Monday, February 15, 2010

Curating a Farm Metropolis: The Making of an Urban Ho-Down

Exhibition Title: Urban Ho-Down
Location: Rosie's Cheeks Garage 1132 Florida Street San Francisco, CA 94114
Dates: February 6, 2010

On February 6th, Rosie’s Cheeks Garage located at 1132 Florida Street was transformed into a barn - the kind of barn seen in movie stills from Paper Moon, the kind of barn where girls with pigtails become adults with men named Farmer John. With nearly three feet of straw covering the cement floors, the art show was a combination of freak show installations, accordion performers and bicycle driven hayrides. The only thing missing was the petting zoo.

Photo: Najva Sol

Done in collaboration with MAPP (Mission Arts Performance Project), the show was a collaborative effort with residents of the Mission District of San Francisco. As described by their website:

The Mission Arts & Performance Project is a bi-monthly, multidisciplinary, intercultural community arts event that takes place in the South-East neighborhood of the Mission District of San Francisco. The MAPP connects visual artists, musicians, poets, dancers/choreographers, filmmakers, playwrights, and other artists, in an on-going collaboration with community organizers and local residents, placing art and performance on the street level through the use of alternative spaces such as private garages, gardens, living rooms, studios, street corners, and small businesses, to manifest a non-centralized intercultural arts happening.

Najva Sol, a peer from New York I had worked with in the past, recently moved out West in search of a creative haven. Having already established The Lowbrow Society of the Arts in Brooklyn, she came to the city with a mission: to curate an art-party. In her words, “We dress up your event. We art direct raves. We build kissing booths. We book dancers, fire performers, hula-hoopers, face-painters, burlesque-queens, VJ’s, and other delectable entertainment. We provide scandal. We provide culture. We provide a spark.” And this time the spark was the classic urban ho-down. Apple bobbing, pie eating contests, popcorn and cider—all for sake of Americana kitsch.

When asked to curate the show, I rejoiced. I imagined a white-walled loft space in SOMA, complete with collaged columns, exposed brick and French doors leading to the back porch. I imagined piles of crisp 100 dollars bill placed neatly in a Hermes purse to be used to our liking. I imagined furs draping off of philanthropists as they trace the walls I so neatly hung. Instead, I got a garage. Thankfully, I got a garage. Suddenly, the possibilities were limitless. Traversing a 3-month journey through the terrain of county fair ephemera provided many obstacles. Artists came easily, as San Francisco is a beacon of young artisans searching for a resume addendum. While performers presented a more difficult search, last minute confirmations established a set list as funky as it was awkward.

Photo: Najva Sol

Ukulady was the headliner. Dressed in hot pink and lime green garb, her short stature only concealed her aggressive performance tactic. Loud and brash, the audience was immediately captivated by the contrast between her high-pitched vocals and burly demeanor. Other highlights included The Eco-Carny who used homemade puppets to discuss environmental issues and the positive impacts of weed. The art—which at times was unfortunately shielded by organized activities (pie eating, etc.)—included local professional artists as well as students of the SFAI community. Featuring the work of Frida Cano, Rebekah Goldstein, Carey Baldwin, William Brennan, Najva Sol, Joie Rey, Aubrey Learner, David Grant, Lou LeMauviel and Beja Tinsley, the pieces transformed the warped wood of the rusted garage. Each with a designated arena, Frida Cano’s family portraits were dimly lit in a back alley way, while Lou LeMauviel’s stuffed animals with reflective faces were meticulously lined in our version of a Hall of Mirrors.

On February 6th, Rosie’s Cheeks transformed into a concrete ranch supplying the necessary aesthetic of circus freaks, masked carnies, apple bobbing, pinstriped popcorn bags, and the general feeling gained from a passing tumbleweed. If success could be measured by leftover hay,
Urban-Ho Down was a masterpiece, as nearly a week later and all those in attendance are still finding straw stuck to the bottom of their feet.


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