REVIEW (Untitled) Formalisms
“(Untitled) Formalisms” is the latest curatorial project by Amanda Roscoe Mayo, now on view at Needles and Pens, San Francisco. Mayo is an independent curator who has been active in mounting engaging exhibitions, movie nights and performances in the Bay Area, including Mac Arthur B. Arthur, The Rock Bar and Adobe Books to name a few. Her practice is marked with the dexterity of having to wear many hats and the precision of a contextual mind. Mayo’s practice embraces a no-holds-barred attitude toward alternative spaces in which to champion local artists and continue to hone her curatorial vision. Needles and Pens is a community oriented retail and exhibition space that has featured books, zines, hand-made goods and art for 10 years in the Mission.
Opening night of Formalism featured a performance by Benjamin Vilmain, aka TIS’ KID. TIS’ KID is an acronym for “Trust In Self, Keep it Dumb” (the tongue-in-cheek, pop-culture reference is a reminder to keep things light-natured) – although having been familiar with his work for two years, Vilmain’s work is far from dumb in the literal, pejorative sense. The piece he performed at the opening was loose, and playful, commenting on the risk of experimentation that dislodges old habits and embraces chance and spontaneity. Vilmain’s work in general operates from the lens of performance – each sculptural installation prioritizes movement of the body over placement of objects. For “(Untitled) Formalism”, Vilmain staged an sculptural objects in the intimate installation space, and wore a hand-made t-shirt. Various electronic devices such as an I-pad, small cassette tape Boombox, a battery-powered amplifier, red lamp and crate filled with a string of lights added ambient and purposeful layers to the dimly-lit room while he performed. The piece began as somewhat antsy, but at the same time carried a slight exaltation. Meditative long notes were peppered with glitches of random, static outbursts. Toward the end, Vilmain’s voice uttered a deep, ritualistic sounding text. Though completely inaudible, the human vocals brought the audience back down to earth before the other enveloping sounds faded to the end. The performance was a compliment to the subtle, yet strong work in the exhibition.
Andrea Bacigalupo’s concrete works are particularly alluring. Comprised of material known for its hard, unyielding surface and its utilitarian function as a construction substrate, Bacigalupo defies concrete’s common logic in these calm and poetic works. From the front, the long, vertical panels are reminiscent of ancient Asian landscape scrolls in pale black and grey washes. “Wish” is a slim sheet of concrete, approximately 8” wide, 36” tall and only 2” thick. The piece leans vertically against the wall, surprisingly unnoticeable upon approaching the thin side facing the open side of the gallery. The piece leans casually, while at the same time, its edge barely balances on the floor, making its fragility all the more evident.
Also on view are the collaborative sculptures of Lee Hunter and Pachi Giustinian. The formations arranged on the floor are modular, simple abstract shapes in pastel and bright monochromes. The various shapes are stacked and placed, not permanently attached to one another, and can be set up in different ways. As a person moves the shapes, he/she becomes a part of the art-making process and the pieces become formal gestures in temporal movement. Frescos by Erik Swanson and abstract paintings by Clayton Colvin and Andrew Chapman are also included in the exhibition, and additionally, a published zine coincides with the exhibition that includes written work by Aaron Harbour and Jakie Im, original artwork by Benjamin Vilmain and James Sterling Pitt as well as interviews with the exhibition artists.
“(Untitled) Formalisms” is on view through November 15th.
For more information on “(Untitled) Formalisms” visit Needles and Pens, San Francisco.
-Contributed by Leora Lutz