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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Inspired Curation of Jessica Silverman, Twentysomething Gallery Owner

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Jessica Silverman surveys her gallery space.
  • Jessica Silverman surveys her gallery space.
100 Profiles: SF Weeklyinterviews 100 people in San Francisco arts and culture.

No. 87: Jessica Silverman

Jessica Silverman was in her early 20s when she opened the doors to
Silverman Gallery
five years ago, and she's probably still among the youngest gallery owners in San Francisco. While she might resemble some younger city dwellers who while away their days in Dolores Park wearing Ray-Bans and designer jeans, Silverman is a talented and driven curator who has received national attention for her Sutter Street space. Among the artists in her gallery is photographer and California College of the Arts professor Tammy Rae Carland, painter and collagist Luke Butler, and mulitmedia artist Christina McPhee. Silverman is also a member of the very active San Francisco Arts Commission.

Rain Shadow Cross Section - CHRISTOPHER BADGER
  • Christopher Badger
  • Rain Shadow Cross Section
Silverman's mission -- to "develop a commercial gallery through the lens of a curator" -- has garnered her much attention and from San Francisco institutions such as SFMOMA.

The concept, she clarifies, "was not just about selling art, but using the gallery setting to engage in a larger dialogue on contemporary art. Many of our initial projects and exhibitions were undertaken in that spirit. For instance, our first series of exhibitions juxtaposed an emerging artist with an older, more established artist whose work had influenced [the younger artist's] practice. The idea was to go beyond just selling a painting, or a photograph -- but negotiating a broader cultural exchange."

Silverman has always been interested in community, and the gallery hosts vibrant openings that attract a wide-ranging set -- art students and buyers, among others. At a Tammy Rae Carland solo show a few years ago, the small, modern space teemed with so many people that the party spilled into the street. All this for the love of art.

Installation, 2011 - SCOTT TRELEAVEN
  • Scott Treleaven
  • Installation, 2011
Silverman likes the crowds, of course.

"I measure the success of our installations and projects by considering whether it's something I would want to go out and see, something worth venturing out for," she says.

However, more than anything, she hopes people come out for the lens the gallery provides: "That's always been the reasoning behind this venture, to create a rich visual experience for people within a larger arts community."

"They're definitely not there for the liquor," she jokes.

After Hours - LUCAS MICHAEL
  • Lucas Michael
  • After Hours
Though Los Angeles and New York City have more of an international reputation than San Francisco, Silverman (who is from Detroit) attended graduate school at California College of the Arts and stayed on because of "the amazing and rich" arts community in the Bay Area.

"There's so much talent, and I really connected with the ethos here," Silverman says. "I started the gallery because I felt that I could contribute something very unique to the area."

She didn't want "just another gallery," she adds. "I wanted to develop something that had a strong sense of identity and place -- and S.F. was the perfect spot to do just that."

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