Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Joe Rees "Transformer" @ Steven Wolfe Fine Arts SF

Joe's showing his neon sculpture as well as Target Videos. Opening Reception is Friday night, Nov. 20th 6-8 pm

November 20 – December 22, 2009Opening Reception Friday, November 20, 6-8 pm

Joe Rees produced striking and disparate bodies of punk rock video and neon sculpture in the 1970s and 1980s, which haven’t been seen for years; both will be on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts this November.

Rees and the gallery have recreated a selection of his neon sculptures, almost all of which were lost in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and not seen since that time. Eerie, spare representations of chairs and tables, crucifixes and eye-glasses, the neon sculptures earned Rees a reputation for invention and craftsmanship and the San Francisco Art Association’s Adeline Kent Award in 1980. The economy of Rees’ forms, the way they seem to comment on minimalism, his mixture of glass with other materials such as wax, concrete and found objects, prophesied by decades work by other neon-centric artists, such as Ivan Navarro.

Even before the earthquake, Rees was lured away from his neon practice by the siren song of the portable video camera. He was one of the first artists in San Francisco to get one, and as the founder of Target Video he used it to document the punk rock scene like no one else. Some rare and obscure footage of studio mayhem from Target’s 18th Street and South Van Ness headquarters, ground zero for the local punk scene, will be screened in the show along with better-known footage of performances by bands like The Cramps, The Germs and The Avengers.

In the 1980s, Rees traveled all over the U.S. and Europe screening punk rock shows, but he moved to Reno following the destruction of his studio and slipped into invisibility. Classics like The Cramps at Napa State Mental Hospital, an insane show in which it is at times difficult to distinguish between the band and the audience, were still in circulation. But the enormous archive, with footage like a deadpan concert by Crime at the San Quentin jail, in which band members dress up in sheriff’s outfits and performed for gun-toting prison guards, ethnically-divided prisoners and one brave go-go dancer, were completely out of sight. It’s only been recently that the Target Video archive has begun to find its way back into the spotlight. The Getty Museum included Rees in its 2008 survey, California Video, there was a massive outdoor show last year at MOCA Los Angeles and on February 18th and 20th Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will host a screening of SF punk rock shows and footage from Rees’ archive of Survival Research Laboratory shows.

Steven Wolf Fine Arts

49 Geary Street, Suite 411

San Francisco, CA 94108


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