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Indepth Arts News:

"Big Deal and Blow Up: Dwarf the Human Body with Humorous Intelligence"
2005-01-23 until 2005-04-03
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
San Francisco, CA, USA

Have you ever felt emotionally moved yet at the same time physically intimidated by a work of art? Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents Big Deal, featuring Blow Up by Scott Snibbe, running January 22 through April 3, 2005, guest-curated by Renny Pritikin, Interim Director of the Richard L. Nelson Gallery at the University of California, Davis.  Big Deal, a group exhibition, features large-scale sculptures that force viewers to consider the relationship of their body to both the object and the surrounding space. The exhibition also features Blow Up, a new commission by Bay Area artist Scott Snibbe, an installation that carries this theme even further with a room-sized wind installation of giant industrial fans.  Big Deal, featuring Blow Up by Scott Snibbe makes up part of the Center’s Form and Architecture series. As one of YBCA’s five “Big Ideas” that guides its programming, Form and Architecture explores the creation of space and the aesthetic of form.

“I put together an exhibition by artists who enjoy taking up big chunks of space in the service of a socially committed stance that is filtered through an intelligent wit,” states Renny Pritikin. Featured in gallery three, Scott Snibbe is a Bay Area artist who works with technology. As a young pioneer of the booming high-tech art scene in the Bay Area, Snibbe is moving toward the forefront of his medium.  Blow Up uses computer technology and two banks of fans to magnify the visitor’s breath to hurricane-like proportions. While incorporating his own meditative breath-conscious practice into art making, his piece brings bodily processes to consciousness in a social context in a large public space.

Big Deal brings together five younger artists who in addition to humor, often undertake labor-intensive tasks to execute their work. In their installations, the human body is dwarfed with humorous intelligence. Rather than a battleground site for contending political control as we have come to know the body, these artists view the body as their playground.

The show features Sheri Simons, an artist who lives in Chico, California, where she is a professor of art at California State University, Chico. Her large wooden kinetic structures, titled “smudge” and “dis place,” obliquely suggest anthropomorphic beings. Simons has invented an intricate and breathtaking technique for making mundane plywood and other everyday materials soar, through multiple complex juxtapositions of shapes, thicknesses, planes and angles. The eye cannot stop following the swooping lines of her enormous constructions. They nuzzle the wall, roll over in their sleep, aimlessly wander in search of sustenance, and even make evanescent sounds.  Christopher Taggart of Oakland, California presents two large sculptures rendered with the assistance of computer technology. In F(al)lying Squirr(tu)el, he constructs a three-dimensional photo assemblage with 4,000 photographs of a squirrel to create a giant 25’x12’x10’ hanging sculpture of the animal. Employing a bit of high tech magic, and photo mechanical techniques, his perverse humor and fascination with animals, results in a creature enlarged to 50 times its normal size. A second work blows up one chicken foot to the size of a 15-foot tall tree.

Also employing a fairly simple but labor-intensive process is Jim Denevan, from Santa Cruz, California. The show documents the construction of his large-scale beach drawings which are temporary and so large in scale that they need to be photographed from 150 feet above to be perceived in their entirety.  Walking for miles while dragging a staff, and sometimes using a rake, he creates enormous and gorgeous abstract patterns in the sand. The drawings have the poignancy of the best performance art in that they are singular moments, existing only as long as the tides allow. A celebrated Bay Area chef, Denevan is familiar with the practice of hours of preparation to yield a few moments of appreciation and beauty. The scale of his work is both a documentation of the huge physical commitment of the artist and the necessity for viewers to engage the work bodily, humbled by its enormity.

Like Denevan, Manila-born artist Michael Arcega incorporates an element of performance art into his work. His piece, titled Conquistadork, is a handmade Spanish galleon constructed out of manila folders. It features a built-in passenger compartment that enables a person to sit below deck with torso, arms and head free. Last Spring, while wearing a paper conquistador hat, Arcega sailed his sculpture successfully across the treacherous currents of Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco. The artist delves into the arena of political satire, lampooning history while at the same time spoofing identity-based art making. He makes a generous, aesthetically-satisfying object, while gently reminding us that the age of colonialism is not dead.

Johnston Foster’s coterie of critters and home furnishings are infused with humor. Foster presents a frustrated raccoon trying to rescue his kite caught in a chandelier, a proud peacock and a life-size rhinoceros, all made from materials such as pipe cleaners, Venetian blinds and traffic cones. His sculpture emerges formally from the tradition of comics and animation but adds a sculptor’s amazing dexterity with found materials.

Big Deal, featuring Blow Up by Scott Snibbe, is an exhibition of monstrous proportions in which the human body is dwarfed and yet still essential to both the execution and understanding of the piece. Commanding such attention with sheer size and impact, it will be hard to miss.

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