In the early 19th century, Lewis & Clark tramped thousands of miles to the Oregon coast, opening the land for exploration and domination. And 200 years later, photographer Robert Adams revisited their trails, capturing what civilization has been up to in the intervening period. Not surprisingly, we've been chopping down trees.
While shooting "Turning Back, a Photographic Journal of Re-exploration," Adams, interestingly, began where the explorers turned around -- on the beaches of Oregon -- and followed their footsteps east, which Adams considers the "real frontier ... where we have to discover how to live in harmony." His black-and-white landscapes feature wide shots of terrible clear-cut forests, with swaths reduced to barren soil or blanketed with the repeating lines of felled trees. In one startling picture, a mechanical harvesting monster sits on a bare hillside, gripping a tree in its jaws while surrounded by a bloom of stripped trunks -- literal skeletons of a horrible feast. Dwarfed by the beast is a pickup truck, revealing the awesome scale of the devastation. The title, Stacking the De-Limbed Trunks of an Immature "Harvest," Columbia County, Oregon, provides an additional saddening fact: These trees were taken before their time.
Another shot appears to be of an ordinary stump, but it's really an old metal grave marker, inscribed to one of the early "Woodmen of the World." It's a sad tribute to a once-honorable profession, a legacy now tarnished by relentless drive and crippling efficiency. "Turning Back" opens at 11 a.m. Thursday at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$12.50; call 357-4000 or visit www.sfmoma.org.
-- Michael Leaverton
Messengers of Truth
At the beginning of August, the Space Gallery handed out 50 disposable cameras to bike messengers, with only one requirement: Go crazy. The venue has since reclaimed the cameras, developed the film, and promises to display all 1,000 photographs, which is a heady thing given the unique situations messengers are often privy to. Gallery owner Ray Morrone's favorite is of a "completely naked girl, posing in a living room with an antique lampshade on her head." "Cross Street Directory" opens Friday at 7 p.m. at the Space Gallery, 1141 Polk (at Sutter), S.F. Admission is free; call 674-1997 or visit www.spacegallerysf.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
The Real World
Old music; new to you
Despite the fact that the city by the bay is considered one of the most eclectic enclaves in the world, festivals that give us the opportunity to peddle our cosmopolitan wares too often reveal a deficiency in actual diversity. I mean, how often do we see Azerbaijani pianists, Afghan dutar and rubab players, and Persian ney masters jamming in the same room? Nuff said. The sixth annual San Francisco World Music Festival boasts a list of obscure delights, including the aforementioned corps of composers and other artists in a world-premiere work called "Nowruz Project." For trivia wizards, nowruz is the pre-Islamic term for the vernal equinox, celebrated throughout the cultures of the Middle East and Central Asia. The festivities begin Saturday at 8 p.m. with a performance by Ross Daly at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission at Third Street, S.F.) and continue through Oct. 16 at various venues. Admission is $5-36; call 561-6571 or visit www.sfworldmusicfestival.org for a complete schedule.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Pictures and people
If you based your perceptions of life on the art of Kari Byron and Laura Flippen, you'd think it was a cold, indecipherable world out there. Byron's mixed-media sculptures are usually abstract, boxy things with heads, looking off into the middle distance, twisting, scowling, and sometimes framed by dysfunctional umbrellas. And Flippen's photography tends to use a waste-area palette. Some pieces are actually images of waste areas, with ragged plastic stuff caught in barbed wire.
But you don't do that, thankfully, and the optimism and color a viewer brings to an exhibit like this make all the difference. Regardless, the work here is beautiful if bleak, and obviously the output of two very skilled artists. The opening reception starts at 6 p.m. Thursday (and the show continues through Nov. 3) at Juice Design, 3160A 16th St. (at Albion), S.F. Admission is free; call 355-9900 for an appointment after Sept. 29 or visit www.juicedesign.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
It has the descriptive subtitle "An integrative Bay Area tour: Performers, artists, and activists address the urban ecosystem," but it's still tough to tell exactly what might happen at "Art on BART." It's certain that your tour guide is the event's instigator, Amber Hasselbring, and that a smartly outfitted group of her co-conspirators intends to make the ride damned interesting. Also, participants receive a booklet with maps, "performance details," and the like -- and should steel themselves for the thrill of seeing 43 BART stations in one sitting. The tour begins at 10:26 a.m. at the Civic Center Station, 1150 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $5.80; visit www.amberhasselbring.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
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