Featuring six Northern California artists, So I traveled a great deal… is organized by the artist Vincent Fecteau and the curator Jordan Stein, and reflects their interest in the lesser-known, the ahead-of-its-time, the hard-to-classify, the ecstatic, the hermetic, and the strange. The show’s title, which comes from a video in the exhibition by Joanne Kyger, captures the gregarious and exploratory nature of their curatorial process, as well as the transportive element of the artworks, many of which are exhibited here publicly for the first time.
Jordan Belson (b. 1926 in New York, d. 2011 in San Francisco) created abstract, often spiritually oriented films, drawings, and paintings for six decades at his Telegraph Hill apartment in San Francisco. Included in the exhibition are a lacquer-and-pastel drawing from his Profile/Snake series and twenty-six pages from The Peacock Book, a group of hallucinatory ink-and-pastel drawings made between 1952 and 1953.
Isabella Kirkland (b. 1954 in Old Lyme, CT, lives in Sausalito, CA) has spent the last twenty years documenting flora and fauna at risk of extinction. In the alkyd-on-panel works on view here, she focuses on nudibranchs: brightly colored, anatomically diverse invertebrates found in all the world’s oceans. The four-by-five-foot painting Nudibranchia (2015) depicts 196 distinct species from the order, each actual size, ranging from less than one inch to over two feet long.
Joanne Kyger (b. 1934 in Vallejo, CA, d. 2017 in Bolinas, CA) was a poet associated with the Beat generation. During an artist’s residency at National Experiments in Television, a pioneering video project sponsored by KQED, Kyger created the video Descartes (1968), her only work in the medium. The eleven-minute composition is built around her verse adaptation of the seventeenth-century philosopher’s “Discourse on Method,” combining poetry with sound, movement, and early video effects.
Jack Mendenhall (b. 1937 in Ventura, CA, lives in Oakland, CA) is a painter who first gained recognition for his photorealistic depictions of shop window displays and lavishly decorated homes. His large-format oil paintings Yellow Tulips (1973) and Mirrored Table with Decanters (1981) render contemporary domestic interiors as worlds of surface and reflection devoid of human inhabitants.
Robert Strini (b. 1942 in Hayward, CA, lives in Scottsville, VA) studied ceramics in the late 1960s under Peter Voulkos and James Melchert at the University of California, Berkeley. Shortly after receiving his degree, he also began working in wood, exploring a range of techniques to create labor-intensive sculptures like Sheridan Piece (1974) and Goolagong (1975).
Tisa Walden (b. 1954 in Meridian, MS, lives in San Francisco) is a poet and publisher. In 2003 she began taking photographs on her walks around San Francisco with a 1.3 megapixel camera called the Chameleon. She continued photographing the city’s streets for a decade, collecting the results in her 2011 photobook San Francisco in the 21st Century. A selection of images from the book are included in this exhibition.
Recounting the process of selecting the works in the exhibition, its curators, Fecteau and Stein, describe the sense of “ecstatic anxiety” that shaped it: “We saw it in the wave of Kyger’s arms, the fireworks of Belson’s drawings, the obsessiveness of Strini’s sculptures, the taxonomy of Kirkland’s nudibranchia, the mirrored realism of Mendenhall’s paintings, and the other-worldliness of Walden’s photographs. As she writes in ‘Elegy,’ the poem that marks the end of her photobook, ‘It was as if I was wandering in a labyrinth with my hair on fire looking for him.’”
Vincent Fecteau is an artist whose work has been included in two Whitney Biennials and featured in one-person exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Vienna Secession, and the Kunsthalle Basel. Last September he was named a MacArthur Fellow. Jordan Stein is a curator who has organized exhibitions at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.