Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer at Pier 24

There is a new exhibit up at Pier 24, so it was time to go back. I still am in awe of the show I saw last winter. The current exhibit is another stellar offering from their collection. I am beginning to think San Francisco can boast the best museum for contemporary photography on the West Coast and one of the best in the world.

There is a nice series of the Eadweard Muybridge Victorian images of San Francisco. They were taken before the 1906 earthquake and fire. Below each image is a corresponding, more recent, photo by Mark Klett. They help provide some orientation, but as nearly everything in the Muybridge photos was destroyed, there are few similarities between the sets of images. The Muybridge prints are pristine and amazingly clear. San Francisco looks stunning. It took me a moment to grasp that part of the effect is that these photos were created at a time when we truly were a Victorian city. Every bit of trim and bric-a-brac is intact. Even though I live right below Alamo Square, Victorian San Francisco is not quite what it once was. The exteriors of about half the remaining Victorians have been altered in significant ways — everything from Art Deco, stucco “modernizations” to the sacrifices of front yards for parking garages to some really tragic asbestos or aluminum siding.

The show also includes a new series of work by Larry Sultan. Perhaps best described as landscapes. They show the intrusion of mcmansion subdivisions into wild California. Like so much of his work, far into the future it will be used as a document of our current era. Sultan is one of the Muybridge’s of the current Turn of the Century.

One of the reasons I go to see work in person is to expose myself to new work and new artists. I am wondering how I have gone so far without knowing the work of Henry Wessel.

You have to plan to go see Pier 24, reserve it in advance and maybe play hooky from work. Right now, it is still a local treasure that we can take advantage of before it really gets discovered.

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