The Art and Artists of Way Out West
California is a frontier state, the Western end of the line for generations of explorers and pioneers. The Gold Rush, Yosemite, Hollywood, the 1960s San Francisco counterculture, Silicon Valley, Cesar Chavez, the gay rights movement, and countless more: California’s history, ideology, and iconography have all seeped into and shaped global culture. For billions of people, California is an idea as much as a place.
Way Out West revisits the California experience by transforming outdoor advertising into new space for art to live and breathe. The month-long installation — which spans billboards, transit shelters, bus takeovers, and other alternative space throughout San Francisco’s transitional inner Mission neighborhood — features art from contemporary artists with roots in California.
Brett Amory / Apex / Pakayla Rae Biehn / Anthony Discenza
Double Zero (Annie Vought and Hannah Ireland) / Jeremy Fish
Casey Gray / Desirée Holman / Chris Johanson / Jet Martinez
Alicia McCarthy / Alia Penner / Andrew Schoultz
Dave Schubert / Jen Stark / Zio Ziegler
and featuring artwork by Creativity Explored artists Andrew Li, John Patrick McKenzie, and Kate Thompson
Curated by Tova Lobatz and Jenny Sharaf
BRETT AMORY paints still scenes of people waiting. His hauntingly beautiful compositions almost always include a figure, an abstracted landscape and a dramatic light source, utilizing the painterly negative space. Amory’s process often begins walking around his neighborhood in Oakland, photographing people he finds interesting, documenting his surroudings. Painting anonymous commuters allows Brett to explore concepts of alienation in contemporary society. Brett’s loosely painted figures exist in the past, present and future, where time and space are left ambiguous. The viewer is invited in to contemplate our own existential crisis. Amory’s work has been exhibited in galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and New York. In 2012, The San Francisco Bay Guardian named him artist of the year with a cover story. He has also been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post and New American Paintings.
“I’m hoping to bring attention to those mundane moments, we all experience living in cities, as we wait to be some place else.”
APEX (b. 1978, San Francisco, CA), also known as Ricardo Richey, is an artist who creates colorful abstract patterns through the use of spray paint. His paintings are layered and complex, capturing a moment of energetic movement. Part of the Gestalt Collective that engages in collaborative murals in San Francisco, Apex curated mural projects on Bluxome Alley, other districts of San Francisco, and the SFMOMA display windows in association with St. Johns Community Center (San Francisco, 2002). His work has been shown extensively both in the Bay Area and abroad. Recent group exhibitions include Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA (2009); Bay Area Now 4, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2005), White Walls, and the Luggage Store Gallery. Apex was the artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts (2007), and was featured in documentaries and publications regarding the Mission District in San Francisco.
Pakayla Rae Biehn
PAKAYLA RAE BIEHN was born and raised in California. She creates intricate oil paintings on canvas, rooted in themes of nature and memory. Biehn’s mutlple-exposure image style parallels the symptoms of her vision disorder. Beyond the ties to her eyesight, her collection of paintings touches on the polarities of subjective personal experience and the tenuousness of memories.
Each piece holds a delicate balance between a part of the natural world and a responsive figure, creating a distinct visual language with an element of ambiguous narrative. Pakayla is currently preparing for a solo show at San Francisco's Park Life in early 2015.
ANTHONY DISCENZA is a conceptual artist living and working in the Bay Area. Discenza received his Masters in Film and Video from California College of the Arts and his Bachelors in Studio Art from Wesleyan University. His work is directed by a preoccupation with interrupting the flow of information in various formats. While his practice has been primarily video-based, it has also taken the form of other mediums such as text, imagery, and computer generated sound. Discenza’s work has been presented widely around the United States and globally, including with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the United Nations Pavilion in Shanghai, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Australian Center for the Moving Image, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Getty Center and the University of California Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. His work has garnered critical acclaim in Artforum, Artweek, and ArtReview, among other publications. In 2012 he received the Alumni New Works Award from Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California. He is also a current professor at CCA.
"I don’t have much to say about my piece—hopefully, it speaks for itself. I will say that my participation in the Art City Project is motivated by a desire to get people to consider why, as a culture, we seem to be so willing to let advertising be such a ubiquitous presence in our lives. Is that something we really want? If not, why are we all so accepting of it? Why do we allow ourselves to be forced to involuntarily look at ads all the time? Aren’t there other things we could be looking at?"
Double Zero (Annie Vought and Hannah Ireland)
DOUBLE ZERO is the collective duo of Hannah Ireland and Annie Vought. Their interdisciplinary collaboration builds on a friendship over twenty years and investigates how identity is shaped in relation to those closest to us, the boundaries and connections between individuals, and the different modes of taking up space in the world. Annie Vought received her MFA from Mills College in 2009 and was the recipient of the Murphy Cadogan Contemporary Art Award and the Herringer Family Foundation Award 2008. Hannah Ireland received her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2010 and was the recipient of the Barclay Simpson Award. Recently, they were awarded the Irvine Fellowship residency, at the Montalvo Center for the Art. The experiments there are the direct inspiration for this project.
For "Call Us", Double Zero documents a performative moment of sourcing various materials around the Mission district and camouflaging themselves in retail objects. After archiving their ensembles in the vein of a high fashion advertisement, they created a hotline that invites YOU to participate in their social shenanigans. Double Zero has an active local-area-code hotline, 415-508-5652. Please call to celebrate your awesomeness and that of others.
JEREMY FISH hails from a graphic design background; his projects with Nike and rap artist Aesop Rock have lead to heightened visibility, while partnerships with Upper Playground and 5024sf (San Francisco, CA) have allotted for his recognition in the contemporary art sphere. Bridging the gap between popular conceptions of "high" vs. "low" art. Fish's Orwellian-influenced acrylic paintings and carved wood statues have garnered exposure internationally – from Mexico City to Zurich. His fascination with an industrial existence and its relationship to the human condition creates accessible and collectively biographical environments, many of which toe the line between affectionately sentimental and abstractly harrowing. A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, Jeremy Fish (born 1974, Albany, NY) received his BFA in 1998, and has exhibited in Mexico City, San Francisco, New York, Laguna Beach, Milan, Zurich, Tokyo, Munich, and Los Angeles. He has shown in collectives and group shows throughout the world, including Switzerland, Japan and Germany, and self-produced a number of international "Mobile Art Tours." His work is featured in the permanent collection of the Laguna Art Museum (CA).
CASEY GRAY paints the California that is in all of our minds.A master with spray paint, Gray utilizes colorful cans as his primary medium, developing uniquely innovative masking techniques along the way. The result is an abstract visual language where sunshine rules and fantastical dreamscapes are transformed into psychedelic still lifes. Casey’s work is heavily influenced by Dutch Golden Age painting, skateboard culture, op and pop art, graffiti, cyberculture and computer graphics. His attention to detail and visual decadence assert a presence that demands to be noticed. Casey received his MFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2010 and has since shown extensively throughout the United States. His work has been included in group shows at Circuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas; Breeze Block Gallery, Portland; Nudashank, Baltimore; Gallery Yves LaRoche, Montreal; 941 Geary, San Francisco, among others. Solo exhibitions include TROPIC(2013), Garden Party (2012), Style of Eye (2011) and ill Romantic (2010) all at White Walls in San Francisco.
“I wanted the piece to convey not just West Coast culture and spirt, but my California. Many of the symbols and objects have personal significance to me and my upbringing, as well as relation to more general and cliched ideas of California. The orange shoelace represents the Golden Gate Bridge, the cactus is for places like Joshua Tree and the Mojave, the banana slug is for Big Sur or Santa Cruz and so on.”
DESIRéE HOLMAN is a conceptual artist based in Oakland, California. Her multi-sensory work positions theatrical tools, like costumes or props, in settings that illuminate ideas of identity, knowledge, and the complexities of the human psyche. Holman utilizes references to popular culture as well as subcultures in order to explore concepts around personal life experiences and how we interpret visual culture. In this space, the artist’s work reveals a complex dialogue about truth and the experience of the ‘real’ world. Holman holds a Masters degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Earning critical acclaim for her work, Holman was awarded a San Francisco Modern Museum of Art SECA award in 2008 and in 2007 the Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue award. Solo exhibitions of her work include the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Berkeley Art Museum’s MATRIX program. International exhibitions of Holman’s work include the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art, Hessel Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Milan’s BnD, and Toronto’s YYZ. Reviews of Holman’s work appeared in numerous publications including Artforum, Los Angeles Times, NY Arts, Artillery, San Francisco Chronicle and Artweek. She is represented by Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco, CA.
The imagery in ‘From Troglodyte to Sophont’ is gleaned from carefully hand-rendered drawings of two masked figures; one is masked as an ape, the other, an extra terrestrial. The imagery speaks to popular concepts characterizing humanity. The term troglodyte describes a simpleton or brute who may live in a hole in the ground or in a cave. A troglodyte is emotionally reactive and potentially dangerous; s/he is without acute powers of reasoning. Pan troglodyte is also the scientific name of the chimpanzee. On the other hand, sophont, a term coined by science fiction author Poul Anderson, describes an intelligent being capable of extraordinary reasoning and introspection. Sophont is also associated with the Buddhist term “sentient being”—those with the ability to feel or perceive.
CHRIS JOHANSON is an artist in every sense of the word. Dedicated to exploring the human condition through his own art practice, Johanson critiques the cultural phenomenons of modern life such as psychotherapy, cult spirituality, consumerism, capitalism and well, everything. Chris’ clever use of humor and storytelling challenges the status quo and makes viewers question their own existence. As a child of the South Bay, Chris was deeply invested in the punk/skate scene and had been “making” and creating visual images since he was a teenager.
Johanson has exhibited extensively in group and solo shows nationally and internationally, including solo shows at Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco, Deitch Projects and Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, Altman Siegel in San Francisco, and Galerie Georg Kargl in Vienna. He was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the 2005 Istanbul Biennial, the 2006 Berlin Biennial. In 2003, Johanson received a SECA award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He also operates "Awesome Vistas," a record label that produces limited-edition vinyl in collaboration with musicians and artists. Johanson was born in San Jose, California and currently splits his time between Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.
Andrew Li (b. 1965) is a busy man. He always seems to be hurrying off somewhere, whether to class at San Francisco City College, or into the studio at Creativity Explored; his energy is boundless. This is reflected in his loose, gestural drawings and rapid art making process.
A true product of his native Shanghai, Li’s most frequent subject matter is cityscapes, machines, and groups of people. These subjects, like the artist himself, are almost always in motion, moving through cities rendered with a precise, selective attention to detail and perspective. There is little distinction between the form and content of Li’s work. All aspects, from ink-splattered process to finished piece, are integrated. What emerges encapsulates how the eye reads the urban environment; how it latches on to certain details and summarizes others, how it makes sense of all the dizzying activity encountered on a busy street.
His artwork is specific yet universal, and because of this, has become very popular. In 2009 his rendering of a San Francisco Muni bus and its passengers was chosen to adorn an Actions REALized skateboard deck as one facet of our partnership with Real Skateboards and Deluxe Distribution. He also had a solo show at the Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco. Li has been with Creativity Explored since 1990.
JET MARTINEZ is a painter and muralist based out of Oakland, CA. His work is colorful and vibrant and often includes imagery inspired by Mexican folk art- embroidery and pottery designs from the state of Oaxaca, small animal figurines and bark paper paintings from the state of Guerrero and Huichol paintings from the state of Jalisco. Jet also served as one of the directors for the Clarion Alley Mural Project in SF’s Mission District. Martinez champions that creating and celebrating beauty can be an act of revolution in these turbulent times. Martinez received his B.F.A in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2001 and studied Spanish literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1992-1995). Martinez is the recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s “Art in Storefronts” Grant (2009), a two time recipient of the SFAC’s “Street SmARTS” grant (2010, 2011), the Port of Oakland/ Oakland Arts Council Grant for Artists (2005). He was awarded the Ivan Majdrakov Award in Painting, SFAI (2000-2001).
“This painting of the California Poppy is a simple love poem to the place I live in and love. I'm celebrating the small things that make Cali great. Nature, perseverance and exuberance.”
ALICIA McCARTHY is an Oakland-based artist who makes abstract paintings on found materials. Her work emerges from the punk street culture and folk ethos of the mid-1990s Mission District and continues to embody a DIY- “urban decay” formalism. The work always is a coming together of skill, expression and immediacy, showcasing the artists’ hand and thoughtful gestures. McCarthy received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1994 and her MFA from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. She has also spent time at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the New York Studio School. McCarthy’s work has been exhibited in venues including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and The Luggage Store in San Francisco; and Deitch Projects and RARE Gallery in New York. Honors include an artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts and a 2013 Artadia Award. McCarthy currently teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute and is represented by Jack Hanley Gallery, New York.
John Patrick McKenzie
John McKenzie was born in 1962 in the Philippines. McKenzie moved to the United States with his family in 1964. He currently lives in San Francisco’s Mission District and has been working at Creativity Explored since 1989.
Text functions as the basis of McKenzie’s practice, and is used for both its visual and scriptural qualities. The crowding and shape of the closed and filled intricacies of his calligraphy add depth and material to the work, and allow it to serve simultaneously as a visual image and as poetry. McKenzie’s original script and arrangement of text are tactile examples of his interpretation of the world, and can be both hilarious and poignant.
McKenzie’s process is based on a complex and mysterious repetitive sequencing that methodically adds layers of nuance to his chosen subjects, which are most often people and objects from pop culture, current events, and his immediate surroundings. Swirling, multi-angled, and disorienting, the placement of his language comments on the contradictory, sometimes overwhelming, nature of media attention and celebrity.
McKenzie's work was featured in Create, a traveling exhibition that first opened at University Of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in 2011.
ALIA PENNER is an artist whose identity is part of her work in the best way, in that there is no separation between art and life. Her work is scattered all around L.A., from her loopy ’70s-inspired Cinefamily posters to her work designing t-shirt prints for Shepard Fairey’s company, Obey. She was recently commissioned by the Andy Warhol Foundation and Diane Von Furstenberg for a video campaign. But she’s also become an online style darling for her hippie aesthetics and kooky collection of vintage dresses. This isn’t surprising, given that Penner comes from the bohemian enclave of Topanga Canyon, and spent her childhood dreaming about bright, psychedelic color. Her father was a 3D cinematographer and the two hope to collaborate on an important project in the future. Recently, the laid-back Penner’s stylish, retro illustrations have taken her into the epicenter of the very un-laid-back world of fashion. She’s been set designing and photographing for cult indie fashion magazine Lula, worked with model Erin Wasson and Missoni among others, and just came back from a trip to Paris, where she did a collaboration with Colette, the Parisian dictator of cool. Penner mixes fashion, music, art and pop culture beautifully, creating an identity of the new bohemian.
ANDREW SCHOULTZ makes work that charts the history of man and nature. His murals, paintings, installations, sculptures and drawings are meticulously rendered, combining imagery that is both familiar and fantastical. Globalism and capitalism are recurring themes in Schoultz's compositions and as an artist, he aims to highlight social and political issues. Andrew Schoultz has a studio practice that is dedicated, obsessed and generative- one piece seems to effortlessly flow into the next. Some of Andrew’s influences include underground comics, clipart from the 1900s, medieval renderings, his San Francisco community of artists, street art and skate culture. Schoultz is also known for his cast of characters, including blue birds, running horses, empty eyes, pyramids, gold bricks, distorted building and tornadoes. Schoultz has had solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Philadelphia, Rotterdam, Boston, London, Portland, Detroit and Milan. He has been included in group exhibitions at the Andy Warhol Museum (PA), Torrance Art Museum (CA), Havana Biennial (Cuba), Hyde Park Arts Center (IL), Laguna Art Museum (CA), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (CA), among others.
”I wanted the piece to reflect that of a pirated Billboard- the image to also be basic or simple enough that it could perhaps be perceived as being a gorilla, or reclaimed billboard.... in other words, it could possibly be questioned by the viewer, whether it was done legally or not... entering into a dialogue about public art, "street art", and more importantly illegal graffiti bombing. Thematically - the image is about surveillance, and monitoring of our activities as humans living in a post-contemporary world.”
DAVE SCHUBERT is a photographer deeply committed to documenting the street culture of San Francisco. For the last twenty-so years, Schubert has been capturing fleeting moments in black and white film on his 35mm camera. Dave works quickly, looks out for passing compositions and admittedly, uses a bit of luck while taking pictures. It is not uncommon to catch up carrying five cameras at a time, each with multiple lenses. His images feel risk-taking, adventurous and raw, echoing the rhythm of everyday life. The viewer can feel Dave’s gaze behind the camera, as he sometimes gives up his own safety to get the shot. Recently, Schubert has shown at Electric Works in SF and Muddgutts in NYC.
JEN STARK’s art practice explores color and form and does not hold back. Her work exists between painting and sculpture, always optically charged and meticulously crafted. Stark’s aesthetic is derived from a mix of sacred geometry, microscopic patterns in nature, wormholes, sliced anatomy, Op Art, tropes of psychedelic art and abstraction for abstraction’s sake. Jen transforms paper into layers of prismatic color spectrums that are playful and easy to get lost in. Her concepts are rooted in ideas of replication and infinity. Stark’s commitment to detail and complex geometries result in hypnotic iterations that you have to see to believe. Jenn has exhibited nationally and internationally, everything from shows at the Smithsonian to The Hole in NYC.
Kate Thompson (b. 1989) conveys elaborate narratives and creates intriguing scenes of daily life through her distinctive line drawings. “I like to tell stories . . . I like to draw things where people are doing things, people on bikes, on buses,” she explains. These people sometimes emphasize individualized characteristics, like distinctive hairdos and ornate fashions, and sometimes they are more indistinguishable, conveying a more collective populace.
Since she joined Creativity Explored in 2011, Thompson has continued to develop her already distinctive comic book-like drawings, integrating simple color pallets and, most recently, applying watercolor and acrylic paints to highlight details and apply washes of color that unite the composition.
Thompson was selected to exhibit in Pro Arts’ 2012 annual exhibition of emerging artists, Bay Area Currents and her work, Salsa Dancers, was featured on a CB2 pillow released in Fall 2013.
ZIO ZIEGLER is an emerging artist who is a bit hard to keep up with; one day he's painting a massive building in Tokyo and the next he's in Italy for a solo show and to paint a ferrari. His paintings, installations and most recently, sculptures, are typically figurative, with a distinct tribal-like aesthetic abstraction all his own. Ziegler cites his influences to include Eastern philosophy, French modernism, Egyptology, Xavier Veilhan, Auguste Rodin, Thomas Houseago, Eddy Martinez and Georges Braque. If you told us he was the grandson of Picasso, we'd believe you. Zio has a studio in Mill Valley and is also the founder of Arte Sempre, a lifestyle and clothing brand that makes art more accessible to the public. Art City can stand behind that one;) Zio studied at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 2010 with a B.A. in painting. His practice takes him all around the world and he seems willing and ready to paint any and every surface imaginable.