Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Mixed Bag at Yerba Buena

When I have been asked to describe the art they show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, I consistently say, “It’s a mixed bag.” There have been some good things there and some that are really great. Nick Cave’s Soundsuits back in 2009 were spectacular. Probably the best art shown in the Bay Area that year. And then of course, the mixed bag always has a lot of work that leaves me to wonder (and we’ll leave it at that).

Last night I came up on the second floor at Yerba Buena. There is an exhibit of work by the artists Lauren DiCioccio. The first thing I saw was a row of plastic shopping bags hanging on a line up near the ceiling. I rolled my eyes. This is the sort of “art” that just makes me crazy. I get a little closer and realize the bags are actually not plastic. The bags are made from organza. All the imagery on the bags, text, logos, etc has been carefully embroidered. At that point I immediately appreciated the artistry, but still was not quite convinced. My initial reaction was that it was a lot of work to make something that, in its original form, was just plain ugly. But then I turned the corner and it all started to make sense.

Lauren DiCioccio has done some amazing work. Recreating everyday items like plastic bags, newspapers, water bottles and notebooks. She makes the items out of fabrics like organza, muslin and felt and then embroiders the imagery onto the pieces. She could be described as a realist working in fabric and thread instead of paint. Her timing is perfect. She is creating images of items that are on the verge of disappearing form our daily lives. As things like the plastic shopping bag and printed newspaper become things of the past, DiCioccio’s work will be an artistic record. In the future, her work will find a home in museums. Shown in the same rooms where we see those old fashioned, über-realistic paintings of dinner tables covered with a bounty of food. I know just where they’ll go in the de Young.

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