Galleries and Museums

"Brian Ulrich." Think back to the first time you tripped out on the surreal beauty of a supermarket — the geometric stacks of products and the ominous yet soothing march of logos down the aisles — and your brain twitched with conflicting messages, from "This is some weird shit" to "I could use a little of that." It's the kind of revelation that happens late at night, perhaps inspired by something illegal placed on the tongue, and it's the domain of photographer Brian Ulrich. The large-scale works in this untitled exhibit (part of his "Copia" series) examine the private moments that we find in large, public stores. Naturally, he's commenting on consumerism — specifically, the government's plea to shoppers in 2001 to boost the economy — and his images have that get-close-and-space-out vibe that can transport you, if not to heightened thinking about the ways in which we search for satisfaction, then at least to Safeway. Of particular delight is Kenosha, Wisconsin, which features pallets of Faygo 12-packs behind a splotch of white on the ground, announcing a dairy mishap, along with Gurnee, Illinois, in which a statuesque man holds a fishing rod, his frozen gaze betraying the complexity of buying decisions. We've all been there: I was there last night with a brick of Tillamook sharp cheddar. (Michael Leaverton) Reviewed July 5. Through Sept. 2 at Robert Koch Gallery, 49 Geary (at Kearny), S.F. Admission is free; call 421-0122 or visit www.kochgallery.com.

"Lawrence Labianca: The Sound of the Trees." Lawrence Labianca doesn't just hear the sound of trees; he has tree thoughts. The sculptor has pressed his ear to the trunk and listened hard. He heard: A tree loves an arch, and a circle and Don't forget what supports me. He understands Dylan Thomas' "force that through the green fuse drives the flower." In a series of 17 stunning sculptures — among them What It Held, Full Stop, and Pathless Wood — Labianca uses the skills of a boat builder, a dress maker, and a jeweler to examine the poetic and physical nature of trees, growth, and death. He works with the essence of a material, instead of forcing his forms onto it. In Birch, he evokes a believable tree with a series of stacked and threaded steel spools painted white. He combines simple machines like levels, winches, pendulums, and inclined planes with wood and puts them through their paces. Continuum, a wind-powered drawing machine, resembles a Renaissance measuring device. The drawings it produces, pages of circles numbered and dated, are an endless series of full moons. The home of these pieces, Sculpturesite, has established a welcome presence and given contemporary sculpture a downtown showcase. With its outdoor installation of steel and ceramic sculptures, the gallery has changed the windy canyon between Convention Plaza and Moscone Parking into a lively destination. Through Oct. 21 at Sculpturesite Gallery, 201 Third St. (at Howard), S.F. Admission is free; call 495-6400 or visit www.sculpturesitegallery.com. (Lea Feinstein) Reviewed Aug. 30.

"Marking Boundaries." This exhibition, curated by Myra Block Kaiser, is dedicated to "the role of fiber in contemporary society," which is nearly funny — fiber? — until you get a look at the work (and at Kaiser's bio: She's one of the founders of Fiberscene.com). Although plenty of the pieces incorporate spun filaments, which has a nice follow-the-rules aspect to it, the overall concept is loaded with significance. Here's one example: Fiber binds things. As a result, the eight artists get ample opportunity to weave their own stories. Jane Lackey makes collages out of fabric that are "memory maps" of her daily life, incorporating items such as a sunlit kitchen or the route she biked to work; Bay Area artist Scott Hove does beautiful things with hemp rope, creating weaponlike, highly technical knots that look like something out a Norse myth. A reception for "Marking Boundaries" starts at 3 p.m. (Michael Leaverton) Reviewed Aug. 9. Through Sept. 9 at Braunstein/Quay Gallery, 430 Clementina (at Fifth St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 278-9850 or visit www.bquayartgallery.com.

"Summer Show." Crown Point Press is a jewel of the San Francisco art establishment. At the back door of SFMOMA on Hawthorne St., it boasts a beautifully lit exhibition space and a working print studio. Eminent artists of every stripe have passed through its doors to learn about and produce top-quality prints. Many use the rigors and pratfalls of the print process as an extension of their drawings. The printers at Crown Point set the industry standard for perfection, but they're also famous for letting loose the genie of invention in the studio. (John Cage set the press bed on fire for a series of monoprints.) Standouts in the current summer show are two etchings by Kiki Smith, entitled Still and Home. Soles of feet are all we see in both, and it's a bravura endeavor to create a portrait out of those. In 1980 Smith lost her father, sculptor Tony Smith, famous for his giant minimalist steel boxes. In Home we see feet shod in rough, buckled motorcycle boots, pitching headlong into a corrugated box. A younger sister who died of AIDS is likely the subject of Still. Only her dangling feet are visible, as if she had been snatched from above; their wrinkled skin and shoe-squeezed toes are anti-heroic and profoundly human — like much of Smith's work. Also, don't miss Richard Tuttle's Mandevilla 7, Pat Steir's Memory, or David Salle's Portrait With Scissors and Nightclub. Through Sept. 22 at Crown Point Press, 20 Hawthorne (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free; call 974-6273 or visit www.crownpoint.com. (Lea Feinstein) Reviewed Aug. 30.

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