Folk art meets contemporary

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The main title — “Beats Per Minute” — is too terse, the secondary title — “Contemporary Artists Influenced by Craft and Folk Art Practices” — is rather ponderous. But if you go to see the show, it will all make sense, pleasantly so.

“Beats Per Minute” is coming to the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art from March 13 through April 29. It deals with several recent movements in contemporary art influenced by folk art and craft.

Curated by Julio Cesar Morales, “Beats Per Minute” refers to the term BPM, which is used by disc jockeys who blend sounds together to create new music. “Folk art and craft influences are becoming more apparent in the work of contemporary ‘trained’ artists,” Morales says.

An example: Walter Kitundu, currently in residence at the Exploratorium, is developing instruments that blur boundaries between music, visual arts and new media. He has constructed elementary turntables that rely on wood, water, fire and earthquakes for their power and pitch. (This you’ve gotta see: turntables running on quakes! And very pretty they are, too.)

Kitundu has created phonoharps, multi-stringed instruments made from record players. He says he is working to reconnect the technology of new music to fundamental and traditional principles drawn from the natural world. Kitundu’s instruments are on view in “Beats Per Minute”; he also presents a workshop based on traditional instrument making and technology.

“Beats Per Minute” features artists such as N. Trish Lagaso Goldberg, Mung Lar Lam, Christy Matson, Christine Wong Yap and the artist collective Torolab in collaboration with Nortec. Goldberg makes quilts in acrylic, looking like tropical plants. She calls a trio of such quilt squares an homage to her grandfathers, “who were first generation Filipino immigrants in Hawaii, working on the sugar cane plantations.”

“Young artists,” museum director Kate Eilertsen says, “are mesmerized by their ancestors’ passion for fine craft and traditions that have been passed through the culture they grew up with. It is very exciting to see how they have combined those influences to create their own unique works of art and craft.”

Christy Matson, who weaves cloth on both hand-operated and industrial Jacquard looms, presents “Sound,” a sculptural project that mixes fiber with new media. Matson often transcribes sound waves to textiles as visual samples that she utilizes to create new patterns in the weaving design.

“The process serves as a translation of, and bridge between, traditional folk art practices and new approaches.”

Beats Per Minute

Where: Museum of Craft and Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Lane (connecting Market and Mission streets between Third and Fourth streets), San Francisco

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; until 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Admission: $5 general; $4 for seniors; free for children under 18; exhibit runs March 13 through April 29

Contact: (415) 227-4888 or www.mocfa.org

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