ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND features over 130 early and formative works by five artists—Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri—who began their careers in the early 1990s in San Francisco’s Mission District and, by the early aughts, had been identified and celebrated as key members of the so-called Mission School.
This exhibition takes a focused and unprecedented view of an art movement that has garnered cult-like status over the last two decades, by looking closely at shared formal concerns in the painting and studio practice of these five artists—friends and collaborators who attended or were associated with the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). The exhibition connects works and ephemera produced at the beginning of the artists’ careers, much of which has remained in their personal or peer collections, with vibrant new work created for this show.
ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND is not conceived as an inclusive survey of the San Francisco Mission School, a term coined by critic Glen Helfand in 2002, nor as a nostalgic snapshot of the past. The exhibition rather reveals the arc of a specific art movement through a continuum of works whose shared exuberance connects street- and studio-based practices, and aims to reveal (and challenge) how a “school” may form and evolve.
These artists came together at a particular time and place in the early ’90s in the Mission neighborhood, at the San Francisco Art Institute, and in alternative art spaces such as Four Walls, The Luggage Store, Victoria Room, The LAB, New Langton Arts, and Adobe Books. They were each strongly influenced by Bay Area Figuration, the Beat movement, Funk art, and punk. The group has been defined by their celebration of social art-making, community, folk art, nostalgia for the obsolete, low-production values, and “street” aesthetics. These values are manifest in the use of found and reclaimed materials, decorative patterning, cartoons, a distinctive color palette, hand lettering and printmaking, cluster paintings, and a crafty immediacy of materials.
By highlighting the early works of these five artists, this exhibition investigates how the “school” progressed internally, and reveals the deep impacts Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri continue to impart on younger generations of contemporary artists.
Born in 1968, Chris Johanson currently splits his time between Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles, California. He was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the 2005 Istanbul Biennial, and the 2006 Berlin Biennial, and has exhibited extensively in group and solo shows nationally and internationally, including solo shows at Jack Hanley Gallery and Altman Siegel Gallery in San Francisco; Deitch Projects and Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York; and Galerie Georg Kargl in Vienna. In 2003, he received a SECA Art Award from SFMOMA. In 2013, Phaidon released a monograph on Johanson as part of its celebrated Contemporary Artists series. Johanson also operates Awesome Vistas—a record label that produces limited-edition vinyl in collaboration with musicians and artists. Johanson is represented by Altman Siegel Gallery, San Francisco, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
Margaret Kilgallen was born in 1967 in Washington, D.C. She received a BA in printmaking from Colorado College in 1989 and an MFA from Stanford University in 2001. Her work has been shown at Deitch Projects and The Drawing Center in New York; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and The Luggage Store in San Francisco; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Other significant exhibitions include the 2002 Whitney Biennial; the 2005 survey exhibition Margaret Kilgallen: In the Sweet Bye & Bye at REDCAT, Los Angeles; and the 2004–2006 touring exhibition Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture. Kilgallen passed away prematurely in 2001. Her estate is represented by Ratio 3, San Francisco.
Alicia McCarthy was born in 1969, and lives and works in San Francisco. She received her BFA from the San Fran- cisco Art Institute in 1994, and also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the New York Studio School. In 2007, she received an MFA from the University of California, Berkeley. Her 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 is represented by Jack Hanley Gallery, New York.
Born in 1966 in California, Barry McGee received a BFA in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1991. Known by the tag name “Twist” for his graffiti and street art, McGee has also developed a career within museums and galleries, exhibiting drawings, paintings, prints, and large-scale, mixed-media installations that take inspiration from urban culture, incorporating elements such as empty liquor bottles, cans of spray paint, signs, scrap wood or metal, surfboards, and other found materials. His work has been shown at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; SFMOMA; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Deitch Projects, New York; and the 2001 Venice Biennale. A mid-career survey was recently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. McGee is represented by Ratio 3, San Francisco, and is present- ing a major exhibition at Cheim & Read, New York, in September 2013.
Born in the 1970s into the collegial environment of artists in San Francisco, Ruby Neri’s initial influences were the painters and ceramicists closely associated with her father, the Bay Area Figurative sculptor Manuel Neri. While studying at the San Francisco Art Institute, Neri worked as a street artist under the name “Reminisce,” or “REM.” Her later influences include American folk artists, early 20th century German Expressionists, and mid-century, modern European sculptors. Neri holds a BFA from SFAI and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has had solo exhibitions at David Kordanksy Gallery and China Art Objects in Los Angeles, and John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, California, among other venues. Group exhibitions include Made in LA 2012, organized by the Hammer Museum and LAXART; and Bitch Is the New Black, curated by Emma Gray for Honor Fraser, Los Angeles. Neri is rep- resented by David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
NATASHA BOAS, PhD, is a San Francisco native and an SF-based independent curator, writer, and profes- sor of contemporary art. She has been curating inter- nationally for over 25 years, for such institutions as the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, New Langton Arts, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, all in San Francisco. Over the course of her career, Boas has worked closely with a wide range of artists, including Harrell Fletcher, Sophie Calle, Annette Messager, James Turrell, Louise Bourgeois, Sol Lewitt, Randolph Colosky, and Clare Rojas. Boas contributes regularly to The Believer, San Francisco Arts Quarterly, and Art Practical. Her essay “Was There Ever Really a Mission School: A Partial and Incomplete Oral History” is included in the catalogue for the exhi- bition Barry McGee at the Berkeley Art Museum. Boas holds a doctorate from Yale University and a degree in film from La Fémis, Paris. She has taught at Stanford University, Yale University, and École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and continues to lecture at California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute.
NICOLE CRESCENZI provided curatorial assistance throughout the development of ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND. Crescenzi is currently assistant director of graduate admissions at the San Francisco Art Institute and was formerly assistant curator at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. In addition to her exhibition and curatorial experience at several nonprofit art spaces in the Bay Area, her own work has been exhibited at The Lab, Performance Art Institute, and ap-art-ment, all in San Francisco; at Aggregate Space, Oakland; and at other venues throughout Cali- fornia. She holds a BS in Biology from the University of Georgia, as well as a BFA and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.