Guy Overfelt’s Crashed Cop Car Is Everything We Want to See — SF Weekly (2017)
Jonathan Curiel — July 27, 2017
Fake News, Guy Overfelt (Courtesy of Ever Gold [Projects]).
In the recent history of San Francisco art galleries, few exhibits have matched the surrealism of “Ever Wash,” the 2011 show at Ever Gold Gallery that turned the tiny Tenderloin space into a fully functional laundry facility. Conceptual artist Guy Overfelt (aided by curator Tony Labat) orchestrated everything to his liking, including changing the name on the gallery’s storefront awning, having gallery director Andrew McClintockplay the role of a laundromat worker, and setting the generous price (free!) that people would pay for washing and drying there. Sure, art-goers showed up during the show’s one-month run — but, perhaps predictably, so did transients.
“I was forced, as a gallerist, to do borderline street people in the Tenderloin,” says McClintock of his first show with Overfelt. “I was having to wash their clothes. It was fucked up.”
But McClintock can’t get enough of Overfelt, nor Overfelt of McClintock. So when McClintock took his gallery to Minnesota Street Project and renamed it Ever Gold [Projects], Overfelt came, too. His new exhibit, “Guy Overfelt. A.C.A.B., 1995-2017,” centers around a police car whose front is totally smashed from a high-speed crash, but which otherwise works. Its flashing lights whirl away at art-goers, who are invited to sit in the back seat like a prisoner or in front like a patroller. The trunk has a two-channel video that streams a major photo agency’s footage — used without permission — of violent demonstrations and police sweeps.
Given that the exhibit’s acronym stands for “All Cops Are Bastards,” the car alone is enough to warrant a visit to McClintock’s gallery. But a Guy Overfelt exhibit is usually more — much more — than first appearances. The twists are on every wall and in the gallery’s adjoining room, where Overfelt planted two Siberian kittens amid beanbag chairs designed to resemble U.S. flags. “ACAB” also stands for “All Cats Are Beautiful,” so art-goers have to sift through the dueling themes as they look around and take in the exhibit’s other conflicting signals.
Overfelt’s paintings — the ones that look like carefully considered star-gazing works — hang throughout the gallery. He made each one using the kind of road-mark paint that’s typically reserved for asphalt. He also sprayed them with white paint from a fire extinguisher, attached them to Belgian linen, and added a New Age title, like “Today I choose to release all hurt and resentment.” (Get it?) Amid echoes of violence and mayhem are layers of odd beauty and contradictions. Even the cop car’s model year, 2011, has meaning: That’s when Donald Trump first seriously considered running for the presidency. (The car is titled Fake News.) And the gold gate that now fronts the gallery is both a reference to Ever Gold’s old home in a tough district and a commentary on its new Dogpatch location, in an area where wealth is much more obvious. No one is safe from Overfelt’s slings and arrows — not even himself.
McClintock tells SF Weekly that he nominates the Bay Area-based artist for a SECA Art Award, the coveted annual SFMOMA prize, each year. When the SECA jurists were considering Overfelt, they took a tour bus, “and they met at his studio,” McClintock says. “He got on the tour bus and drove the bus to the projects, and had someone get on the tour bus and talk about living in the projects with all these very wealthy arts patrons. That’s part of his practice. Burning bridges. It’s good, because not a lot of people do that, especially in the Bay Area. It’s an intense art-making practice, but it’s very important.”
Yes, it is, even if McClintock plays along with Overfelt, as he did with “Guy Overfelt. A.C.A.B., 1995-2017,” whose official press release says that Overfelt is dead. (He isn’t.) Like Mark Twain — who, after a newspaper announced his demise, supposedly said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” — Overfelt is a humorist who relishes pricking his fans and foes.
This new exhibit is bringing him more of the former. According to McClintock, several police officers recently walked into Ever Gold [Projects] and — instead of being offended — raved about Overfelt’s art, including the car, which is for sale at $45,000.
“They were loving it,” McClintock says. “I thought they were going to freak out about the ACAB thing, but they didn’t. They were just really excited to see a cop car that was crashed, and they were sending photos of it to their captain, and joking with him, ‘Oh, man, we got into a car crash. Sorry, captain.’ So I think there are going to be a lot more cops coming by.”