An exact replica of the original Burning Man, the 8-foot effigy that Larry Harvey built and set fire to in 1986 at Baker Beach in front of 20 people, will be erected at "The Art of Burning Man: An Incendiary Exhibit," a group show on display through Aug. 29 at three San Francisco Art Commission spaces. The Original Man, as he's called, will be burned at the original site on Sept. 6, bringing a cataclysmic end to the exhibit, related pre-Burning Man activities, and, in spirit, the actual Burning Man festival, which will set ablaze its own 40-foot Man. Those original 20 spectators couldn't have known that the summer solstice ritual unfolding in front of them would grow to such huge proportions that it would have to be moved to the baking playa of Nevada's Black Rock Desert, where for one pre-Labor Day weekend every year, thousands of people would converge and set up themed camps. Burning Man has since become its own transient town, Black Rock City, with a radio station, opera company, newspaper, Web site, and international population. Through photographs, sculpture, paintings, and a film festival featuring movies shot at Burning Man, this exhibit documents the event's inventive nature, which gave way to motorized furniture and a sundial made from a giant ball of ice embedded with ticking clocks, among other creations. This year's Man will also be displayed before he is trucked over state lines to meet his fiery death. A reception for the exhibit will evolve into a fire dance ritual and public procession, as 16 hooded monklike figures bear a flaming chalice through Civic Center to Lech Walesa Alley (between Van Ness and Polk), where a nighttime street fair will attempt to re-create a Burning Man for local urbanites. The fire-eating performance group AWD, the Sprocket Ensemble, and Circus Baraka will perform, and Pepe Ozan and the Burning Man Opera Crew will present an excerpt from their original opera The Temple of Rudra before staging it two weeks later with a cast of hundreds under the stars. The reception begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is free-$3. Art will also be shown beginning Wednesday at Exploration City Site (165 Grove) and the 155 Grove Street Windows, and Harvey will host a lecture and video/slide presentation at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6 in Koret Auditorium at the Main Library, 100 Larkin, S.F. Admission is free. Call (650) 985-7471 for more information.
-- Heather Wisner