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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guerrero Gallery Opening Includes Sex, Death, a Pool -- and an Unbelievable Array of Food

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Charles Linder, artist and barbecuist.
  • Charles Linder, artist and barbecuist.

I've talked before about how helpful it is for galleries to offer food and refreshments at openings, that a lot of art seems more beautiful, profound, socially conscious, and politically relevant to the well-fed and slightly tipsy. I lamented the shocking lack of cheese cubes as well as the austere Kruschev-era-style Perrier-rationing at 49 Geary, an unfortunate state of things on its own, but especially piteous in light of something I heard at the most recent first Thursday. A couple of stalwart art lovers who'd attended the monthly art walk since 2001 said that in former days of plenty, not only did the galleries there serve more generous amounts of water, champagne, and wine -- and in glasses made of glass rather than plastic - but in what now seems like an ecstasy of largesse, offered entire wheels of cheese. I was ready to despair that America's best days really were behind it, and that that behind, happily fattened on bries as fragrant as the feet of French angels, had waddled away forever.

But as I approached Guerrero Gallery on Sunday for the opening of Mark Mulroney's "Sent Upstate" and Charles Linder's "Swimmingly, with Watermelons and Referrals," I was greeted by Linder himself, sweating manfully over the barbecue. He basted a magnificently darkening, odorous, glistening goat. A goat. For us to eat while we looked at art. Also offered were corn on the cob, artisanal mini cupcakes, homemade slaw, grilled veggies, luxury Vickles pickles, kimchee, and watermelon cocktails.

Once inside, Mulroney's graphic yet comical depictions of sex and death were omnipresent. You'll see some if you read further.

Still life with artist, watermelon, and goat.
  • Still life with artist, watermelon, and goat.

The airy, skylit gallery devoted most of its exhibition space to Mulroney's paintings and collages. The artist explains the themes of his work with, "We are all going to die and wish we could have gotten laid more, but that is no reason to be upset and feel sorry for ourselves." His figures are reminiscent of 1970s comic book characters with (comically) enlarged sex parts.

From Mark Mulroney's "Sent Upstate"
  • From Mark Mulroney's "Sent Upstate"

They copulate and murder each other. Sex as well as death are treated with levity, consistent with the artist's statement. It's all very jolly, a bit grotesque, and I'd think twice about going to bed with someone who had this work hanging on his wall.

More from Mulroney
  • More from Mulroney

Linder's installation features a water-filled pool with floating watermelons and white towels stacked nearby. The gallery's website states that it offers a "glimpse into our own longings for depth, spiritual saturation, and carnal immersion." Perhaps this is so, because in the past century the swimming pool came to represent "the good life" in America, implying as it does the presence of money, space, leisure, and health. The installation appeared to achieve its aesthetic apogee, however, when a man stripped to his tattoos and jumped in to play with the watermelons bobbing around him.

All in all, I am now spoiled for other galleries. I expect to see string cheese and cocktail franks at the very least, come the next first Thursday, Aug. 4.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Larissa Archer on Twitter at larissaarcher) and like us on Facebook.

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Larissa Archer


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