Rena Bransten Gallery is pleased to present an installation of Sidney Russell’s enormous clothes. In minute detail and epic scale, Russell replicates familiar, used clothes with a combination of humor, nostalgia, and confusion. Walking into an installation of her oversized pants, shirts, suits, and dresses is a challenge in perception – we suddenly become aware of our own size in relation to these common objects we thought we understood. The bizarre transformation is both unsettling and pleasing – a childlike wonderment overwhelms as we try to make sense of the drastic shift of scale. These clothes are relics to the passage of time, and much like memories, can become distorted, overblown, and misshapen.
These clothes are portraits of people, though some are familiar and some are not. Showing signs of those who once wore them – scuff marks on the sleeve of a suit shirt, or the stretched out strap of a sundress – the clothes fall awkwardly, hanging like ghosts of their former, more vibrant selves. Though these are not family heirlooms - wedding dresses or christening gowns – their monumental scale reminds us that even more memories are held in these everyday clothes – the time someone spent in them ensures it.
Sidney Russell, a native to San Francisco, makes work which reflects on the Bay Area’s unique legacy through her material experimentation, interplay between visual art and performance, use of humor, and acute criticism of culture. An early relationship with painter Jay DeFeo and later graduate studies at UC Davis, further solidified her commitment to the counter culture and multiple forms of expression. In the late 60s and early 70s, Russell studied at UC Berkeley where she was involved in the civil rights movement and was a member of a feminist art collective. There, she pursued a master’s degree in graphic design before leaving to work as a set painter for the SF Opera and SF Ballet, as well as for several major motion pictures. The time she spent in scenic arts had a transformative effect on her own art practice, as seen in her most recent body of work of clothing in monumental scale. She has shown nationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Sidney Russell lives and works in San Francisco.