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09.22.17 - 10.28.17


Though in some ways the world has never been more globalized, a troubling trend of Nationalism is (re)emerging. These four emerging artists from local graduate institutions grapple with issues of race, culture, and citizenship, probing the complicated power structures that sustain our definitions of us (U.S.) vs "Them." Art has always been a useful means through which to understand culture and with Neighbors we are attempting to dissect this fraught political moment by provoking conversations that have the power to shift perspectives. The artists’ thoughtful investigations into these charged and divisive issues ask us to reconsider learned belief systems, dismantle malevolent frameworks of oppression in governance and to remember past political struggles as we strive to achieve a more just and inclusive society. Christopher Marin (CCA) presents beautifully rendered, mural-sized portraits of Black American history. Shown in an enclosed space, the life-sized paintings envelop the walls and the viewer entirely. An audio track booms throughout the small room, sampling Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama and other important figures represented in his work. Underlying these snippets of speech is an almost celebratory musical remix of old protest songs and contemporary Hip-Hop, peppered with news stories that revolve around police brutality and Black Lives Matters protests. The jarring juxtaposition is emotional and ultimately hopeful, though past struggles and atrocities are certainly not glossed over. Marin gets at the complex state of contemporary race politics in a society where Black culture is appreciated (often fetishized), appropriated and, ultimately, monetized without the recognition of the systemic and institutional consequences of living in a country built on slavery. Tall light posts in the main gallery stand in for proud brown bodies as Marin’s red portraits take the place of celebratory street banners. Rendered on blue paper, the work reluctantly takes on the colors of the American flag.

Amy Nathan (Mills) presents an installation that aims to offer new ways of understanding power structures, ultimately dismantling them. Beginning with a photograph of President Trump in the Oval Office watched over by his chosen presidential portrait of Andrew Jackson, Nathan gathers empirical data and deconstructs the image according to form and color. Following a precise set of invented rules, Nathan remakes the image as a series of silkscreen prints which teeter on a small ledge. Though this process Nathan destroys the inherent performance of the picture and exposes its fallacies, questioning the misuse of “logic” by those in the seats of power. The precarious installation also reminds us of the chaos that could ensue if, or when, our current systems fail. Shari Paladino (UC Berkeley) installs Habitas, a sculptural performance set for a piece based on the hidden paternity story of her older brother. The script, titled Dark Italian Recipe, consists of mismatched narratives and cut up stories, calling into question the sub-textual narratives of race, heritage, purity, and culture. In the script the term “Dark Italian” comes under scrutiny for for the role it plays in the family’s response to having one mixed race child, and for its peculiar combination of racism and charade. The semi-autobiographical piece is ultimately a critical investigation into self-definition and belonging, and investigates racism in American culture through a lens of nostalgia and personal memories. Keyvan Shovir (CCA) shows a series of sculptures shaped as military aviation planes and drones, decorated like the spiritual architecture of mosques from his home country of Iran. The beautifully rendered works are titled “Miharab” after the niche in the wall of mosques that faces towards Mecca. Through this clashing of imagery, the delicate lace cutouts on top shapes that infer violence, Shovir references the community and pride inherent in the Muslim practice of prayer, which continues on even in the face of Islamophobia and warmongering. Angelica Jardini | Curatorial Director

This exhibition was juried by Micki Meng of Altman Siegel Gallery and Clea Massiani of Bass & Reiner.

MIDNIGHT, 2017, mixed media and Lift Me Up, 2016-2017. Acrylic on canvas mural. Installation view.

Lift Me Up, 2016-2017. Acrylic on canvas mural. Installation view.

Photograph: The President on the Phone, Behind the Resolute Desk, Adjacent to the Andrew Jackson Portrait, 2017. Plywood, acrylic, hardware, 24 panels cut to the golden rectangle aspect ratio, 23 silkscreen ink colors matched to the digital photograph used as source, painted bronze-cast Frederick Remington sculpture “The Bronco Buster,� collaged painted paper mounted on board. Installation view.

Amy Nathan’s installation work, Photograph: The President on the Phone, Behind the Resolute Desk, Adjacent to the Andrew Jackson Portrait, functions as a dismantling of power structures. She begins with a reference photograph of the current president, presumably a publicity photograph that was meant to serve as a portrayal of strength and an establishment of dominance. Using that photograph as a reference, Nathan creates a work of her own, manipulating the image by reducing the forms into abstract shapes and dissecting them into paper cutouts. The resulting image is an arrangement of shapes that are pieced together in a collage-like fashion, which are stripped of their color and are also much less precise than the forms seen in the original source photograph. The loss of color and form in the new image correlates directly to a desaturation and deconstruction of power. In addition to the re-interpreted photograph, the next phase of Nathan’s process reverberates and elaborates on the ideas of the deconstructed cut-out image. In this phase, each section of the once recognizable forms is blown up several times its original size and repetitively painted on a series of several wooden blocks, recalling the process of printmaking. At this new larger scale, the colors of the abstracted forms have been reduced in a new way: no longer black and white, now the forms are solid compartmentalized colors, a decision that leads to an increased ambiguity. The simplicity, irregularity, uncertainty and imperfection that are exposed on the magnified forms further expose the imperfection of the current presidential administration. By examining these images in extreme detail, we are able to see many flaws in the forms that were less apparent in the initial photograph, which represent the flaws of the president. These woodblocks and the collage cut-out lean precariously -the colored panels on ledges and the collaged portrait on a replica of “The Bronco Buster” sculpture by Frederic Remington- creating an interesting dynamic of simultaneous fragility and power that resonates throughout the entirety of this installation.

I interpret “The Bronco Buster” sculpture in this context as a metaphor that conveys the idea that this is in fact the current president’s first rodeo, as he has no experience and no concept of how to run a country, but rather, he is leaning on past establishments very uncertainly and precariously. This metaphor represents the curious situation of the president, and with it, the artist creates a new relationship to power for the viewer to experience. One that is inquisitive, skeptical, and uneasy. Through this lens the viewer is able to see that those in political positions of power are fragile, ephemeral and illogical. It is this fragility that gives the work its strength. James Piscitelli

Photograph: The President On the Phone, Behind the Resolute Desk, Adjacent to Andrew Jackson. A photograph as a starting point. Beginning with images of President Trump seated in the oval office with the newly hung portrait of Andrew Jackson beside him—presented in all the papers and all over the Internet. The sordid logic in that choice and alignment were problematic to me specifically. That detail speaks to the greater issues of doublespeak, theatricality and performance inherent to the seat of power. This installation will ask, what can be sussed out of dismantling that image? Following a set of rules I made and my own internal logic, I used steps of remove from photographic image to painted picture plane to object, pulling the flattened presentation into space. Playing with a hovering between flatness and depth, and translation between them, to show a concern with the voice of logic—its use and abuse by this political administration, economic and political systems, and all seats of power. The installation will include four distinct pieces that will support each other. A small photorealistic painted collage of the photographic source. A cycle of paintings that function as a single work, legible as a loop around the room. A hanging sculpture of a section of the drapery from the Oval Office that will act as a theatrical marker of place and body. A small bronze sculpture of the tabletop Remington bronze that lives on the desk in the Oval Office, which is another kind of reproduction, flattened here by being painted out a solid color. A description of the photograph, so easily Googled, serves as both summary of the collage piece and title of the largest work in the installation: Photograph: The President On the Phone, Behind the Resolute Desk, Adjacent to Andrew Jackson. First, I made that photographic image into a collage, breaking down the tones of the photograph into lines to follow and build from. Then, using the shapes made by building the collage, I made silk screened paintings built up on flat planes as if they were stacked in space.

Making a temporal, serial experience out of the single image. The painting cycle is presented on a narrow ridge circling the room, each thin plywood panel placed at an acute angle to the wall, balanced at one edge and overlapping the next slightly. The tension of potentiality making the viewer more aware of their relationship to each other, the chaos that could ensue if this house of cards got knocked over. The organization of the panels is precise, tensely balanced, pointing towards logic and human understanding, but not allowing a logic to be followed through to an end or a satisfying outcome. There are clues toward logic, but a true logic can’t be found. Each time you try to read it and follow the forms through the panels, there are places where the thread dies off or turns around. Instead of a book, a maze. The wood-and-brass curtain sculpture pulls one element from the photograph of the President into real space, probing the dynamics of symbolic representation. Considering the curtain drapery as a backdrop for photo opportunities, or a theater curtain—but here brought forward into the role of the protagonist, the actor. It is animated, a puppet, activated as the storyteller, the eavesdropper, the player. It hangs in space, moves on its hinges, drags its pooling cloth on the floor. It is also the image pulled back into real space, at the scale of the source object, and thus becomes the backdrop for the installation and everyone that moves within it. Amy Nathan

Habitas, 2017. Wood. Installation view.

Mihrab I and II, 2017. Mixed media on plywood. Installation view.


Embark Gallery offers exhibition opportunities to graduate students of the Fine Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. We provide a space for an engaged community of artists, curators and scholars, and we aim to expand the audience for up and coming contemporary art. A non-profit gallery, Embark’s programming represents the diversity ofthe talented artists studying at eight local artinstitutions: San Francisco Art Institute, UC Berkeley, California College of the Arts, Mills College, San Francisco State University, UC Davis, San Jose State University, and Stanford. The juried exhibitions are held at our gallery in San Francisco at the historic Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

Tania Houtzager | Executive Director Angelica Jardini | Curatorial Director


Exhibition Catalog for Neighbors at Embark Gallery


Exhibition Catalog for Neighbors at Embark Gallery