Guy Overfelt — SFAQ Issue 13 (2013)
By Andrew McClintock
Oracle Parking Lot Burnout, 1995. Courtesy of the artist and Ever Gold [Projects].
The first time I met Guy he asked me if he could drive his Trans-AM through the front of my gallery’s historic 1909 building façade. I knew right away we were going to be friends. Instead of crashing his car into the gallery, he transformed it into a fully functional and free laundromat, which forced me into the job of laundry attendant, dishing out large amounts of white powder. Being in the Tenderloin, this meant I had to deal with the local flavor of crackheads more than I had ever wanted to. I think this was Guy’s plan all along, to put me into an uncomfortable situation.
In early 2012, Guy and I collaborated on a show at Queens Nails Projects, Assed Out and the Mini Dramas. While preparing for this interactive exhibition we were faced with a worldwide helium shortage, a fistfight, the stomach flu, back problems—the list goes on. It all happened after we added “the Mini Dramas” to the exhibition title. Together we made everyone feel uncomfortable and on edge, including ourselves.
Last October, Guy had his second solo exhibition at my gallery, Ever Gold. Instead of putting me in an uncomfortable situation, he made anyone who walked into his installation, #BLACKLIGHT, a hesher tribute to Dan Flavin, feel immediately self-conscious. They were confronted by a black light rendition of their facial complexion, exposing any bad skin, makeup or base foundation, bad teeth and dandruff through an infinity mirror room and larger than life double pentagrams. During the private reception none of the museum people wanted to look at themselves.
#BLACKLIGHT (a hesher tribute to Dan Flavin), 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Ever Gold [Projects].
This February I asked Guy to participate in the The Experimental Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Mid-Winter Burning Sun: Gutai Historical Survey and Contemporary Response, an exhibition I co-curated at SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries. He was commissioned to create a contemporary response to Saburo Murakami’s 1956 Passage. While discussing the piece with Overfelt I said, “We could probably do anything except drive a motorcycle through the gallery or on the roof of the school.” “Well, that’s what I’m going to do,” he replied over the phone. As the final performance of the opening reception, it was one of the most epic things I have witnessed at an opening. There was danger, excitement, and about a thousand people watching it unfold.
Motorcycle performance as an art performance was not something new to Overfelt. In 1996, one of his motorcycle performances was scheduled for a show at New Langton Arts in San Francisco. Unfortunately the installation was canceled by the curator and gallery director who were concerned about the fumes and burnout marks damaging the floor of the entire space. Aaron Young heard about the piece in an undergraduate class at SFAI. Subsequently in 2006 hired motorcyclist to perform the piece at Harris Lieberman and then again in 2007 at the Armory NYC, which shot him to international art stardom.
Every time Guy texts me, I hold my breath and wait for his next idea. It might be somewhere along the lines of, “I want to blow up your gallery.” If we could pull it off I would let him. Maybe if I had Gagosian’s budget. Aaron, if you’re reading this, maybe it’s time to credit Guy and share the wealth.