Pancho Jimenez, Impressions & Revelations, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, June 4-July 2, 2022 (published by, 6/11/22)

Pancho Jiménez, "Impressions & Revelations"
by DeWitt Cheng
Pancho Jiménez, “Progression #1-5," ceramic, 8" diameter;10" diameter; 10" diameter; (l. to 4.) 12 x 10 x 10"; 10 x 14 x 11"
Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, California
Continuing through July 2, 2022
With a seemingly endless supply of reports of catastrophes assailing us — freak weather, gun massacres, corporate corruption, and fascist putsches — nervous doomscrolling has become a fact of current American life — at least for those with a strong enough gut not to tune out in defeat. Remember when post-apocalyptic fantasies were innocent fun? I remember seeing the “Warheads” ceramic sculptures of Robert Arneson during the militaristic Reagan 1980s and admiring their combination of politics and aesthetics, Jonathan Swift’s saeva indignatio (fierce indignation) expressed with over-the-top, take-no-prisoners comic ferocity. Tell us what you really think, Bob.
Pancho Jiménez, “Fulfilled,” 2019, ceramic, 23 x 10 x 9”
The ceramic sculptures of Pancho Jiménez in “Impressions & Revelations” continue the Bay Area tradition of ceramic satire, but in a subtler vein, minus Arneson’s larger-than-life polemical brio, but no less meaningfully or effectively. The neutral presentation of Jiménez’s pseudo-artifacts — featuring cute mass-market imagery jumbled together as if caught by fire, flood, earthquake, or lava flow, and covered with a glaze that suggests amber-trapped insects — lets us do the interpretive work rather than accede passively to the artist’s dictates. Post-apocalypse now, if you want it.
The ten free-standing pieces placed on pedestals and the nine wall-mounted reliefs in the show could easily be taken by a cursory viewer as brilliantly colored archaeological artifacts. Jiménez uses massive, compressed forms to contain his cultural plasmas, made from commercial molds used for what used to be deemed kitsch — figurines and tchotchkes — at least before A-list artists embraced low-class motifs for high-class patrons. Easy irony is not the point of Jiménez’s cultural critique, however. He conflates the past in the form of tripods, plaques and other ceremonial artifacts; the present with his mass-market decorations; and a hypothetical future in which these transtemporal works (or ruins of works) can be surveyed by a perhaps wiser, gentler race of survivors.
The artist depicts America’s current mass culture of easy fun, historical amnesia, and incessant distraction in the wider context of history: sub specie aeternitatis, under the guise of eternity, in the “eternal present” of art, especially the ancient pre-Columbian art that has long fascinated the artist.
The idea of geometric wholes, broken or eroded to reveal their innards, was employed by the Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. Jiménez revives it — with a pop-culture dimension — to good and timely effect. “Cenotes” is a three-legged glazed ocher sculpture that suggests the bronze tripods of ancient cultures, as well as a giant’s molar, yellowed by time. Where the tooth’s nerves should be, encased in dentine, are deep cavities in which we discern composite mechanical parts thrown together, like rubble encased in Roman concrete. Cenotes are sinkholes in limestone that have been flooded with fresh water that are found in the Yucatán peninsula. A circle of them surrounds the Chicxulub meteor crater. 
Pancho Jiménez, “Nucleus," 2017, ceramic, 26" diameter
Pancho Jiménez, “Gaze," 2022, ceramic, 13 x 13 x 3 1/2"
“Gaze” is a purplish-gray glazed circular wall plaque in low relief, covered by faces cast from molds, their eyes closed, with the boundary between the faces suggestive of a stylized closed eye. The totality resembles the ommatidia-faceted eyes of flies and dragonflies. “Nucleus” is a large reddish-orange sphere covered by impacted tchotchkes that suggests a world overtaken by trash and trivia, while its formal obverse, the five smaller “Progression” sculptures, suggest a sequence of explosions from within as a delicately textured spherical cell sacrifices itself in order to replicate. Jiménez's five bleached-white plaques of internet company logos — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat — posit an archaeology of the ephemeral, and would make for wonderful tiles in some future corporate temple done à la Frank Lloyd Wright.

Gale Antokal "Intensity of Silence" at Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica, June 3-26, 2022

Gale Antokal's body of work, on view in the Main Gallery, is aptly titled Intensity of Silence. Intensity is defined as extreme degree of strength, force, energy or feeling. The drawings made with graphite, flour, ash and pastel on paper are forceful in their quietude. The medium addresses the artist's personal iconography, with ash the finite end of all material, while flour is the sustenance of life. Antokal shares that the vulnerability of her materials "serves as a metaphor for the human condition that has potential of being erased and can vanish in a brief moment”.

Her images on the paper appear in a space that is undefined evoking a sense of mystery that invites the viewer to linger trying to discern what's beyond the edges. In Place 6, a solitary rower is centered on the paper in such a way that you think you can hear the quiet gentle rhythm of the oars in the water. One wonders is the background clouds or trees on the shore? Where has the individual come from and where they are going? Are there others?

Inspiration is taken from photographic collections in books and online archives, with figures and transportation conveyances seemingly from another time and a place that once was, though the artist has noted that recent works are motivated by stories of recent war, trauma migration and loss.

Gale Antokal was born in New York, New York, and received her BFA (1980) and MFA from the California College of the Arts in 1984. In 1992 Antokal received a Visual Arts Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University in the Department of Art and Art History. Antokal held several visiting artist positions and teaching positions including the San Francisco Art Institute, Instructor of Art History at the Lehrhaus Institute, and the American College in Jerusalem. She was an affiliate faculty member in the JSSItaly program in Civita Castellana, Italy in 2015.

The public is invited to enjoy a conversation between Gale Antokal and Richard Whittaker (founder, Works & Conversations) on Sunday, June 26, 3:30 pm. This talk is presented through Sanchez Art Center's free art education and engagement programming.

Sanchez Art Center is located at 1220 Linda Mar Blvd in Pacifica, about a mile east of Highway 1. Following opening night, the galleries are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1–5 pm, through June 26. For more information, email, or call 650.355.1894. 

A World Free of Plastic Imagined, curated by Hanna Regev, Ruth's Table, San Francisco

A World Free of Plastic Imagined exhibition aims to call attention to and expand our understanding of the issue of plastic pollution through the lens of Bay Area artists and inspire each of us to consider how we can all engage on this increasingly critical issue to secure the wellbeing of our planet.

In a contemporary culture of consumption, the negative consequences of the excessive use of plastic are real and harmful to the environment and our health. If the current pattern is to continue, it would have damaging effects on our ecosystems and threaten the stability of the ocean life. Imagine if we could reverse and change this pattern. 

The exhibition brings together a group of artists to send a strong message about the damaging impact of plastic pollution our planet through photography, mixed media work, assemblage, installation, and painting. Some works in the exhibition approach the issue creatively by documenting, repurposing, and reusing plastic waste. A number of works bring together arts and science to communicate critical data about plastic pollution, shine light on solutions aimed to mitigate the crisis, and help inspire change.

The result is an impactful visual narrative that aims to educate, raise awareness, and offer a provocative look at the impact we each have on our world, and a reminder that small individual changes can bring about major and necessary change.

Jerry Barrish
Irene Carvajal
DeWitt Cheng
Antonio Cortez
Tess Felix
Michal Gavish
Tanya Knoop
Liz Mamorsky
Federico Panigue
Dianne Platner
Ruth Tabancay

Opening reception was June 9, 2022. Show continues to August 26
Ruth’s Table, 3160 21st Street, San Francisco
Tuesday- Friday  10am-5pm
First Saturdays of Each Month 11am-3pm
or by appointment

Duane Michals "Portraits" at Crocker Museum, Sacramento, 2018

Duane Michals: The Portraitist
Crocker Art Museum

It’s an era of celebrity worship—and, with Instagram selfies, of democratic self-aggrandizement—so the timing of this large exhibition of Duane Michals’ photographic portraits of our cultural royalty, with a few commoner friends and relatives thrown in, could not be better timed. “Portraits,” curated by Linda Benedict-Jones, and presented by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, features more than 125 photos—“recently discovered by the artist in his New York apartment,” according to the museum press materials.  Old and young familiar faces—musicians, actors and actresses, artists, writers— appear, but seen in unfamiliar ways: personally, and idiosyncratically interpreted.

Michals, a self-taught photographer, has had a long career photographing for publications, but came to art-world notice in the early 1970s with Sequences, a book of narrative sequences of staged/posed photos that married age-old themes—youth, love, loss, old age, death, transfiguration—with the spare, cool, minimalist aesthetic of that period. These multi-shot mini-stories might be stills from a movie made conjointly by Michelangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders, preceding by two decades CIndy Sherman’s famous fake-film stills. Influenced by writers as well as artists, including Balthus, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Eakins, René Magritte (whose memorable multi-exposure portraits are on view), and Walt Whitman, Michals, who, born in 1932, and an exact contemporary of Andy Warhol (whose portraits are also included) balked at the limitations and superficiality of ‘pure’ photography. (Warhol famously embraced superficiality.) He defiled the sanctity of the pristine photographic objet-d’art by jotting ironic or even at times elegiac inscriptions about the subjects on the prints in a distinctive spidery, ultra-thin handwriting. Michals: “My writing grew out of my frustration with photography. If I took a picture of you ... it would tell me nothing of you as a person.... Sixty percent of my work is photography and the rest is writing.” Like some other celebrated photographers (e.g., Walker Evans, and Andre Kertesz, who appears in Michals’ homage to Hockney), he ventured beyond photography into painting as well, repurposing old tintypes with geometric motifs in oil paint.

It’s extremely difficult to sum up a six-decade career in a few hundred words, but certain themes are present throughout the portraits, which are, like good portrait paintings. as much about the artist as the subject: a respect for individuality; a recognition that life is transient, yet miraculous; and a delight, sometimes whimsical, sometimes ironic, in the power of the imagination and the ambiguities of reality—hence his interest in creative personalities. Michals writes of his subject, the Romanian absurdist playwright, Eugene Ionesco: “Always hovering over his writing is the melancholy of our essential loneliness, and yet he found ways of illuminating this through a filter of humor and satire.” This might be Michals’ credo as well. He annotates another ‘imaginary’ portrait with these octogenarian words of wisdom:

I’m a miracle. We’re walking, talking miracles. You probably gave to be on your death-bed to realize that you’re a miracle, just when it’s too late. But it’s possible to know now, saints know now. If there’s some way that we could understand that being alive is not simply a matter of consuming things and using deodorants. It really is a matter of being a walking, talking, once-in-a-lifetime offer in the universe that’s never going to happen again.

Some noteworthy ‘straight’ portraits—aside from shots of Meryl Streep and Barbara Streisand at the beginnings of their careers—are Veronica Lake, past her glamor-girl peekaboo era in the 1940s, in middle age, laughing at a hotel restaurant where she once worked, while a customer seated behind her booth reacts in surprise; Toshiro Mifune, standing beneath a leafy park canopy of foliage, caught talking, and rather less superhuman than usual, by Michals’ shutter; and a young Carol Burnett, demonstrating the extreme flexibility of her “Freaky Fingers.” Michals examines the human condition in “Self-Portrait as if I Were Dead,” a double-exposure shot of the artist contemplating, with equanimity, his sheeted body on a morgue gurney; and affecionate portraits of departed friends and lovers. Michals’ enjoyment of mirrors, reflections and the theater of self-presentation shines forth in his five-photo sequence of Tilda Swinton as Sibyl, as she progressively removing the veils covering her face; Swinton again, in the Magrittean “Mr. Backwards Forwards,” as an “androgynous phantom” in a man’s suit who rotates her head 180 degrees to look into a handheld mirror, from which she regards us indirectly, like Perseus avoiding Medusa’s gaze; the film director François Truffaut, standing in a darkened hotel room, silhouetted against the window, reflected in two mirrors on adjacent walls; Ludmila Tcherina, the ‘older’ ballerina, Irina, in the 1948 film classic, The Red Shoes, peering at us from a handheld mirror against a rain-streaked view of Paris; a triple view of the artist Ray Johnson and his storefront reflections; Joseph Cornell, reduced by the camera to a Giacomettian wraith;  the author Joan Didion, her features seen through openings in a sheet of cut paper (or is it a photographed photograph?), with her face framed by the shadow of her head and shoulders. Notable for their good-natured kidding are: two images of Chuck Close, seen up close and from afar; two photos, shot years apart, of Sting resembling a young Danny Kaye, and Danny Kaye, an old Sting; and René and Georgette Magritte, holding hands, the clasp unseen behind a tree trunk. Susan Sontag, also photographed here, as a young prodigy, wrote, “All photographs are memento mori,” but some achieve the status of immortal “privileged moment[s]” that join “the image-world that bids to outlast us all.” Some of them are miracles.