Southern Exposure debuts “Point of No Return”

Hesse McGraw, right; photo by Jacque Kramer

By Adam L Brinklow

San Francisco Informer

Southern Exposure, one of the Mission’s oldest and most diverse nonprofits serving local contemporary artists, unveiled their newest exhibition “Point of No Return” Dec. 7, “Point of No Return” is the latest incarnation of SoEx’s annual, juried, non-fee exhibition and features 46 pieces by local artists in every visual medium. “The work in the show is really very broad,” said SoEx projects director Valerie Imus. “The point of the jury show is really to take the temperature of work happening in Northern California.”

photo by Jacque Kramer

Most small galleries charge artists an entry fee—it helps keep the lights on month after month. But Southern Exposure waives the fee for shows like “Point of No Return,” and the response is staggering: “The line stretched all the way down the block; it was pouring rain and people wrapped up all their pieces in plastic,” Imus said.

The drop-off days did indeed coincide with the drenching the city received in the last week of November, but that didn’t depress the output: Southern Exposure received over 600 submitted pieces for consideration. Jurist Hesse McGraw, curator of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska, then narrowed the selection down to the 46 now on display.

photo by Jordan Bickett

“The juror is always from another city so he doesn’t recognize anybody’s work,” explained Southern Exposure’s communications director Morgan Peirce. The size of the exhibition was not determined ahead of time; the 46 entries are simply those McGraw thought the best.

The selections showcase every conceivable medium and format: “There are large abstract paintings, ceramic sculptures, a series of conceptual photographs that are stills taken from video games, there’s a woven piece, there are a number of both figurative and abstract paintings, collages,” Imus said “There’s a piece with a live goldfish.”

Choreographing a Goldfish

That would be Shay Arick’s Choreographing a Goldfish, the only piece in the exhibition that requires regular feeding. Choreographing a Goldfish consists of a circular water-filled tube with a single fish swimming a never-ending course through it.

“I was encountering a lot of constraints in my art,” Arick, a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, explained. “I thought to make a kind of one-way dance where the fish will always return to the point it started.” Arick interpreted the “no return” theme in a very direct, personal way: “I’m from Israel and I left there for New York and now I’m in San Francisco, and I don’t know when I’m going to return.”


Painter Megan Atherton took a minimalist approach with Vent, an oil-on-board work depicting an inexact effort to cover graffiti on a wall. “You get the idea that it’s not just one cover-up,” Atherton said of the piece. “It’s the mark of one person, and then another, and there’s the impression of many layers.” Atherton said she’d been pondering the theme of layered marks for some time. “Anytime you make your mark, you’re expressing yourself.” No matter how hard someone else may work to cover up those marks, Vent makes it clear that the nature of the thing is irrevocably changed.

Calder Yates, a utility artist whose past work includes Beach Balls—hundreds upon hundreds of multi-colored beach balls filling a space—offered a more kinetic piece. “It’s a video of two bulldozers attempting an impossible act,” Yates said, describing his work as an examination of the meaning of “trying something and failing, but trying anyway, and doing it in the face of failure.”

Yates took his inspiration from simply observing the movements of dozers on a retrofit site one day. “Those drivers are really good at their jobs. They can pick up a length of extension cord in their shovels. So I decided to give a couple of them a challenge.”

“Point of No Return” showcases through Dec. 20.

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