When I was a just a wee seventh-grader, I moved to California from a flatter, less-exciting part of the country. It took about three years for me to stop shrilly exclaiming "Eureka!" every time I passed a highway sign pointing towards that notable city. I now have a great fondness for the word, which was first uttered by Archimedes when he discovered how to calculate the amount of alloy used to water down the gold in a king's crown. Bet you didn't know that! I definitely didn't. Thank you, vast internet of random facts.
Eureka! is the title of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art's current exhibition showcasing a range of talented artists who have all been recipients of the largest cash prize available to artists in the Bay Area. The show's logo is an apropos series of shiny gold exclamation points. The Eureka Fellowship affords deserving artists the coveted luxury of "uninterrupted creative time" and is awarded to four artists per year by the Fleishacker Foundation, which also supports the SJICA.
Like the CliffsNotes for a roster of notable Bay Area artists, the show provides a hint of the artists' creative capabilities. Envelope-pusher Paul Kos contributed two abstract paintings brought to life through the magic of LCD projectors -- a static image of a snowy forest that surprises viewers when a cross-country skier suddenly trudges across the scene.
Rigo 23, an artist who frequently changes the number after his name and is known for his public art in San Francisco, offers a large-scale sketch of a 1991 scene in which war protestors caused city officials to shut down the Bay Bridge for two days. This was the first time bridge traffic was stopped due to "unnatural" causes, and Rigo aims to diligently remind us of that historic moment by displaying a book of photocopied newspaper articles alongside the piece.
I was most looking forward to seeing new work by Mads Lynnerup, an artist I mentioned last year when I saw his video of a car driving itself at an exhibition called Curious Wonder. Disappointingly, Lynnerup was showing the exact same video again at the Eureka! show, but at least I learned that the piece was inspired by the artist's low-riding neighbors in Oakland. Lynnerup was also showing a collection of framed marker sketches called Drawings of Cars - Looking for a New Vehicle for My Work.
One of George Kucher's no-budget reality films was on view, starring a box of Trader Joe's chocolates and a blueberry bar from Starbuck's, which Kucher discusses with disgust as he sips his "diuretic." The film documents Kucher's presentation of a screening for a group of friends, whom he addresses sweetly, "Thanks for coming to see our picture. Bless your hearts...all four of them." Another video artist, Chris Sollars, was showing his film C Red Blue J, but only the title screen is on view unless it's Thursday, when viewers can see the entire film. Sollars comes from a politically diverse family who likely inspired his other contribution to Eureka!, a series of pencil drawings of presidential hopefuls -- McCain posing as a shirtless, tattooed rock star and Obama holding an empty cup labeled "Change."
Eureka is a well-rounded survey of Bay Area art. Though most of the work isn't brand new, it is still a nice sample platter of the vivacity that is our local arts scene. See this show before your artsy friend's next dinner party. Eureka! is at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art through September 20, 2008. For more information visit sjiica.org.