Time for arts round-up
by Sura Wood
It may be a coincidence or simply "good timing," but artists have ol' father time on the mind this month, as evidenced by work at three city venues.
Swiss-American video artist, composer and punk-rock enthusiast Christian Marclay constructed his latest piece, a triumph of editing, from thousands of film clips referencing the passage of time, and assembled them for a 24-hour video montage. Drawn from multiple genres and covering 70 years of film history, his opus includes images of clocks and watches, and famous cinematic moments from silent films, action movies and Westerns. Its presence at SFMOMA at this particular moment could be construed as a countdown to the museum's closing on June 2.
Among the disparate film clips: High Noon, The Avengers, American Gigolo, Once Upon a Time in the West, Mighty Aphrodite, Easy Rider, and let's not forget the memorable sight of the chronically ill-fated Harold Lloyd clinging to a clock's hand perilously high above a busy street in Safety Last. SFMOMA offers several full 24-hour viewing ops in the fourth-floor galleries every weekend in May, in addition to screenings during regular hours. Be forewarned: watching Marclay's marvel is addictive; prepare to lose track of time.
Marclay is also part of The Time is Now, a group exhibition now at John Berggruen Gallery which features Robert Rauschenberg, Tom McKinley, Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Taryn Simon, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Philip Guston, Jasper Johns and others. Addressing past, present and future in a variety of media, they illustrate the ways, both metaphorical and literal, the inexorable passing of time, minute by minute, keeps us in touch with our mortality. (Through May 4.)
Over at the Exploratorium's gigantic new waterfront pad, Tim Hunkin, a frequent collaborator on ingenious exhibits there, has devised The Tinkerer's Clock. A delight on multiple levels, the interactive tower sculpture with its big numerals, exposed mechanisms, and plenty of gears, pulleys and levers visitors can manipulate, is a large-scale, hyperactive timepiece structured around a column in the middle of the museum. Small moving figures can be triggered through hand-crank devices; and, in a possible homage to Lloyd, an image of a teenage girl hangs on for dear life from the number 1. On the hour, the clock's giant lit-up numbers swing out to form a round clock face, and a baton ceremoniously strikes a thunderous gong at the top of the structure before the apparatus folds back into itself.
Also of note around town: Violence and dread, the stuff of horror movie tropes, inform The Modern Monster, a group show at the ever-inventive Queen's Nails gallery, where Michelle Blade, Anthony Discenza, Valerie Hegarty, Jillian McDonald and George Pfau explore threats from without and the demons within. Of course, it's our own questions and projections that really scare us. Wander into a darkened room and you'll come face to face with same in the perplexing and troubling phenomena of McDonald's 48-minute video, Valley of the Deer. Shot in the mist-laden, verdant hillsides of rural Scotland, sans dialogue, with rumblings in the distance and ominous chanting on the soundtrack, one half-expects the Druids to suddenly appear. McDonald assembles creatures wearing bunny suits or animal masks, some with horns or antlers; in at least one instance, a character dons a deer-bone face totem and a kilt. Whether they're seen from a distance swaying in fields dotted with lonely stone houses or standing their ground in a deserted wood, one is left to wonder if a fertility rite or a human sacrifice is on the agenda. Valerie Hegarty's painting "George Washington Melted 4" offers a portrait of the father of our country as we've never seen him, his head caving in and dripping away like the Wicked Witch of the East; and Anthony Discenza's video The Things combines the 1951 and 1982 iterations of The Thing, the sci-fi chestnut about unlucky scientists who discover an alien craft in the Arctic. Discenza also contributes yellowed parchment pages from "The Master at Work," a faux Poe short story that reads: "Harker studied the room with the eye of a trained aesthete. There, Harker thought, Perfect. He was especially satisfied with the way the dead girl's eyes matched the Monet hanging over the sofa." (Through May 3.)
A successful director of TV commercials and music videos for Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Madonna, the Venezuelan-born Cristobal Valecillos has turned his considerable talents to another form of packaging: cardboard constructions of contemporary family life that he has digitally photographed and printed on metallic paper for American Family, his debut solo exhibition at McLoughlin Gallery. He also erected a full-scale model of an American house forged from recycled materials and paper products that visitors can walk through. Call it art without waste, Valecillos says he's converting society's detritus into beauty. You be the judge. Rather than the typical white-bread families of the 1950s, he presents modern multi-ethnic nuclear units dressed in paper fashions. In "Under Surveillance," a demure family group, putting forward an image tailored for public consumption, is gathered in one room, while a sullen juvenile-delinquent-to-be lurks just outside the door. Here's hoping he doesn't play with matches. (Through April 27.)