Reconciling America: Miraculous Encounters with the Mundane

January 18 - March 15, 2008

Main Gallery: JD Beltran & Sebastian Bacher, Dina Danish, Jennifer Durban, Richard Haley, Lynn Marie Kirby, Ellen Lake, Brendan Lott, Paul Mullins, Julia Page and Zefrey Throwell.

155 Grove Street Window Installation Site: Tucker Nichols

The American archetype is rooted somewhere in anthems, slogans and amendments –  yet under this big blanket where do the lives of average Americans fit in? Americans are born into the world and rush to grow up - all the while attempting to make sense of their lives through direct encounters and an ever-expanding glut of mediated experiences of the world. In our quest understand and to be understood, new technologies have made it easier to record observations and create personal histories. This is evident in the countless home movies, scrapbooks, blogs and personal web pages created by average Americans. Alternatively, the history of art practice has been deeply rooted in creating individual systems for understanding and documenting various aspects of our complicated world. Reconciling America reflects the varied strategies each selected artist employs when confronting their surroundings. Exhibited works range from painting to video to installation and actively demonstrate how the artists grapple with, or attempt to reconcile their relationships with America.

Established local filmmaker Lynn Marie Kirby’s documentary 34/400 (Standardized)  Screen Tests features video portraits of adolescent boys and Jennifer Durban’s audio work, I Met my Dad on Friendster each frame and archive two fleeting yet pivotal transitions in life. While the passages reflected in these works are about intimate relationships to others, Richard Haley’s work is preoccupied with his relationship to nature, which is demonstrated in a panic-inducing video featuring the artist attempting to sink his handmade boat in time with the setting sun.

Dina Danish, a current CCA graduate student from Cairo, presents All My Life I Had to Fit Cheese on Toast; a video work that demonstrates a desire to understand what being an American means and how it is filtered and then translated through her personal experiences. Paul Mullins and Julia Page, both now residents of metropolitan areas, occupy their work with images of rural, or small town life. Mullins paints details that remain prominent in his memories of his youth in West Virginia, and Page pulls images from rural town newspapers that depict a new tradition of celebrating a child’s first hunting kill. Context and personal histories help us understand that what is indeed mundane in one location may read as sensational or quaint in another.

In order to understand contemporary identities and public perceptions the following artists look at the methods in which they are constructed. In her documentary video series featuring Bay Area residents, Ellen Lake focuses on the personalities and idiosyncratic behaviors of people who define themselves in relation to their obsessive collections – ranging from female action figures to rubber band balls to french fries. Local conceptual artist Brendan Lott examines the global implications of an identity created on social networking sites like His project links profile images of American teenagers with master painters in China. JD Beltran documents her son Sebastian Bachar and how he interacts with the architecture of his world. Sebastian too uses the descriptive language of photography to document his four year old perspective.

Special Exhibition Projects:

As part of Reconciling America, the gallery will host Zefrey Throwell’s independent radio show, Frank Prattle, throughout the exhibition. Throwell creates a forum for artists and arts professionals to discuss current trends and issues in art practice in front of a live audience. Discussions will occur in the Gallery, and will be streamed and archived on our web site ( Specifically for this exhibition, Throwell, will feature local civic luminaries along with special outside guests Adam Kleinman from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Red 76 member, Sam Gould from Portland, Oregon.

Tucker Nichols at 155 Grove Street

The SFAC Gallery has commissioned artist Tucker Nichols to create a site-specific window installation for our 155 Grove Street site. Nichols has a practice of painting text on windows; a message to the passerby. His inspiration often comes from people close to the space the work will inhabit - perhaps a phrase overheard from a pedestrian or a conversation had with the curator. Nichols takes these snippets of information and boils them down to simple catch-phrases reminiscent of advertising slogans or newspaper headlines. The phrases ring as familiar to viewers, and yet the source is never disclosed.

Tucker Nichols