Specialist Picks: San Francisco Cinematheque Benefit Auction

For 56 years, San Francisco Cinematheque has been the go-to place for cinephiles in the Golden City to check out some of the most experimental and innovative films. Their Sixth Annual Benefit features a captivating selection of works by cutting-edge artists—many of whom are intimately tied to the medium of film. Some of the works featured in this auction are reflective on the art of analog and digital filmmaking, while others are love letters to artistic traditions of a bygone century. Here, I’d like to share a few of my favorites that I would collect in a heartbeat. 

Bruce Conner 

I would absolutely love to own a work by Bruce Conner—and never let it go. His work and career were wide-ranging, unpredictable, and difficult to pin down. A sculptor, draftsman, and filmmaker, Conner is popularly known for his revolutionary use of found footage that launched the music video genre as we know it today. The theme tying everything together was his tendency to defy any set expectations. He had a knack for assembling cast-off detritus into sculptures, and splicing lost and found footage into films; the sum of these parts would become a simultaneously mesmerizing and horrific peek into our own souls and collective consciousness. For about two years, Bruce Conner made a series of drawings configured into the shape of the mandala—a symbol of humankind’s search for transcendence, wholeness, and self-awareness. This mandala is dark and the paths outlined are obscure; it beckons us to go on a soul-searching mission for ourselves. For those on the East Coast, make sure to go check out the incredibly moving retrospective honoring his work at the Museum of Modern Art. 

Miya Ando

This exquisite piece by Miya Ando is born from a longstanding tradition of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken objects using lacquer dusted with powdered gold. This tradition comes from the idea that an object’s wear and tear adds to the object’s history rather than marking the item as a defect. Ando’s  ‘repair’ of the charred wood with lacquer and gold has ties to her longtime preoccupation with Zen Buddhist philosophies of embracing the ephemeral and the imperfect. Similar to her artworks, the artist’s life also has a touch of magic.  She is of both Japanese and Russian heritage, and is a descendant of Bizen sword makers. She was first raised by smith-turned Buddhist priests in Japan then moved to the redwood forests of Santa Cruz, California. Now living and working in Brooklyn, the artist has exhibited extensively throughout the world, including the “Frontiers Imagined” Exhibition at the 56th Venice Biennale to a more recent solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore in New York this past July. 

Nathaniel Dorsky

This still image featured in this year’s benefit is enchanting and luminous, very much like the world that Dorsky captures. Ever since he was 11, he used a 16-millimeter film camera to not only capture but also ruminate upon the world around him. This still image is from one of his most recent titles called Spring, where he evokes a hushed “floating world” suspended in time, where both exteriors and interiors become an ever-changing cinematic tableau of light and shadows. Dorsky stated that he wanted to “make a film that was in itself a garden, a film that like the world of plants, would yearn and stretch in the oncoming light.” His work is not only an introspective look into the sensory world around him, but also a devotional homage to the medium of film itself.

Dorsky has exhibited his films internationally at notable institutions including the Centre Pompidou, the Museum of Modern Art, the Prague Film Archive and the Tate Modern. He also frequently participates in the film community, screening new works at New York Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. 

Johanna Friedman

Johanna Friedman is a Swedish artist based in San Francisco who integrates two contrasting techniques to create this work “You’re Not Hot Enough to be That Crazy.” She has a penchant for photography, a near-immediate process, where the essence of the work is captured with one snapshot. She is also a textile artist, utilizing jacquard weaving which is traditionally an incredibly labor-intensive process requiring absolute control and supervision in creating the patterns. This “jacquard painting”, featuring closet shelf-dividers bought from Target, represents the combination of these two practices.

It feels homey and familiar yet incredibly fresh. 

Kim Miskowicz

Kim Miskowicz is a visual artist based in Oakland, California who actively shows work throughout the Bay Area. Her paintings and films are inspired by landscapes she encounters through her hikes and travels, as well as ones she views from her studio window. These places are personal for her—they are settings that she desperately tries to document and capture so that she can remember those moments forever. However, these scenes often have interruptions, such as a crowded view in a scenic lookout, or an obstruction in the horizon. The piece in this benefit auction is representative of Miskowicz’s mixed media work, with LED lights beautifully illuminating the volcanic lava in the foreground, and a haze of media obscuring the distant landscape on the horizon. 

Tony Oursler

Tony Oursler gained international acclaim as a pioneer of video and new media art. You might recognize him for his bizarre disembodied heads, mouths and eyeball video projections flickering and chattering into public spaces around the world. Not many artists are able to convey the obsessive and isolationist behaviors (and consequences) that humans have towards computers, smartphones and virtual networks, to such startling effect. In this acrylic painting and photo-collage wittily named Cluster ‘C’, each human figure and disembodied head floats in a two-dimensional, sequestered void, seemingly inhibited and forever self-restrained from making a proper connection. The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hammer Museum and the Tate Modern are all among the public collections that have acquired work by Oursler -- don’t miss this chance to add this to your collection. 

Explore the“San Francisco Cinematheque: Benefit Auction 2016 Exclusively on Artsy. 

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