Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kenneth Baker

The title of Brad Killam and Michelle Grabner's show at Gallery 16 prepares us for levity: "Collaborating With Michelle Grabner Isn't as Much Fun as You Might Think It Is."

And the pieces the couple - who are married - have produced together suggest collision as much as collaboration, though they are famous for beyond-the-studio doings such as the artists residency program, they have hosted for a decade in Oak Park, Ill.

Grabner's paintings and silverpoint drawings on gessoed canvas follow strict programs: radiating or gridded lines, staccato spirals that can make a circular canvas resemble a braided rug.

Killam's sculptures, such as "Blast Double" (2010), bring to mind things such as clotheslines, hanging lamps and bird feeders as readily as they do the mobiles of Alexander Calder.

Yet in their simpler collaborative pieces, such as the two-titled "Head Gear" (2010), Grabner and Killam evoke a tension between sensibilities respectively centered on studio practice and on seeing grist for art in the street or backyard. Nothing here suggests they can't inhabit the same person.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam

Gallery 16 is thrilled to welcome artists Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam back for their fifth show with the gallery. "Collaborating With Michelle Grabner Isn't As Much Fun As You Might Think It Is."

Grabner and Killam are artists and founders of The Suburban, an important exhibition and project space operated from the couples home in Oak Park, Illinois. They recently celebrated The Suburban’s ten-year anniversary. Since January 1999 they have worked with over one hundred and twenty artists including Luc Tuymans, Joseph Grigely, Martin Parr and Tony Feher. Can I Come Over to Your House?, a book about its first decade has just been released and will be available at Gallery 16.

The exhibition will consist of new paintings and silverpoint drawings by Michelle Grabner with sculptures and mobiles by Brad Killam. Michelle Grabner’s paintings and silverpoints index the passage of time. Created with lines, marks, ticks, points, and dots, Grabner’s compositions are simply organized, accumulated, and sequenced, thus leaving virtually no space for the imagination. Killam’s installation of sculptures made from found objects focus on finding the aesthetic qualities of art in ordinary materials and studying the transformation of a functional object into something that causes viewers to regard it as artistically interesting.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cliff Hengst at Gallery 16

Cliff Hengst working on a mural for his new show at G16.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

by Kenneth Baker

Zecca rules at 16: Bay Area artist Alex Zecca parallels Gonzalez in having found a procedure he can push to limits that only he may ever visit productively.

Zecca systematically rules on paper thousands of lines in colored inks. As they intersect and add up, they generate effects reminiscent of Op art at its subtlest, and occasionally suggestive of phenomena such as aurora borealis, lens flare or the color blur in a film or video of something streaking past.

Op art ran its course quickly (except in the hands of Bridget Riley) because viewers could sense too easily the involuntary nature of the optical responses it sparked. Zecca has brought his work to a pitch of complexity where we cannot tell how much control he has over what we - or even he - will see in a finished work. In this respect, his art has a deeper affinity with that of Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) than with Op.

Each show of Zecca's work leaves a viewer wondering "How can he top this?" The latest is no exception.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rex Ray at Sharks Ink

Rex Ray is spending the next two weeks working with master printer Bud Shark on a new print edition at Sharks Ink in Lyon's Colorado. This is the first edition Rex has done with the press, we are very excited to see
the results!

Here are some images of the
prints in progress.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Conversation with Photographer THOMAS HEINSER

Überblick: A Conversation with Photographer THOMAS HEINSER
Thursday MAY 13, 6-9PM

The gallery hosts a celebration and conversation with artist Thomas Heinser on Thursday, May 13, from 6-9 p.m. Music by Art Khu Trio and special guests, lager and links by Let's Be Frank follow the interview with the German photographer.

Translated as “over-view or "view from above,” Überblick explores the beautiful and graphic intersection of man, steel, sea, and land as surveyed from above. A monumental and ongoing project, the Heinser's photographs include views of some of the world’s most captivating bridges and structures, from Lisbon and Millau to New York and San Francisco.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Sonny Smith signing the Limited Edition
100 Records Volume One. Only forty were made!

The set contains a 16 track cd of original
music made by Sonny for this edition and signed prints by twelve artists, including Chris Johansen, William Wiley, Jo Jackson, Chris Duncan, Alika Cooper, Tucker Nichols, Kyle Field, Paul Wackers, Ester Peal Watson, Reed Anderson, Jovi Schnell and Alice Shaw.

What an amazing night. Hundreds of folks came out
for the show. Thanks to the Sandwitches for playing!
Also, thanks to Sonny and the Sunsets.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sonny Smith 100 Records Project

April 9-May 31, 2010
Opening reception April 9, 6-9 pm. Live music with Sonny and the Sunsets and The Sandwitches.

Gallery 16 is pleased to welcome San Francisco based artist, musician and playwright Sonny Smith to his first solo show with the gallery. 100 Records is a dauntingly ambitious project that bridges his interest in art, music and dramatic form. Smith invited 100 artists to produce artwork for the record covers of fictional bands. Smith concocted the personas of each 100 fictitious bands, then wrote and recorded two hundred songs (the A side and B side) for each. All of the original artwork will be on display as well as a jukebox that plays all two hundred songs recorded by Sonny Smith and other notable musicians. Artists include, William T. Wiley, Mingering Mike, Chris Johanson, Reed Anderson, Jo Jackson, Harrell Fletcher, Chris Duncan, Tucker Nichols, Paul Wackers and 91 others!

Sonny’s CDs include This Is My Story, This Is My Song, released in 2002, followed the next year by Sordid Tales of Love and Woe. His critically acclaimed album Fruitvale is a collaboration with Wilco’s Leroy Bach and other Chicago musicians that features songs Sonny wrote about his then neighborhood in Oakland. Watchword Literary Magazine commissioned Sonny to produce One Act Plays, a CD that includes Edith Frost, Neko Case, Miranda July, Jolie Holland, Andy Cabic, Virgil Shaw, Mark Eitzel, John Dwyer and Mekons’ Rico Bell, among other talented artists.

In 2000, he wrote and directed his first short movie “Kid Gus Man.” In 2005, he earned a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts to write and perform the play "The Dangerous Stranger," and received a residency in 2006 from the LAB in San Francisco to produce part two of the saga, “Stranger Danger!”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

SOULFOOD no. 2, A Night of Live Music, Vintage Vinyl and Rare Films To Benefit Music in the San Francisco Schools.

Soulfood no.2 is the second event in a quarterly music series organized by Griff Williams, Tommy Guerrero and Marc Capelle. All the money raised through the music series goes directly to support local charities of our choosing. The beneficiary of the upcoming event is MuST (music in the schools today). In this time of peril for public education, music and arts programs are often the first victims of budget cuts.

MuST serves over 10,000 children and youth annually in schools and community centers, conducts research and development and advocates to restore music as an essential principle of K-12 education.

Live Music by MONEY MARK, Tommy Guerrero,
Marc and The Casuals.
Rare 16mm Films by Stephen Parr of Oddball films and and vintage soul sounds on original vinyl with DJ Chas Gaudi. all amidst the art at the spacious Gallery 16 in San Francisco's Soma District.

Date: Friday, March 26th at 7:00PM
Venue: Gallery 16, 501 3rd St., (At Bryant) San Francisco, CA 94107
Admission: $20.00 Donation

Very special thanks to all the incredible musicians and disc jockey Chas Gaudi; Stephen Parr of Oddball Film+Video for the rare film treasures; Owsley Brown + Josh Metz of the Magnanimus Wine Group and Bryan Whalen + Steve Nilsen of Pabst Blue Ribbon for their generous donations.

a clip from Soulfood no.1 can be viewed here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Griff Williams at Missoula Museum of Art

I typically don't spend much time promoting my own work, but I've just sent off ten new paintings to the Missoula Museum of Art in Missoula, Montana for a solo show that opens February 20th. The show title is lifted from a line written by Herman Melville in Moby Dick, "Its not down in any map, true places never are". Here are a few images of the work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Artist's Platform: change state budget process

Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Monday, February 8, 2010

The last many Californians may have heard of conceptual artist Lowell Darling was in 1978, when he ran against sitting Gov. Jerry Brown on a platform that called for "urban acupuncture" to fight drought pollution and replacing parking meters with slot machines to discourage driving.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Wake Up and See the Coffeepot

February 2010 ARTnews
Kenneth Baker is art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Vistors could be forgiven for overlooking the centerpiece of Tucker Nichols’s solo show last fall at Gallery 16 in San Francisco. Those who knew his work may have recognized the artist’s hand in the wayward blue verticals running up an 11-by-
30-foot wall; for others the wallpaper, which he made, may
have faded into the background. But creating work that might
go unnoticed is one of Nichols’s hallmarks.
The wallpaper design began as a small brush-and-ink
drawing. “They scanned it at some ungodly number of dots per
inch. I’m not really a fan of anything digital, but these details,”
he says, pointing to the fine mottling of the enlarged ink
strokes, “are the pores of the paper and the way the ink set-
tled into them or not.” Looking at the work with an air of won-
der, he adds, “I start to see things I just can’t believe. I just
can’t imagine what motion of my hand produced that mark.”
Nichols has a diverse practice that includes an ongoing
mail-art project ( and quirky sculp-
tural interventions in public spaces, like the work he made in
2008 as the first ever artist-in-residence-at-large at the de
Young Museum in San Francisco. “We gave him a staff badge
and let him go to freely do things like wrap harmless tape
around everyday things such as trees, garbage cans, orange
construction cones, chairs, light posts,” explains Renee Bal-
docchi, the museum’s coordinator of public programs. “Many
visitors would do double takes. Most couldn’t understand
why he was fascinated with such utilitarian objects.”
The Gallery 16 show emphasized paintings and drawings,
which Nichols executes with a casual, intuitive scrawl. The
wallpaper suited this exhibition because so much of the im-
agery there held a sense of domestic intimacy: a cup, a glass,
a teapot, a trophy, a scoop of ice cream. “While putting to-
gether this show, I realized that everything I was making was
really about one kind of thing that has some weight to it,” the
artist says. “There’s a part of me that is trying to use the
choices I make about the banal sorts of things I like to paint
and draw to sort out my relationship with everything else in
the world.” With a note of perplexity in his voice, he asks,
“What isall this stuff? If I can get on top of it, maybe I can
feel a little more comfortable with it all.”
Nichols, 39, a Boston native, has drawn prolifically all his
life, but took a long detour into Chinese art history, earning
degrees in the field from Brown and Yale before renouncing
the academic for the artistic life. He began showing his work
only in the past decade. In addition to Gallery 16, ZieherSmith
in New York represents him; it will host a show of recent work
in June. (His prices range from $1,000, for small drawings, to
$15,000, for larger installations.)
Nichols’s search for a way to cope with the culture of over-
supply springs from his own habits. “I’m addicted to the Inter-
net, bombarded with messages; I read tons of news,” he says.
“I guess the literal way of working that out would be to draw
newspapers, cell phones, and such.” But the humble mementos
pictured in his recent work feel more like the kinds of things
that “somebody once thought mattered. The idea of these
things having lost all those associations kind of appealed to
me—the idea that all the stuff people are trying to push on us
now is ultimately going to look something like this.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010


When a Word’s Look Counted as Much as Its Meaning

A view of the 'Emigre' exhibition at Gallery 16 is flanked by Rudy VanderLans's design work for Emigre magazine, now defunct.

Published: January 9, 2010

Typography is ubiquitous. A world without letters, numerals and symbols designed by skillful font makers would consist of boring billboards, pages and street signs. Yet unlike other forms of applied design, typography remains an obscure and little-understood field. When buildings are constructed, they make news. A new font barely registers in the public consciousness.

In the 1980s and ’90s, however, the Bay Area was at the forefront of a movement to change this reality. The work of the graphic design company Emigre, based in Berkeley, is the focus of an exhibition of artwork and artifacts at Gallery 16 in San Francisco. An accompanying book, “Emigre No. 70: The Look Back Issue — Celebrating 25 Years in Graphic Design,” further stresses the efforts of a group of graphic designers (mainly locals) to elevate design in general — and typography in particular — to an art form.

But over the years, frictions between the forces of art and commerce have hindered Emigre’s cause. In today’s environment, where fonts can be created and replicated by anyone with a personal computer (United States copyright law does not extend protection to typeface design), the idea that a font can be an objet d’art in its own right seems like a utopian reverie.

“Emigre was born out of a ‘digital dream,’ ” the graphic designer Erik Adigard, based in Sausalito, wrote in an e-mail message. “But it was short-lived. Emigre is history, even if still somewhat of a cult.”

Yet the marriage between a font’s beauty of form and the context in which it is employed is what makes the written word jump off the page. In striving to demonstrate this truth, Emigre deserves our attention.

Founded in 1984 by the husband-and-wife team of Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko, Emigre was influential on the graphic design scene in the ’80s and ’90s. This was partly because of the company’s magazine, also called Emigre. First a quarterly and later a seminannual, it featured innovative typefaces and posters; eye-catching photography; offbeat profiles of writers and artists; and wide-ranging critical essays on subjects like the Bauhaus movement and the legibility of fonts. Although the magazine no longer exists, Emigre still operates as a font foundry; its library houses more than 300 typefaces.

From 1984 to 2005, Emigre magazine achieved cult status. With their unconventional and striking use of fonts, publications like Wired and McSweeney’s, both based in San Francisco, owe it a debt. In 2006 the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired the entire Emigre magazine canon for its permanent design collection, and put the magazines on display for a year.

“For me, like many others galvanized by graphic design during Emigre’s heyday, the magazine was the most consistently interesting design publication produced anywhere by anyone,” the design journalist Rick Poynor wrote in 2005.

Emigre chronicled a revolution in typography that went hand in hand with the birth of the personal computer, which brought new methods for creating type. (It’s perhaps no accident that Emigre and the Macintosh computer made their debuts in the same year.) The transformation also ran in tandem with the rise of postmodern theories then popular in art schools concerning the aesthetics of utilitarian design.

Such ideas helped to free font design from the constraints of functionality. Possibly for the first time since the elaborate but often illegible opening capital letters of medieval illuminated manuscripts, font designers didn’t have to worry about readability and reproducibility.

Going beyond the no-nonsense look of archetypal typeface families like Times and Helvetica, designers in Emigre’s orbit, like John Hersey, Joachim Müller-Lancé and Ms. Licko, saw font design as a form of creative expression. With its thick-contoured, cartoonish forms, Mr. Hersey’s Blockhead typeface won’t be used for street signs anytime soon, but the fonts are eye-catching. The same could be said of Ms. Licko’s aggressive and angular Oblong typeface.

For all the theoretical debate and creative output inspired by Emigre, the font-as-art movement seems to be over. The commercial interests in the fast-paced digital age have reduced typeface design to cookie-cutter templates and formulas. Unbridled innovation has largely been supplanted by nostalgic exhibitions and commemorative books.

Emigre magazine’s demise may be symptomatic of the fact that it was primarily a showcase for the company’s fonts. Its journalistic endeavors often supported the founders’ business goals, as is evidenced by its numerous articles denouncing designer-unfriendly typeface copyright laws. But Griff Williams, owner and director of Gallery 16, wrote in an e-mail message: “For me, the lesson learned from Emigre is that business and art can coexist. The typeface business was a guise to deliver content in profoundly interesting ways. Not the other way around.”

Mr. VanderLans was grappling with the tension between art and commerce while publishing his magazine. “The entrepreneurial element, which is crucial to the existence of any subculture, avant-garde or underground work, is largely overlooked when assessing the work, because to most people, whenever the commercial aspects become prominent, it somehow taints the work and renders it less pure or authentic,” he wrote in Emigre in 1995. “Yet it’s difficult to imagine how any movement can operate without a concentrated effort to make money.”

“Emigre at Gallery 16” continues through Jan. 29 at 501 Third Street, San Francisco; (415) 626-7495,