There are some true treasures in the new exhibit Positively Charged: Copier Art in the Bay Area Since the 1960s. Spread across two venues — San Francisco’s Main Library and the San Francisco Center For the Book — Positively Charged traces how the advent of the photocopier inspired artists and bolstered a variety of activist communities.
At the Center For the Book, the exhibit celebrates photocopied collage art and zines that were brought into the world by Bay Area free thinkers, using the lowly photocopier and whatever materials they had to hand. Wry postcards, idiosyncratic fanzine creations, art projects turned into mailers and some gorgeous collage work are all on display.
Original works of collage by Bay Area artists Sas Colby and Sally Wassink sit tantalizingly alongside the copies that went out into the world as postcards and mailers.
One mesmerizing piece that spans almost an entire wall features multiple works of collage by Enrique Chagoya, photocopied and combined into a single fold-out booklet. In this piece — titled Tales From the Conquest/ Codex — the Mexico-born, Berkeley-based artist juxtaposes images of traditional Mexican artwork with characters from American comic books. In one section, Wonder Woman sits between an Incan statue and Our Lady of Guadalupe. In another, Superman encourages a boy named Manuel who came “to the USA for a better life.”
Where the Center for the Book focuses on the visual creations of artists using photocopiers, the library portion of Positively Charged provides some historical context. It explains the origins of the photocopier, how the technology developed over time and demonstrates how underground movements stayed connected and energized by handmade photocopied materials.