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Visual Arts Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Christine Brenneman

Hover: 118th Annual Exhibition
Thru Aug 22; Tue-Sat 10am-5pm, Thu until 8pm, Sun noon-5
San Francisco Art Institute, Walter/McBean Gallery, 800 Chestnut St (between Jones & Leavenworth); 415.771.7020.

Scattered amid the scenic campus of the SF Art Institute, the pieces in Hover run the gamut from conceptual installations to unusual toilet seats. Brian Storts' S.O.S. (upstairs in the Atholl McBean Gallery) presents a thriving indoor garden complete with real aloe, marigolds and shrubs planted in mounds of potting soil arranged in a swirl around the perimeter of the room. Gilded toy cowboys and Indians frolic in Storts' Eden, their gold color referencing the gold rush and humanity's fixation with consuming and commodifying nature. The real surprise and ultimate delight of the piece comes when the lights automatically switch off and an entire unspoiled world comes to life in the form of a landscape painted on the walls with glow-in-the-dark paint.

Joe Sorren
Thru Sep 4; Tue-Fri 1-7pm, Sat 4-7pm
111 Minna Street Gallery; 415.974.1719.

In Joe Sorren's whimsical and imaginative world, a character's outward appearance becomes an intense manifestation of his/her inner feelings. His cartoonish yet exceptionally creative paintings center on human figures depicted in a expressionist technique with a deep color palette. Although Sorren got his start in the snowboarding industry--at one point serving as art director for TransWorld Snowboarding magazine and also designing various industry graphics--he now works primarily as an illustrator-for-hire. The secret to his commercial success is simple: he makes astonishingly lovely art. In Untitled, a melancholy but luminescent moon-faced woman dressed in yellow squats on the stoop of a building, a lively cityscape providing the background. It would seem that Sorren's mosaic use of saffron and ruby hues could create an energetic mood, but somehow the entire scene takes on the mild malcontent of the woman's downturned mouth and sad eyes.

Gerardo Suter: Labyrinth of Memory
Thru Sep 26; Wed-Sun 11am-5pm; $3-$5
The Mexican Museum, Fort Mason Center, Building D; 415.441.0404.

Acclaimed Latin American photographer Gerardo Suter's gritty, figure-based photography is now on display at the Mexican Museum. Evoking a primitive spirit in most works, Suter effectively creates timeless, distinctively Latin images that appeal to the viewer on a visceral level. Rife with ancient symbols, these works are divided into three series that represent Suter's varied approaches, themes and formats. From his Of This Earth, Heaven and Hell series, the gelatin silver print El visitador de los hombres (1987) shows an indigenous feline mask held in front of a human body coated with rough black mud. Suter's resulting animal/man hybrid comes across with a stoic power recalling unknown sacred rituals. In the large-format photo Desentierro (1994)--from the artist's Ritual Songs series--two brown, dirt-covered bodies intertwine, limbs form diagonals and heads are indistinguishable from large boulders within the frame. An undeniable earthiness pervades this work, suggesting man's place among the soil and rocks.

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From the August 2, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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