Friday, December 12, 2014

Closing Reception: Massive Urban Change

Closing Reception: Sunday, December 14, 1-5:00PM

Please join us for the closing of Eliza Gregory's Massive Urban Change. The exhibition has evolved over the last month and we invite you to peruse the endless stories, interviews, and public contributions to the panoramic Mission portrait.

If you missed last week's trifecta artist talk with Eliza Gregory, Kirk Crippens, and Lizzy Brooks, don't fret! Lizzy Brooks thoughtfully documented the conversation, with special thanks to Abbas Jaffer for his camerawork:

StorefrontLabTrifecta 1 from Lizzy Brooks on Vimeo.

See you this Sunday!

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 2014 Update

If you haven't had a chance to visit StoreFrontLab's current exhibition, Massive Urban Change, by Eliza Gregory with Nicole Lavelle, be sure to stop by Saturday thru Wednesday from 12-5PM before the show closes on December 14. 

You also can check out these other upcoming events at StoreFrontLab and with affiliates:

Artist Talk with Eliza Gregory, Kirk Crippens, Lizzy Brooks + Radka Pulliam
Wednesday, December 3
6:30 pm
RSVP here

Temporal Cities, Lizzy Brooks + Radka Pulliam
First Thursday Lower Polk Art Walk
Thursday, December 4

Ramon’s Tailor
628 Jones St. (at Post)

Massive Urban Change Closing Reception
Sunday, December 14
6:30 pm

Switch Bench by Danny Garcia

As a part of Massive Urban Change, woodworker and architect Daniel Garcia has placed a pair of his Switch benches down the center of the gallery. Contoured to subtly suggest that people sit facing opposite directions along the bench, these objects reinforce the values of dialogue and community-building that underscore Massive Urban Change.

By lovingly sanding Baltic birch plywood until it boasts a buttery smoothness, Garcia creates unique, surprising, gorgeous objects. His work mixes concept and craftsmanship, and the result is a piece that excites the eye, stimulates the mind, and is also extraordinarily comfortable to sit on.

The two pieces are for sale as part of the project for $3,600 each. Please contact to purchase.

Stay tuned for January events!

Urban Symposium 
Mid-January, 2015

Urban Symposium, an ongoing series led by architects Lyndon Manuel and Leah Nichols, fosters an interactive and participatory dialog about urban development as it relates to the city’s current socio-economic environment.

January 9 to February 7, 2015

Give explores the collective city as a space between the object and the viewer. Through the sculptural layering of donated clothing, blankets and a collection of fabric goods provided by the community, artists Juliana Raimondi and Bird Feliciano create an immersive site where one can get lost in space and, at the same time, reconnect with each other.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dec 3: Artist Talk with Eliza Gregory, Kirk Crippens, Lizzy Brooks + Radka Pulliam

StoreFrontLab invites you to an evening in conversation with artists Eliza Gregory, Kirk Crippens, Lizzy Brooks + Radka Pulliam. Together, their works present a timely trifecta of San Francisco neighborhoods undergoing rapid urban developmentBayview-Hunters Point, the Tenderloin, and the Mission Districtcontentious and well loved. While these works are presented primarily through still imagery, the artists have embedded themselves deeply within the communities of their focus, enriching the visual with essential oral and written narrative and thus creating an important record of San Francisco's historical present.

Artist Talk with Eliza Gregory, Kirk Crippens, Lizzy Brooks + Radka Pulliam
Wednesday December 3, 6:30pm
337 Shotwell Street
(between 17th and 18th Street)Free, but please register.

Eliza Gregory's Massive Urban Changeon view at StoreFrontLab, creates a space for nuanced dialogue about neighborhood evolution amidst the polarized debates currently surrounding San Francisco's Mission District. The work is comprised of a panoramic view of Mission Street, annotated with hand-written narratives contributed by visitors.
Eliza Gregory, Massive Urban Change (detail), 2014, digital photograph

Kirk Crippen's, The Pointon view at the SFAC Gallery at City Hall, honors and celebrates the long-time residents of Bayview-Hunters Point. Primarily consisting of regal large-scale portraits of individuals from all generations in the neighborhood, The Point also features poetic interior shots of homes and rooms within the Bayview-Hunters Point community.
Kirk Crippens, The Point: Sphinx, 2014, digital photograph of
Chet Allen's living room in Bayview

Lizzy Brooks and Radka Pulliam's Temporal Citieson view at Ramon's Tailor, explores the changing nature of a city and our own ideas of permanence. The installation's main visual is a window projection of a fading image of a Tenderloin street scene circa 1970. The artists use this beacon of light as an entry point to talk with neighbors and record personal stories.
Negative AAZ-0060, Courtesy of the Robert Durden Color Slide Collection, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library. From Lizzy Brooks + Radka Pulliam's Temporal Cities,2014,Ramon's Tailor

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Q&A with Eliza Gregory of Massive Urban Change

Eliza Gregory is a photographer and a social practice artist with a relationship-focused project style. She has exhibited work at the Princeton Art Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum and the Melbourne Museum. She received her AB from Princeton University and her MFA from Portland State. She collaboratively runs a website dedicated to dialogues around photography and social practice at

Massive Urban Change is a five-week project at StoreFrontLab, beginning with the installation of a photograph of Mission Street between 15th and 30th Streets. With a nod to Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Strip, this panoramic series will snake around the gallery walls and provide the first layer of what will become a collaboratively collaged, narrative map of neighborhood change.

Arianne Gelardin: Massive Urban Change incorporates detailed, serialized observations of San Francisco's Mission Street; scenes of street life, vernacular architecture and typography. What inspired this approach to capturing a neighborhood portrait?

Eliza Gregory: I live at Mission and 30th St, and my studio is at Mission and 17th Streets, so I often take the bus along Mission. I’ve been noticing that things are changing really fast along the street. Sometimes I’ll see a new construction project—essentially a giant hole—and I’ll realize I have no idea what was there before. I felt like I wanted to freeze the street at such moments, so I could keep better track of what’s shifting.

So far, this approach has worked well. It’s really fun and satisfying to look at the panoramics because they hold still, and there’s much less information to take in than when you are actually out on the street. Even on Google Maps, there is too much to see on Mission Street. It’s a huge relief to the brain to have less to see, and as a result, you can take the time to look at what’s actually there.

This is, to me, is part of photography’s great strength as a medium. It flattens things. It takes a world of at least four dimensions and edits it down to two. When that happens, we get the opportunity to see things differently.

So this project is about giving people the opportunity to look at this neighborhood in a different way than any of us normally gets to, but then we also give them the opportunity to discuss their reactions to that experience and the information they bring to that experience. Then we fold that conversation into the content that the next viewer experiences. That way our “portrait” of the neighborhood takes on more layers and more information.

AG: Why Mission Street?

EG: Well, the Mission in general is a major battleground in San Francisco right now. There is a lot of change happening all over the city, but it seems like the Mission has some of the most extreme changes taking place. Within that context, Valencia Street has already transitioned substantially into a new version of itself. I’d guess that the majority of businesses there now have taken up residence in the last decade, if not the last few years. 24th Street is a current site of contention, so that’s interesting too. And then Mission has had enough changes to be really noticeable, but a lot of the leases still haven’t come up for renewal yet, so there are a lot of battles about to be fought there. Thus, it is a good time for a project like this; to catch it just before it really starts to be dismantled and reassembled. In part also because we can still impact how it evolves.

Mission Street also interests me because it really feels like another country. Walking down Mission doesn’t feel like being in the U.S. in a lot of ways. And as someone who often explores cultural identity and cultural adaptation, I wonder, "What is the 'mainstream' about to steamroll? What is here that a lot of newer residents might not be seeing? Who are all the different communities living here, side by side, who might not be intersecting or acknowledging each other much? And if we created more connections between groups, would that help us build a better neighborhood for everyone in it? Could we create more social cohesion by acknowledging difference more deliberately?"

AG: In your project literature, you reference Ed Ruscha's 1966 artist book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Ruscha's "portraits of the mundane" have been described as "photographs of man-altered landscapes" that reflect upon the "impact of human construction and consumption."1 Your project, however, will invites the public to annotate your photographs, suggesting a more human-focused narrative underlying the image of local commerce. Why have you chosen to format your images as a street panoramic, rather than, say, portraits of residents or people in action?
1 New Topographics, Adams, 1975

EG: The Mission photographs are also showing the impact of human construction and consumption, not just on the natural landscape but on previous man-made landscapes. In a sense, we’re seeing the city devour itself. The changes going on now reflect shifting demographics, shifting cultural norms, shifting status quo, shifting economies: various parts of this society chewing up and spitting out various other parts.

At the same time that there will be evidence of all this within the images, we are also going to be getting people to talk about these issues and patterns and experiences. So for me, all of that feels quite similar to the Sunset Strip work in practice. The main difference is that we are consciously creating the space for the dialogue around the images to take place in the neighborhood, not just assuming it will take place amidst an art audience once the pictures are made. So I as the artist am taking responsibility for connecting my work to an audience and for helping that audience engage with it. And as a social practice artist, I treat that process as part of the very core of the work.

This relates to the reason I’m not making portraits of residents or people in action. I am specifically not wanting to simply represent the neighborhood to an audience. I’m not trying to say, “Here’s who the Mission is. Here’s what the Mission is.” I want to ask questions about the neighborhood, and I want the neighborhood to both ask and answer those questions along with me. For me, the photographs are the starting place for a process of research, discussion, connection and representation. I love making portraits, and that’s been my main photographic work in the past, but for this project I wanted the people to be in the room, rather than on the wall.

It’s kind of funny to me that I’ve copied Every Building on the Sunset Strip, because I haven’t spent much time at all with that work, or with Ruscha’s work in general. He’s an artist that I admire and have been exposed to plenty of times, but he’s not someone I would say I’ve ever really focused on before. But this format just seemed right for this moment and this series of questions I wanted to ask, and this physical context.

I also think that, in a culture supersaturated with images and extremes, making a picture that is all about ordinariness, but at the same time takes a sustained effort and methodical approach, has the potential to be different than what we’re used to seeing. It’s basically the opposite of Instagram, which makes the everyday seem extraordinary and is incredibly off the cuff and easy to do. I love Instagram, and I use it all the time, but I wanted to make sure this was different; that this showed us something that we can’t find in our normal patterns of looking, like Instagram or even Google StreetView. 

AG: What type of conversation do you anticipate will develop as visitors contribute to this collection of familiar imagery?

EG: I’m going to be inviting some specific people to do interviews for the project so that we can try to bring a wide range of perspectives to the installation. In addition to that, we’ll be chatting with whomever comes into the space, and also encouraging people in the space to talk to each other about specific issues. I hope people will feel comfortable sharing their opinions and experiences, and thinking together about how to build a future for this neighborhood that we as a community can feel proud of.

AG: Do you feel a degree of social responsibility as a photographer in San Francisco's current shifting landscape?

EG: My practice as an artist comes from a sense of social responsibility, no matter where I am. I think that’s why people make art—it’s our way of stepping back and reflecting on what we’re doing as a group, and reconnecting to each other and the world around us. For me, art is fundamentally a form of communication, and so the most important part is saying something meaningful. And I think asking questions is often much more meaningful than trying to provide an answer.

AG: How does the Switch Bench tie into the imagery on the wall?

EG: The Switch benches, which were designed and fabricated by Danny Garcia here in San Francisco, physically underscore the concept of conversation and connection that this project puts forward. They are like an old fashioned, S-shaped love seat that asks two occupants to face each other when sitting, theoretically encouraging conversation, or at least mutual acknowledgement. Danny uses a subtle shift in form to prompt this interaction with both the bench and the 
people around them in playful ways.

The benches are also just astonishingly beautiful objects, so I was very attracted to the counterpoint they could provide to the ephemerality of the conversation-based aspect of the work.

AG: What is the criteria for choosing graphics for the postcards? Why postcards? How does this ephemeral medium speak to its subject matter? In other words, would the reading change if the graphics were represented in a different form?

EG: So the postcards were primarily Nicole’s idea. We both grew up in San Francisco, and then lived in other places for a long time, and recently moved back. She’s been making work about how she relates to San Francisco that I really admire and connect with.

When you see the cards together, they perform the same function as the panoramic does—they draw your attention to things you’ve seen a million times but never really lingered on. Mission Street is so incredibly dense with visual stimuli—storefronts are packed to bursting with items, there are tons of people on the street, there are tons of stores crammed into tiny spaces—there’s just too much to look at. Usually that makes us kind of shut down visually. So both the panoramic photos and the signage images coax your eyeballs back out of hiding and say, Hey, look at this! It’s okay, there’s just one sign at a time here. You can read it. You won’t bump into anyone. It’s basically another way to ask questions about what we value, what we normally notice and don't notice, and what we might lose if we’re not careful as a community about how we move forward.

The postcard as a form is traditionally a way of saying—“This is something I saw. This is something I valued. I want you to see it too.” And so making a set of postcards is also a way for us to test out a collective valuing of the neighborhood in a new way. I think a lot of the signs and images pictured point to things we are not used to valuing, but that we would miss if they were gone, because they define the neighborhood. So as a set they are a way of getting a group of people to pretend they value things they don’t normally value, and see how that feels. It’s another way of asking questions.