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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Arts + CultureArts ForecastArts Forecast: The cool, clear eye of Wolfgang Tillmans

Arts Forecast: The cool, clear eye of Wolfgang Tillmans

Plus: Flatstock, Afrolicious, Conrad Tao, Luis Miguel Garcia-Mispireta, Branford Marsalis, Chiquimamani-Condori, more

Nothing is more powerful than being late to the party, and this is the final weekend to take in the brilliant “Wolfgang Tillmans: To look without fear” at SFMOMA (through Sun/3), a retrospective of the German photographer, videographer, and experimental-media artist’s jaw-dropping breadth of work. While his vivid, evocative art is for everyone, if you’re of a particular ilk—say, a raver from the halcyon 1990s-2000s days of Love Parades and party-caravanning; or a queer after-hours maven with many fond half-memories of stumbling home mid-morning at the dawn of the millennium; or someone who moved into a Berlin squat a couple decades ago when it was still cheap—this show is particularly for you.

Wolfgang Tillmans, ‘Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt,’ 1993 and SFMOMA installation view

Tillmans made his name as a youth culture and fashion photographer, deeply embedded in the underground scenes he documented. (He still is: I bumped into him very late at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in the Tenderloin as he was setting this show up.) In fact, before the Internet really got going, much-driven by the techno-utopian rave scene itself, Tillmans’ photographs in UK and Euro magazines were how we got our news of the looks and latest goings-ons in the club world. His style is so direct and unhindered by affect, that he can usher you into ridiculously scandalous and terrifically intimate moments before you know what’s happening. One particular lovely shot in the show of after-hours birthday partiers drinking beers on a futon while pressing their stocking feet together almost made me burst into tears.

Wolfgang Tillmans, ‘Birthday Party,’ 2006. Courtesy of artist and SFMOMA

This is a sprawling show somehow compacted into a a few bright rooms high upstairs at SFMOMA. When I saw the show in New York in 2022, it was heavy on Tillmans’ famous celebrity photographs—we pretty much have him to thank and to blame for those once-inescapable “caught in the moment” shots that are equally totally unglamorous and the most glamorous things imaginable. Life is a cabaret, old chums.

Here, those are barely represented in favor of his presented-without-comment political work (a strikingly small photo of the Gaza checkpoint wall, snaps of anti-racist demos, absorbing “Truth Studies” tables that collage together photos, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera from our recent global past), fabulous experimental print work that pays homage to SF as a center of artistic freedom and innovation, and his time in the city itself—including photos that remind us how entrenched homelessness and wealth inequality have been over the decades, as well as independence and resilience. There’s even a photo of California Street from 1995 with a giant Bay Guardian sign in the distance, which looks like you can walk right into the scene. It just is 1995.

Wolfgang Tillmans, ‘San Francisco, 1995’ courtesy the artist and SFMOMA

It’s always an odd shock to see one’s generation splashed up on a grand institution’s walls. And while there has been plenty of Gen-X and older Millennial art shown at SFMOMA, Tillmans’s pictures often stub me right against the cold, clear ashtray of mortality. And I gladly go up in a puff of pink nostalgia.


THU/29-SUN/3: BRANFORD MARSALIS You absolutely can find no higher-level than this hero of the saxophone, a mid/late-career jazz deity still walking among us, so seek him out. He’s got the quartet on tap for this series: Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums. SFJAZZ, more info here.

THU/29: LUIS MANUEL GARCIA-MISPIRETA The club-hopping author and academic comes to town to chat about new book Together, Somehow: Music, Affect, and Intimacy on the Dancefloor, which addresses essential nightlife questions such as “Is sharing a dance floor enough for togetherness?” and “Who belongs to the dance floor and how?” I’ll be grilling him on all these things as the official moderator, with love. There will also be music and fun things presented by the As You Like It party crew and SutroFM. 9pm, SutroFM Studio, SF. More info here.

THU/29: CHIQUIMAMANI-CONDORI The Woodlands, CA artist has put out one of the most mind-fracturing electronic releases of (late) last year, DJ E, smashing together sounds in homage to their Bolivian American/ Andean roots that sounds like one of the wildest dreams you ever had as you ascend to the heavens. They’re opening for electronic wiz Actress as part of the Noise Pop onslaught and who knows what to expect except “wow.” 8pm, Gray Area, SF. More info here.

FRI/1: AFROLICIOUS The rollicking band/party/experience that is Afrolicious is back, bringing live funk to, where else, the Boom Boom Room, with an irresistible international spin. Led by maestro Joey McGuire, the regular Afrolicious parties were a staple of nightlife here for years, and the reunion should be, as they say, banging. 8pm, Boom Boom Room, SF. More info here.

SAT/2 + SUN/3: FLATSTOCK The art of the party flyer may be (almost) dead, but the joy of the concert poster lives on—and this event has proved it since 2002, when it launched at Cellspace. Hitting Noise Pop via the American Poster Institute, “Flatstock 91 is an art exhibition showcasing both new and emerging talent and the world’s most influential and exceptional poster artists. Featuring handmade, limited-edition posters from artists around the globe, the show presents an incredible range of visual styles, techniques and colors for sale by the talented artists who created them.” Social Hall, SF. More info here.

SAT/2-SUN/3: PILOT 74—REAL:FAKE Go see some hot new choreography. “This dance event is composed of six new original works, all approximately ten minutes in length, by the choreographers in this year’s Pilot 74 cohort: Clairey Evangelho, Raychel Hatch, Jenni Hong, Lily Gee, Amber Gott, and Addison Norman. In REAL:FAKE, each choreographic work is as idiosyncratic as it is relatable, as much a reconception of conventional dance performance as it is a mirror of the self. Featuring stunning dancers drawn from all corners of the Bay Area, REAL:FAKE promises to take audiences on a journey of imagination, emotion, and humanity.” ODC, SF. More info here.

SAT/2: OTHER CINEMA: OPTRONICA An evening of live experimental audio-visual explorations with “Drone Poet, the visionary twosome of Alan Korn and Daniel Konhauser, who summon up a synthesis of projections and guitar noise that promises to transport all aboard, plus Eric Theise is back on our gallery floor with collaborator Techno DJ Sean Ocean, and a version of thee Theise animation that is now circling the top of the Salesforce Tower!” And much more. 7:30pm, ATA, SF. More info here.

SUN/3: CONRAD TAO Almost exactly a year ago, I was blown away by pianist Conrad Tao, who curated the SF Symphony’s experimental sensation Soundbox. Intense on the keys, the young player’s adventurousness in his music curation was almost scandalous. (We ended up raving all night together at F8 afterwards, during which I might have been a bit gushy.) Seeing him recently on NPR’s Tiny Desk dusting with tap dancer Caleb Teicher was a real treat. Now, he’s coming to Hertz Hall in Berkeley as part of Cal Performances for an intimate recital, taking inspiration from poetry—including a piece entitled I have loved a stream and a shadow (With glitter of sun-rays, Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back to heaven…). 3pm, Hertz Hall, Berkeley. More info here.

SUN/3: ASIAN ART MUSEUM FREE DAY The first week of every month is a bonanza of museum free days, and for some strange reason I love the Asian Art Museum best when it rains, as it’s supposed to do again this Sunday! Something about their outstanding collection of ancient stunners and the pitter-pat of rain outside truly sends me in that old converted library building. Hennyway, go enjoy some culture on the city’s dime. 10am-5pm, Asian Art Museum, SF. More info here.

WED/6: ALEXANDRA CONUNOVA I love when SF Symphony showcases emerging artists (“Today’s Stars, Tomorrow’s Legends”), and young Modavian violinist Alexandra Conunova—”Hailed for her virtuosity, warm tone, impressive range of color, and flawless technique”—is definitely one to watch. She has upcoming concerts with one zillion orchestras around the world; this local appearance offers lovely selections including Mozart’s Adagio in E major, Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, and Saint-Saëns’ Rondo capriccioso. A real treat. 7:30m, Davies Symphony Hall, SF. More info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Marke B.
Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

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