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Visual Arts Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Christine Brenneman

Francis Bacon: A Retrospective Exhibition Francis Bacon: A Retrospective Exhibition
Thru Aug 2; Tue-Sun 9:30am-5pm; $4-$8
Palace of the Legion of Honor at Lincoln Park, 34th Ave & Clement; 415.863.3330.

Francis Bacon was once quoted as saying, "Man now realises that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason." This not only encapsulates Bacon's philosophy but also helps to explain the dark feelings that manifest in his harrowing, brutal paintings. Sometimes visually off-putting but always psychologically intense, the 58 canvases of the renowned English painter--considered by some to be the most important European artist of the second half of the 20th century--represent the first major show of his work in the United States since his death in 1992. "Untitled" (1943 or '44) depicts a terribly distorted gray human form standing within a planar orange background. The figure is so misshapen that it seems to be a cross between a man and a two-legged horse. The man/horse twists his neck around to ghoulishly munch on a bouquet of roses thrust into the picture plane. The end result is unsettling and clearly inspired by both the surrealists and Picasso, yet somehow it remains a riveting image.

Through a Liquid Mirror

Through a Liquid Mirror
Thru Aug 28; Tue-Sat 10:30am-5:30pm
Robert Koch Gallery, 49 Geary St; 415.421.0122.

Wayne Levin's moving, fluid and lyrical photographs submerge the viewer in his underwater realm, revealing the mysterious qualities of the deep. Sometimes unrecognizable as ocean phenomena, these works play tricks on the eye with their almost landscape quality and textural variation. Working in black-and-white, Levin's large-scale gelatin silver prints chronicle his underwater adventures in his Hawaii home. Sea creatures and surfers figure heavily in his pieces. This is Levin's world; he may be an observer down there but he's obviously in his element. The grace and beauty inherent in the deep come naturally to his camera. In "Body Surfers," Levin captures three body surfers beneath the waves paddling among milky surges of what must be water but has the appearance of clouds. The dark solid outlines of the men's bodies contrast starkly with the white effervescence of the water. In his hands, they become majestic beings afloat in a whimsical sci-fi world. His "School of Opelu" features an enormous school of tiny fish cascading through the ocean. Within a murky background, the fish curve around, losing their individuality and becoming an indistinguishable, mountainous mass.

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Jim Pomeroy: A Retrospective
Thru Jul 24; Wed-Sat noon-5pm
New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom; 415.626.5416 or www.jimpomeroy.com.

As part of a yearlong celebration of its 25th anniversary, New Langton Arts presents a retrospective of Jim Pomeroy's unconventional art. Pomeroy was the co-founder of New Langton, way back in 1984, and his studio even served as the gallery's first location. Pomeroy was a master at incorporating everyday objects and technology into his performance, slide and video art. His work embodies his mad scientist/tinkerer/wild inventor philosophy with a wickedly edgy critique of popular culture. In his "Newt Ascends Astaire's Face" (1975), Pomeroy constructs a zoetrope sculpture showing a gecko crawling up the head of a perfectly coifed Fred Astaire. Hints of Warhol exist in the repetition of the single pop image, but Pomeroy takes this one step further by including an exotic jungle creature. It flies in the face of the respect normally granted such a cultural icon. In "Mechanical Music," a performance piece from 1979, Pomeroy holds his arm in such a way that 10 wrenches can be carefully placed along a V formed by his forearm and upper arm. In this way he creates an ingenious makeshift xylophone on his body which he plays with a wooden mallet.

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From the July 19, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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