Ever since Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre experimented with the effects of light upon translucent paintings back in the 1820s, modern photography has upped the ante on shot-worthy subjects. When this art form was just a glimmer on the horizon of human potential, portraits of stuffy noblemen or bleak urban landscapes were already hackneyed. Now, it seems, photography has scoured the inner- and outermost reaches of human perception, rendering everything from pixilated porn to airbrushed celebrities to the photojournalism of wartime correspondents.
The International San Francisco Photographic Art Exposition, also known as Photo San Francisco 2005, is the place to be for a liberal array of pictorial delights, ranging from 19th-century experimentalism to conceptual video and digital art. Gathering entries from more than 80 galleries and private dealers around the world, Photo S.F. includes some imposing vintage pieces, such as the hard-nosed documentary photography of Walker Evans or the sensuously precise nudes of Edward Weston. It also boasts some contemporary favorites -- the practically comatose subjects of gloomster Diane Arbus, for example, or Lauren Greenfield's candid depictions of disaffected suburban teenagers. This year's event is structured around important political installations, and some of the focal points include a collection chronicling the French government's involvement in the devastating 1994 Rwandan genocide, as well as a harrowing selection of photographs from Doctors Without Borders. Consider it politically conscious adornment for your walls.
The exhibit opens to the public Friday at 11 a.m. (and continues through Sunday) at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $5-15; call 441-3400 or visit www.photosanfrancisco.net. -- Nirmala Nataraj
Live entertainment isn't rare in San Francisco, of course. You can hear poetry, music, or an author's reading any night of the week. But this is unusual: "Quick Draw" features visual art performances for anyone who wonders what it's like to peek over the shoulder of a young local creator at work. The participants will draw from life, from the images in their heads, from photos, or from whatever they choose, says new gallery director (and former SF Weekly art critic) Adrienne Gagnon, who also tells us that spectators can look for lean, mean prices on "whatever the artists don't crumple up." It starts at 11 a.m. at Hang Gallery, 556 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is free; call 434-4264 or visit www.hangart.com. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Give Me Liberties
Rococo Risqué replay
Skits such as an Andrews Sisters-style vocal trio trilling out "The terrorists are planning some evil shit/ But we can't tell you what it is" frame the exploits of a sexy Statue of Liberty and the object of her affections, a media conglomerate type who owns a very familiar-looking broadcasting tower. Live original music sparkles, the cast is full of triple threats, and the pace hardly allows you to catch your breath or rest your laugh-cramped face. The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday (and continues weekends through July 30) at the Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 647-2822 or visit www.rococorisque.com. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Junge trashes a Hummer
Get revved to recycle at the opening reception with organic wine and hors d'oeuvres starting at 5 p.m. Friday (the show continues through Saturday) at SF Recycling & Disposal, 503 Tunnel (at Recycle), S.F. Admission is free; call 330-1415 or visit www.norcalwaste.com. -- Josh Rotter
Pepper Stirs the Pot
In Through the Wall: A Year in Havana, Margot Pepper details the surreal contradictions of post-Cold War Cuba: Buying house paint and toilet paper could put you in debt, but graduate school and cosmetic surgery were free. As one of the few who have obtained a visa, Pepper offers a unique take on the Cuban government, but it's not all cold appraisal; a love affair with a poor Mexican poet helped shape her ideas. She reads with anarchist historian Barry Pateman at "Independent Press Spotlight: Freedom Voices Press & AK Press" at 7:30 p.m. at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-15; call 626-2787 or visit www.theintersection.org. -- Michael Leaverton