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Not the Friday Night I Expected

September 12, 2011

Sometimes in life you go looking for one thing and end up finding another.

On Friday night, I set off for the De Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, fully intending to spend the evening taking in a variety of exciting-sounding performances as part of the museum's "Friday Nights at the De Young" series.

The lineup included live music by the John Santos Sextet, Teobi's Dreaming (an interdisciplinary performance project conceived by museum artist fellow, Todd T Brown) and Campo Santo's new production-in-progress Block by Block featuring live music and movement by the hip-hop collective Felonious.

But the museum was such a crazy clusterfuck by the time I got there, that I couldn't face muscling my way through to the performance spaces. It was all way too loud and busy.

Instead, I ended up making a beeline for the art galleries. It's amazing really: Go to the museum on any day of the week -- especially at the weekend -- and you can barely get into the galleries because they're heaving with people. But on Friday nights, when most museum goers are there to socialize, watch performances and view various other more ad hoc art installations, the galleries are just about the quietest and most pleasant spaces in the building. I revisited the Picasso exhibition which was much less crowded and was able to linger properly with some of the works. And I also greatly enjoyed taking a look at the Marco Breuer exhibition, Line of Sight, in a single room which I had all to myself.

I love Breuer's way of seeing the world. In this show, the artist takes obscure parts of the De Young's collection and makes you look at them anew. One painting, a portrait of a 19th century dowager by the name of Mrs Mary Jane White, is displayed in the midst of the conservation process, with bits of repair paper obscuring parts of the canvas form view. In another part of the room, the artist puts on display a couple of showy, gilded mirrors, all covered in bandages and bits of paper -- the flotsam and jetsam of the museum storage process.

Both of these works looked maimed somehow. I was intrigued by the contrast between their state of disarray and the artist's decision to put them on display anyway. I walked out into the hectic lobby thinking about the traditional separation of process and performance. And then someone who was grooving to the live music a little too enthusiastically bashed into me and nearly spilled their glass of wine on my pants!

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