Todd Lavine, Meredith Leich, Jennie Lennick, Kristina Lewis, Bernie Lubell, Martin Machado, Tatum Mangus, Nicole Markoff, Travis McFlynn, Sam Metcalf, Olivia Mole, Alex Molinari, Christie Yuri Noh, erik parra, Sarah Patten, noah ptolemy, Lucca Raventinkie, Jenny Sharaf, James Sinclair, Isabelle Smeall, Larry Stefl, Chris Thorson, Paul Urich, Diego Villalobos and May Wilson.

“This Will Never Work” runs November 22 through December 14.

Southern Exposure
3030 20th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

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