From our partner Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Energy That Is All Around, a group show of “Mission School” artists now on view at the Walter and McBean Galleries in San Francisco. Our #Hashtags editor Anu Vikram discussed this same show recently in her column The Trouble with the Mission School, and today we bring you another consideration of the work. Author Patricia Maloney notes, “As an ideology for San Francisco, the Mission School is still relevant even as its namesake neighborhood has radically transformed and derivative works have diminished the politics that informed the aesthetic choices of the original artists.”
Curated by art historian Natasha Boas, Energy That Is All Around, on view at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) Walter and McBean Galleries, highlights the studio production of Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri, who, with the exception of Johanson, met as students at SFAI. Boas attempts to disintegrate the calcifying nostalgia that surrounds their work as hallmarks of the Mission School by emphasizing the overlapping formal concerns of their paintings, drawings, and sculptures. This framework shifts the focus away from how deeply integrated street art and subcultures, folk music, punk, outsider art, and typography were in their lives as well as their art. Instead, Boas foregrounds the enduring collaborations that began while the artists were students, as well as their concurrent, dynamic discoveries around line and color that occurred individually and collaboratively.
Alicia McCarthy and Ruby Neri are the standouts. A 1996 untitled (and rare) oil painting by McCarthy draws one in with its siren call of polychromatic, wavering lines woven into a hypnotic grid. Such Thing Countless Wondrs (1995), a group of nine works on paper by Neri, assembles a set of pictograms that seems to provide a lexicon for the rest of the show with its combination of animals, figures, and fonts. Also remarkable is the small group of Johanson’s mostly untitled acrylic-on-panel paintings from 1998. Dark sentiments about pain, failure, helplessness, and rage crowd the monochromatic works, in which figures are layered almost to the point of obliteration.