Deep in the heart of the Tenderloin are two adjacent galleries that distinguish themselves as much by their spirit and location as by the artwork inside.
White Walls (along with its next-door neighbor Shooting Gallery) hosts a show called "My Favorite Color." The exhibit’s contents aren’t necessarily linked by a curatorial theme, but they do reflect gallery owner Justin Giarla’s interest in pop art, tattoo art, underground comics and street art in general.
Many of the pieces in the show focus on the artists’ experiences of popular culture, which are driven by commodity production and exchange. Issues related to money are central; the pieces parody and impugn American capitalism.
An artist called Sub, for example, re-creates the portraits of presidents pictured on common coins — Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson — into paintings that raise questions about the equivalence of religion and money in a materialistic world.
Eric Bailey’s work depicts variations of George Washington’s face on a one-dollar bill — with a masked bandana, a pirate’s eye patch and with skin torn from the face to reveal the underlying skeletal structure. Washington’s image looks like it masks death, which the artist exposes and anchors with the word "redrum" on the piece.
Artist Akira encases images of paper money and a credit card in the surface of his paintings, speaking to the purely symbolic nature of money.
Next to these pieces are Kim Cogan’s paintings of classically informed architecture — of the Wells Fargo Bank building at Market Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco, and of the Old Mint building at Mission and Fifth streets in San Francisco.
In a solo show, these paintings might simply appear as realistic interpretations of buildings that dominate our landscape. Yet when placed among other works in the exhibit, the images signify social structures of civil authority: economic institutions, the government and the church.
In "My Favorite Color," the juxtaposition and blending of images gathered from a wide range of historical and contemporary sources provides interesting, competent and entertaining commentary about modern society.
Other works by Paul Chatem and Mike Maxwell, on display in the Shooting Gallery, also do. It’s worth a trip to the Tenderloin to check them out.
Where: White Walls/Shooting Gallery, 835 Larkin St., San Francisco
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; closes March 3
Contact: (415) 931-1500 or www.whitewallssf.com