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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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ArtArt ReviewAnn Hamilton enlists an accordion as historian at 500...

Ann Hamilton enlists an accordion as historian at 500 Capp Street

Artist mines the rich legacy of the Mission District's Conceptual art home.

The aptly titled “Process + Place: here • there • then • now,” Ann Hamilton’s show at 500 Capp Street (runs through April 29), takes Conceptual artist David Ireland’s home as its setting, and commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Headlands Center for the Arts.

When Hamilton and Ireland transformed the walls and dining hall of Headlands’ old military barrack buildings, the artists manifested the collaborative and exploratory ethos of the artist residency program. 500 Capp Street has embodied that same spirit through its own residency program, in which Hamilton participated in 1989. At Capp Street, amongst the many layers of histories, artistic interventions, and collaborations, Hamilton’s accordion installation and “cut up” poem poignantly activate the sound and memory of place, with poetic and subtle attention to spatial dynamics.

In the parlor room, referred to as the “Accordion Room,” Hamilton has simply placed an accordion on the floor. With the gold leaf signage “Accordions—P. Grueb” affixed to the home’s front window, Hamilton responds to the history of the David Ireland house, previously owned by Greub, who lived and worked in the home as an accordion maker before Ireland purchased the domicile.

While the accordion on the first floor lies horizontal and still, in the narrow attic doorway on the second floor Hamilton has placed an accordion vertically. Rigged to a motor, the instrument’s top end drunkenly rises and falls, pushing air through the bellows. As the sound faintly resonates through the house, she creates a spatial relationship that moves the work from the gold leaf signage on the “Accordion Room” window, through the house, from the ground floor to the attic doorway. Hamilton cunningly occupies little physical space with objects, but through spatial relationships, conceptually and sonically actives activates much of the home, transforming it into a genealogy of previous inhabitants and their work.

Further evoking a vertical mining of the home, Hamilton presents a framed poem in the accordion room (also printed in the “take-away,” a 12-page color printed newspaper edition). With cut and pasted appropriated text, Hamilton’s poem suggestively ties her and Ireland’s work together in the exploration and magic of making. In referring to “his subterranean explorations” Hamilton alludes to Ireland’s excavation of his basement and expands upon this by “writing,”

a human

hand gestured


house in which to live.

Ireland notably combined concrete with the dirt and paper excavated from the basement to create his “torpedos.” He crudely created the oblong forms with his hands, presented in the house’s basement via Hamilton’s photographs of them. Through the “cut up” poem, Hamilton engages in a form of collaboration, where the artist reflects the chance and simplicity of process, key to the spirit of Ireland’s work. With acute sensitivity, Hamilton’s exhibition questions where gesture lives, be it spatially, sonically, and temporally. The exhibition resonates deeply with the ethos of Capp Street and the Headlands, where artists provoke questions not answers, as they respond to place and history while making new opportunities for creative lives and futures.

PROCESS + PLACE: ANN HAMILTON, here • there • then • now runs through April 29. 500 Capp Street, SF. More info here.

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Genevieve Quick
Genevieve Quick is an interdisciplinary artist and arts writer. Her writing has appeared in Artforum, cmagazine, and Art Practical.

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