“A man with a knife lunges toward a man and they fight,” scrolls across an LED sign in bold white letters, “the second man hits the first with a baseball bat and tries to inject him with a sedative, another man enters the room and is thrown into a fireplace mantel.”

This long sign is propped haphazardly against the back corner ofEt al., the gallery tucked beneath a dry cleaners between the Financial District and Chinatown. Upon first read, it’s unclear what sort of account is being displayed across this single line of text — does it narrate a true crime, or perhaps a scene from a movie, novel or television show? Multimedia artist Anthony Discenza’s current solo exhibition, ‘Trouble Sleeping,’ running through Feb. 27, is an investigation into this space between subject, apparatus and meaning. Continue reading

Harsh light reflects off the pale skin of a naked man kneeling on the floor, his hands and head caught between the wood slats of a pillory. His body is held in torture in a suspended state of grueling physical, psychological and social punishment.

It’s not everyday one encounters public punishment like this, but artist and musician M. Lamar jolts and startles throughout in his solo exhibition Negrogothic, on view in the Walter and McBean Galleries through Feb. 28. Continue reading

It’s tough not to be dazzled by Glamorgeddon: the Spectacle, on view until Feb. 4, 2015 in SOMArts’ Main Gallery. The lofty gallery walls confidently don hot pink, along with neon colors and splashy camouflage. Glamour, in this sense, takes the visual articulation of consumer and commercial desire up a notch or two. Objects from everyday life and popular culture are refigured and dressed up. Sparkles, a roving hot pink limousine, glitter, swag—this is a bedazzled bonanza.

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Hands up, umbrellas out, hoodies on, fists raised — the icons of protest have long played a significant role in movements of social change and revolution. From flower power to Rosie the Riveter to the rainbow flag, icons have momentous social potency and live on as cultural currency that is exchanged, needed and protected sometimes long past the initial movements of their birth.

Icons are sought after and are coming to be needed more and more. Perhaps it is easier to understand an image than it is to know the world, let alone how to change it. Continue reading

In May, KQED’s Christian L. Frock asked her Facebook network of friends, colleagues, artists, writers and curators, “what do you need?” The answers were so thought provoking, sincere and self-reflexive, that it prompted me to think about how the needs for funding, community-building, time, space, etc. are actually met. Continue reading

Racks and shelves of colorful clothing, textiles, tchotchkes, tote bags, tea, cassette tapes and records fill the stalls that occupy Southern Exposure’s spacious gallery. But these are not your typical wares; fists clenched in protest emblazon enough of the goods to start a rhythm and printed blood pours down the sides of throw pillows.Theory of Survival: Fabrications(September 5-October 25), organized by artist Taraneh Hemami, brings together twelve local Iranian artists to grapple with the politics and visual language of dissent. This gallery-turned-bazaar is full of goods to buy and sell, but like any marketplace it is also a site for much cultural exchange. Continue reading

Recent resurfacing of controversy surrounding Woody Allen has made us — and many others — consider whether an artist’s work can be separated from his or her personal life or public reputation. This subject has long been debated — from James Brown to Roman Polanski to Michael Jackson. It is difficult to untangle public perception of an artist from the meaning we, as hungry consumers, attach to a singular work of art. But if we have a hard time separating our own relationship and context from a work of art, then doesn’t it make sense to consider how that work is inherently influenced by the life experiences of its maker? Continue reading