Exhibitions , San Francisco


“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

The artists in this exhibition look deeply into problems besetting the contemporary family. In each case, a family is physically or emotionally torn. Perhaps the intact, happy family has always been an unrealistic ideal achievable only in anodyne 1950s TV sitcoms. However, the happy home based on traditional assumptions seems increasingly fantastical and “family values” as such are not only being called into question, but the very phrase is now code for regressive politics. Richard Billingham records with unflinching honesty his own severely dysfunctional family in Fishtank (1998). In Pork and Milk (2004) French artist Valérie Mréjen interviews young Israelis who have abandoned their ultra-orthodox families in order to lead secular lives, whereas the separation of mother and child in Mona Hatoum’s video Measures of Distance (1989) is a result of the 1975 Lebanese civil war. The Russian collective Chto Delat’s comical A Border Musical (2013) reveals differing cultural expectations of family life, while Untitled (2009) by Israeli-born artist Keren Cytter features a backstage rehearsal that ends in a violent act against a family member. Ryan Trecartin, in one of his earliest videos Kitchen Girl (2001), takes maternal frustration to hysterical extremes. Two evening screenings continue the theme: Continuity (2012) by Berlin-based artist Omer Fast deals with the psychological ravages of war, while French artist Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard recount a failed attempt at a lasting relationship in Double-Blind (1992).

Opening reception 5:30pm-9:30pm, event and one-time screening of Continuity (2012) by Omer Fast at 8pm followed by a conversation with Steve Seid, Video Curator at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Second event: Screening of Double-Blind (1992) by Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard on Wednesday, September 18 at 7pm followed by a conversation with Dore Bowen, Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, San Jose State University.

About the curator, Constance Lewallen was Matrix curator at the University Art Museum, Berkeley (now the University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) from 1980 to 88, Senior Curator there from 1998 to 2007, and currently the BAM’s Adjunct Curator. As Senior Curator, she curated many major exhibitions, among them: Joe Brainard, A Retrospective (2001), Dream of the Audience: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-1982) (2001), Everything Matters: Paul Kos, a Retrospective (2003), Ant Farm (1968-1978) (2004), A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s (2007), State of Mind: New California Art ca. 1970 (with Karen Moss), 2011. Her exhibition, Allen Ruppersberg: You and Me or the Art of Give and Take was presented at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in fall 2009. She was West Coast Field Editor for caa.reviews (College Art Association’s online review site) from 2010-2013.

Exhibition dates: Saturday, September 14 – Sunday, September 22, 2013. Gallery hours: Saturday & Sunday, 12-5pm, or by appointment.