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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Margaret Tedesco Pairs Curation and Promotion with Her Own Artistic Practice

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 8:55 AM

The artist's self-portrait, picture yourself, 2007, (against a shifting backdrop, a figure slips in and out of sync) - MARGARET TEDESCO
  • Margaret Tedesco
  • The artist's self-portrait, picture yourself, 2007, (against a shifting backdrop, a figure slips in and out of sync)

100 Profiles:

SF Weekly interviews 100 people in San Francisco arts and culture.

No. 96:
Margaret Tedesco

Step into the intimate surrounds of [ 2nd floor projects ] on a Sunday afternoon and you are guaranteed to find something inspiring. It might be a suite of paintings by Luke Butler that illuminates his obsession with Star Trek, an old photo album belonging to the late Curt McDowell containing poignant mementos of 1970s San Francisco, or documentation of Jill Miller's project in which she trained as a private eye to then investigate art collectors. The space (and its refreshing breadth of programming) owes its existence to artist/curator Margaret Tedesco, a longtime San Francisco resident known for her curatorial eye and her commitment to local artists and writers.

Tedesco has been pairing curation with her art practice since the 1980s, finding them inextricably linked in her own life.

"It's always been an organic process to produce and present," she notes.

After working for seven years programming performance and visual art programs at the now-closed New Langton Arts, Tedesco founded [ 2nd floor projects ] in 2007 out of a desire to work more nimbly than the nonprofit world allowed.

"I decided to get back to 'thinking on my feet,' my grassroots, and ignite the space and watch it perform with the possibility of failure, which was exciting," she says.

Each exhibition at [ 2nd floor projects ] includes a printed edition as part of the show. In that edition, an author selected by Tedesco reflects on the artwork in any way he or she sees fit, be it through poetry, a personal essay, or in an interview. Tedesco is not necessarily looking for obvious choices when she invites the writers to participate, either.

"As I develop the shows a name will pop up repeatedly, and usually because they are not spot-on, but more of a dissonance that may provide the linchpin I am looking for," she says.

From The Lost Paintings, which included 15 small untitled works made between 2001 and 2004 that had been boxed, set aside undocumented, and inadvertently forgotten. - BRUNO FAZZOLARI
  • Bruno Fazzolari
  • From The Lost Paintings, which included 15 small untitled works made between 2001 and 2004 that had been boxed, set aside undocumented, and inadvertently forgotten.

The results are often magical, as in a characteristically freewheeling passage by local poet Kevin Killian taken from the edition for the recent Bruno Fazzolari show. In it, Killian describes the experience of seeing Fazzolari's abstract paintings in the artist's studio:

"In other moods, as Fazzolari draped them across the floor of his studio for me, I figured them as mystic paving stones on which a traveler might make his or her way across the dismal swamp of the ecosystem, toward a swamp fire lit and fuzzed up by the mist rising from the pollinated water. It's night, or day, maybe a gloomy day with clouds or the blues between the surface and the sun. I entrust myself to these fourteen paving stones; look, up at the walls, you might walk across the gallery from wall to wall like Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding (1951)."

From a [ 2nd floor projects ] show featuring the works of Luke Butler - LUKE BUTLER
  • Luke Butler
  • From a [ 2nd floor projects ] show featuring the works of Luke Butler

The editions are integral to each exhibition, enhancing and deepening the experience of looking at the art, and Tedesco has self-published 20 over the life of the gallery and plans six more in 2011. A visit to [ 2nd floor projects ] might also include an artist talk, a poetry reading by an edition author, or an in-depth conversation with Tedesco herself who will happily dig into her extensive flat files to show you a rare 'zine or photo.

In addition to her directing duties at [ 2nd floor projects ] Tedesco also curates other spaces around the Bay Area, and she recently worked with Darin Klein to put on a show at Baer Ridgway Exhibitions that encompassed 20 years of his book-making and community projects. The gallery was papered floor-to-ceiling with exuberant imagery from Klein's zine collection.

"He Xeroxed hundreds of pages and ... there were random placings as we unearthed the stacks, moving pages around to create a dynamic environment," she says.

Tedesco is an active artist herself, and her piece in the current "Control Group" show at Noma Gallery again demonstrates her willingness to take risks. With the exhibition themed around artists creating work that is outside of their usual practice, Tedesco returned to the medium of dance after 20 years to pay tribute to her friend Tracy Rhoades, a talented dancer and choreographer who died of AIDS-related causes in 1993. The resulting video work is entrancing, full of raw emotion and the power of memory.

"From early on in my art practice, I have been interested in trespassing disciplines," Tedesco says.

It is exactly this disregard for traditional art world boundaries that makes her work so exciting, and that allows her to find those revelatory connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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Heidi De Vries

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