Friday, November 2, 2012

Making Synchronicity out of Random Noise

Yesterday afternoon I visited the members' preview of the new 4th floor shows at SFMOMA: Jasper Johns, Jay DeFeo, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. In that order. The Jasper Johns show was nice. Colorful, tactile, fun - the etchings were great - I definitely want to get back to see those again. Body silhouettes with lots of numbers, letters, & patterns. The perfect visual appetizer. On my way through the "tunnel" to the DeFeo exhibit, I noticed a wild "sculpture" on the western deck - it looked like an antennae. (I forgot about it, but it came back to me later.)

The DeFeo show unfolds like Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The first room is discordant, unfocused. Then structure appears, in her monumental canvas & paint period, and you know this is a unique, true force. In the third "movement" she stretches out, exploring photography, collage, form, and line; building on distant themes. Then emotion is unleashed in the fourth and final section. Some of them reminded me of Betty Theodore's work. "Spark of the Gods" shines from the final, small-in-size, paintings; completed right before she died. (The image here is her portrait of a wounded, dying pigeon, that she cared for in her own final days.) I reentered the world, still stunned, on the fourth floor landing.

The entrance to Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's installation, "Frequency and Volume" was in front of me, so I wandered in, to see a glass cubicle full of what appeared to be sound editing equipment and 18 transistor radios. OK, moving on . . . the next room was dark (black) except for a single white (projected light) wall. On moving into the room, I saw my own silhouette on the white wall. Thinking of Kara Walker, I started posing and creating shifting tableaux with the other occupants of the room. The seemingly random noises and words/numbers on our silhouettes suddenly snapped into alignment and I realized that I was a dial on a radio receiver - moving side to side changed the frequency and moving forward & back changed the volume. Each person occupied a different frequency band. Then I remembered the antenna I'd seen earlier. I kept going back to the "Space to Earth" frequency, rocking back and forth in an audible volume and thinking about the connections between these three shows.

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