Things were bit groovier in 1970, when the San Francisco Arts Commission founded a gallery space called “Capricorn Asunder” at 155 Grove Street. Think about it: can you imagine a city agency in the San Francisco of 2016 naming anything after an astrological sign, let alone adorning its doors with images of a fish-tailed goat?
Times got less groovy, of course. But the SFAC Gallery continued its programming in what we know as the Grove Street Window Gallery -- until the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and a temporary move to the War Memorial Veterans Building in 1996. "Temporary" stretched for 17 years, until the Veterans Building closed its doors for a two-year, $160 million seismic retrofitting project in 2013.
The SFAC Gallery reopens after this long hiatus on Friday, Jan. 22 with 2,400 square-feet of exhibition space just down the hall from its old quarters in the northeast corner of the building. With expanded gallery space, the opening encompasses a new commission, a small solo show and a 10-person group exhibition.
The first of the three is Enter: 126, a yearly series set to transform a nondescript glass-doored entryway into something that better telegraphs, “This is an art space, come look!”
A collaboration between architect Annette Jannotta and media artist Olivia Ting, Coalescence, as the entryway installation is titled, reuses packing tubes from the gallery’s new lighting system. Silent video shot within the Veterans Building projects across the cylindrical surfaces as they hang from the ceiling. Resembling giant wind chimes or the disembodied tubes of a pipe organ, Coalescence hovers between representation and abstraction, gently flickering an invitation to hallway passersby.
Moving inside, the SFAC Gallery next hosts a small tribute to the late artist Susan O’Malley in the form of photographs of her projects, three video pieces and a wall of colorful text-filled posters. The videos A Few Yards in San Jose and How to be an Artist-in-Residence in San Jose show O’Malley as a merry prankster messing around in suburban San Jose. She uses turquoise garden hoses, cloud-shaped bushes and tire swings in tightly-edited and wonderfully silly vignettes. They’re vivid demonstrations of O’Malley embodying the sentiments similar to those she later gathered in the series Advice From My Eighty-Year-Old Self, a collection of imperatives published by Chronicle Books and installed as bus kiosk posters up and down Market Street this month.