The Conversation series at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery (SFAC) is an important objective of gallery director Meg Shiffler. The program, which pairs the work of a regional artist with an artist "based on another point on the globe," creates a wider context for the work of local artists while providing exposure for international artists. A broad view of contemporary art practice is developed through this pairing.
The current iteration -- the sixth in the series -- also represents the final exhibition in the SFAC's main gallery in the historic War Memorial Veteran's Building. Following the exhibition, the gallery in this grand Beaux Arts building will close for a two-year seismic retrofitting and staff will begin planning for the next chapter in its history. When it reopens in July 2015, the SFAC main gallery will be inaugurated in a newly designed, multipurpose space. This installation of the Conversation series features new work by Bay Area artist Jason Hanasik and Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde. It explores themes of conclusion, transition and renewal at precisely the same moment in the gallery's history.
One is confronted with Smilde's work when crossing the threshold from the street. A large-as-life photographic wallpaper installation transforms the space of the gallery, and creates the illusion of an architecturally grand space. The image, taken in a historic building in Holland, presents a neoclassical interior, complete with sweeping archways and tall columns. Hovering in the center of the space, peculiarly, is a cloud. Or rather, one did hover briefly in that moment of the shutter click; only a moment later, it dissipated, as clouds tend to do, even indoor clouds.
Berndnaut Smilde, installation view of Nimbus Munnekeholm, 2012.
Amsterdam-based Smilde grew up examining Dutch seascapes resplendent with expansive cloud-filled skies and wondered at the possibility of recreating the cloud itself for exhibition. You won't find out here how he does it -- it is a guarded moment of magic that involves precise chemistry, temperature, and lighting. The organic moment of cloud creation is a matter of studio production; the resulting photographs are the product of Smilde's fantastical experiments. Next month, the artist will visit San Francisco to privately stage cloud images in the historic Green Room of the Veteran's Building. The Green Room photograph will be added to the exhibition and available for purchase as part of a capital campaign for the new gallery space.