I have been meaning to check out the San Francisco Art International Art Exposition ever since I moved to Los Angeles but, for some reason or another, I never quite made it. However, this year I was bound and determined. Having waited until the last minute I decided the most economical way to get up there was to drive. So I rented myself a little car and drove the six hours, mapped it out so no bridges would be crossed (deathly fear, don’t ask) and had a fabulous time listening to my mix cds I made at 2am the night before.

Thomas Blackman Associates produces this fair, in additional to Art Chicago and The Stray Show which are way better, and some good friends of mine work for TBA …the perfect excuse to go. Free passes, Chicago-style drinking, and good company was the way to properly experience this granny art fair at Fort Mason. Here’s a little art hodge-podge about the fair…

Opening night previews for art fairs are fun enough. There’s usually a celebrity or two, in this case it was George Lucas who never really moved from the information kiosk by the entrance so who knows what was going on there. Most of the people working the booths are in good moods because all of the inane questions haven’t been asked yet and this night is supposedly for the high-rollers, like myself, to come in to buy the work early. It was full enough: this year the fair was in one pier location instead of two the previous year which actually makes things a lot easier to navigate) and was a lot more casual than say Art Chicago. Free booze always helps as my friend and I made our way through each isle, sizing everything up. Seriously, some of the artwork was so bad I needed the free wine to make it through…

There was an enthusiastic gentleman who was working one overly crowded booth whom I met opening night. He was speaking to my TBA compadre with such excitement regarding a painting he just sold. As he pointed to it and explained that this was a “hot, hot artist” whose name I didn’t recognize and whose artwork was like Manet without detail or skill, I was thinking “good for him” but then he proceeds to say that he sold it for $100,000. There wasn’t a price on the wall and I wasn’t that intoxicated yet so I did hear correctly but definitely confused. The other works on the wall by the artist were in a range from $1800-$30,000 and yet none of them had been sold (none of the sold the rest of the fair either, I believe) so it seemed strange someone would buy one that was so expensive. But, this is the art world and wonders never cease. I did say that I would eat my shoe if that really happened but I guess we’ll never know. Instead, we gave our sincere congratulations and moved on…

Let me just start off my saying, I like Jack Hanley. Sometimes, dealers at fairs are so into the sell that they just aren’t friendly but Hanley had such a low-key approach to his booth that it was welcoming and interesting. I know it makes the most sense that this will be the one booth I discuss in detail but it really was the best contemporary art booth that accurately displayed what was new and exciting…

Alicia McCarthy is an artist I’m trying to figure out. Some of her work I didn’t like such as two pieces on paper that were on display. They were kind of dull but right next to them was one little piece on wood that I loved. I kept going back to look at it. It was on a rougher piece of wook, probably from some old table or desk, and had these great patterns painted on it. Her painting really worked on that wood, like the roughness of it balanced out the smoothness of the paint. Then there were some drawings by Chris Johanson. I have to say, though I enjoy his work, I’m still scratching my head a little over all the fuss. Anyway, the work is looking a little too much like another artist in the booth, Raymond Pettibon. The text infused into Johnason’s work not only resonates like Pettibon’s writings but also just looks like his handwriting. I think that Johnason is talented enough to break beyond that and utilize text in a different way. Finally, the piece I liked the best was a gouache on paper work by Shaun O’Dell. It was really a lovely work on paper that was quite detailed with pen and included a tree branch running through it. O’Dell actually has a show going on at Jack Hanley right now so if you’re in San Fran be sure to check it out.

-There was an artist who had sewn differing shades of demin to create this street/outdoor scenes. As I am always into new mediums, especially those involving sewing…must be something about the skill, I kept meaning to go back and get the name. Unfortunately, that never happened. Fortunately, other people enjoyed the work too as all of it was sold. Kudos!

-Embroidery. Did I not say that embroidery is the best new medium? Well, it certainly is making it’s way into the art world. The problem with it though is, like painting, you actually have to be talented and have an idea what you want to depict, because when it’s bad, it’s horrid.

-Wire art. Mostly just wrong…stay away from wire and mesh horse sculptures for your wall, wire dresses, and anything resembling insects. It’s just not happening.

-Striped paintings. I actually love striped paintings, especially really glossy, but isn’t one artist doing it enough? I mean, how many meanings can it have? I say, elect one person to do the striped work and then find something else.

-Face-lifts. Holy smokes…I thought I was back in Los Angeles. The plastic surgery going on at SFAI was more a work of art than what was in most of the booths. Must be all that glorious San Fran money. Mostly though, pre-botox and just scary. A definite aesthetic don’t.

-Recylced art. It just looks like the island of lost artwork when gallery after gallery has work by the same artist. Can’t they find a home to love them? Case in point…Marcel Dzama and Wayne Thiebaud.

-Proving that Portland is a hot-bed of artistic talent, gallery PDX Contemporary Art had some great work in their booth. For instance, they had this little polymer clay sculptures by Ellen George that were super cute.

-Best gallery name…Sharks, Ink. Why didn’t I think of that.

Koplin del Rio. The only, I believe, Los Angeles gallery at the fair. The booth was small and the work was very beige, if that makes sense. Nothing terribly exciting, not even the Kerry James Marshall pieces.

-Finger benches…yes, I mean benches that were in the shape of painted finger nails…why?

Though there weren’t many things I wanted to purchase or exhibit at sixspace, I always like it when art is rounded up into one location. I’m such a sucker for things bad too so I completely enjoyed myself. Really looking forward to Art Chicago in May.