The second exhibition at the San Francisco Arts Commission’s newly reopened main gallery space, housed inside the War Memorial Veterans Building, expands on its inaugural showing of just 10 Bay Area artists with Chain Reaction 12, a group show of 21 photographers, sculptors, video artists, painters and uncategorizable makers.
If that sounds like a lot of artists, it is. But in the airy new gallery, objects’ proximity to each other fosters a sense of camaraderie rather than crowding. The conceit of the Chain Reaction series is a chain letter of sorts. Seven initial entities, ranging from arts professionals to nonprofit galleries, selected one artist each. Those artists then each selected another fellow artist, and those fellows selected a final set of seven.
The seven “chains” create intriguing visual connections across generational and material lines, plotting a network of friends, inspirations and mentorships throughout San Francisco's many art scenes. The arrangement of the exhibition, organized by SFAC associate curator Jackie Im and independent curator Alice Wu, positions particular chains next to or near one another for certain connections to become more apparent.
Transgressing gender binaries and celebrating decorative opulence, the exhibition begins with Craig Calderwood’s bedazzled puffy paint portrait of artist Nicki Green. (Get up close, you won't regret it.) Then, Green’s own glazed urns, adorned with wreaths of chanterelle mushrooms and delicate illustrations, stand in front. The third member of their chain, Julz Hale Mary, smiles out of a photograph around the corner, wearing a wedding dress covered with the repeated phrase “he promised he would change," hands clasped around calla lilies.
The chain started by 2nd floor projects’ Margaret Tedesco yields the most cohesive visual grouping, with two cut fabric collages from Anne McGuire, a painting by Bruno Fazzolari that bursts colorfully from the center of the linen canvas, and Wayne Smith’s Nascent, a saturated print resembling a striped sunset reflected over water.