Business of art

Some people may argue that success in business could be called an art form. At the same time, some may argue that art — despite being characterized by fluidity and imagination — is nonetheless a business.

Weaving these ideas together, San Francisco’s Southern Exposure gallery presents “Free Enterprise,” a unique opportunity in which selected local artists are launching new businesses or drafting business plans during two-week residencies.

Michael Swaine currently has control of the gallery with his project called “A Plea for Tenderness,” a new business to create and sell shirts.

Behind Swaine’s idea lies a story he imagined about a solider who plans to commit suicide while standing in the middle of two opposing front lines on the verge of battle.

The suicide is meant to convey the soldier’s protest against the war, but the act is never carried out because the solider is shot by someone from the front lines. Further examination of the dead soldier’s body reveals that the bullet holes remarkably resemble Braille.

An individual who knows Braille confirms this, and reveals the message held within the dead soldier’s body says “a plea for tenderness.”

Swaine has sewn the story, so to speak, into two styles of shirts he’s designed.

One line of shirts more directly mirrors the perceived violence on the battlefield, with the shirts appearing blood-spattered and rather gory.

The second set is more suggestive. Red dots have been sewn into the material and arranged to create the message “a plea for tenderness” in Braille.

Swaine launches the line with an official event at 7 p.m. Thursday. The shirts remain on sale at the gallery through Saturday, and thereafter can be purchased at Modern Appealing Clothing in Hayes Valley.

Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan take over the gallery space beginning Aug. 7, engineering their new business plan for “The Thing,” which they compare to a quarterly magazine in which subscribers receive an original piece of art made by local artists.

The first artists involved in the project are Miranda July, Anne Walsh, Kota Ezawa and Trisha Donnelly.

Rogan and Herschend won’t divulge exactly what subscribers can expect in their mailboxes, but say each object is designed to be a household item that embodies artistic elements, yet also is functional.

The public is invited to a “wrapping party” on Aug 15, at which time the first issue of “The Thing” will be prepared for shipping. Visitors also are welcome to stop by the gallery between Aug. 7 and Aug. 18 to see Rogan and Herschend in action.

Free Enterprise

Where: Southern Exposure, 2901 Mission St. (at 25th Street), San Francisco

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; exhibit ends Aug. 18

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 863-2141 or www.soex.org

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