The Air We Breathe @ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Juxtapoz // Monday, 21 Nov 2011


Think Raymond Pettibon and the first association might be the punk band Black Flag started by his brother for whom he created the “four bars’ logo. Or the characteristic comic-like drawings. Or his two hearts in No Title (Paint fills them...) chosen by SFMoMA as the cover art for The Air We Breathe, the current show which, indeed, asks us to Think – about equality and marriage, both in the truest sense of each concept. A conjoining of 30 visual artists and 8 poets, the title is derived from the Langston Hughes poem of the same title. Inviting reflection and discussion, the intimate exhibition invites reflection and discussion.

This past Friday night was preceded by speakers from LAMDA who are working with the same aim, to bring changes in affirmative law in a climate of civility.  To experience the show with that in mind reinforces the power of art, accessible but  endlessly thought provoking. Liam Gillick’s From A to Z is innocent and direct. Martha Colburn’s Untitled female warriors is timely, yet could be imagined in stained glass in a thirteenth century cathedral.

D.L. Alvarez declares that You Need a Civil Rights Bill, Not Me.  But I end up with Pettibon’s hearts, which actually recall Robert Browning’s poem where two lovers, dictated by the mores of social class must meet under cover of  night. “And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears, Than the two hearts beating each to each.” —Gwynned Vitello

(Image caption for above: Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Paint fills them...), 2003; pen and ink on paper; 81.3 x 76.8 cm; courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles; © Raymond Pettibon; photo: Don Ross)

(Laylah Ali, Untitled, 2011; gouache and ink on paper; 12.4 x 8.6 cm; courtesy the artist and 303 Gallery, New York; © Layah Ali; photo: Don Ross.)


(D-L Alvarez, You need a civil rights bill, not me, 2011; graphite and colored pencil on paper; 27.9 x 49.9 cm; courtesy the artist; © D-L Alvarez; photo: Don Ross.)

(Robert Buck, Second Hand (Helen 11/20/89), 2011; graphite on found drawing; 20.3 x 25 cm; courtesy the artist and CRG Gallery, New York; © Robert Buck; photo: Don Ross.)

(Martha Colburn, Untitled, 2011; water-based oils and collage on board; 27 x 19.7 cm; courtesy the artist; © Martha Colburn; photo: Don Ross.)


The book which inspired the show is another chance to linger after The Air We Breathe ends its SFMoMA run on February 20, 2012.


Every image in one place


Full magazine features from Juxtapoz

visit the VAULT >