April 18 - June 1, 2018

Opening Reception: April 18th, 6-8pm

“SuperSet” is a group exhibition that explores strength and fitness in all its guises – literal and figurative, physical and psychological, mental and bodily. To be fit is to be well, aligned, finely tuned—an ideal condition that is also tenuous and elusive. What is the nature of this quest? Is it a search for lucidity, endorphin highs, empowerment? Do we feel most alive when we push ourselves to the limit? And do we transform our inner selves when we sculpt a new exterior?

Photography figures prominently as a means of capturing the movement and exertion of the body. Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies of a male weightlifter are in dialogue with Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1970s photographs of Lisa Lyon and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A moment of televised exercise in a 1962 photograph by Lee Friedlander suggests a gendered sense of exhaustion in the context of ominous armchair quietude.

Chris Finley’s glossy enamel paintings of power lifters’ faces capture the identity-shifting impact of extreme exertion. Paul Pfeiffer’s miniature video-sculpture, titled “Live Evil,” transforms Michael Jackson’s athletic dance moves into something strange and a little bit demonic. Standing with a skeleton on her shoulders, Marina Abramovic explores the edges of the flesh and death in a 2008 large-scale photograph. Mortality is also a theme in Eric Giradaut’s silicone sculptures, which are inspired by the sporting events of ancient Mayans, games that involved hard rubber balls and human sacrifice. Meanwhile Joshua Abelow paints androgynous witch-warlock figures who are, according to the artist, “running to keep up with the information overload that defines our culture in the twenty-first century.”

Lea Guldditte Hestelund’s combination of richly textured aluminum dumbbells against a background of vibrantly dyed fur has an oxymoronic pain-soothe quality that teases our senses and survival instincts. Libby Black’s sculpted boxing gloves explore weight – real and virtual – and the allures of consumer brands. By contrast, New York–based artist Summer Wheat squeezes her acrylic paint through mesh, a process that echoes the wringing out of the body being enacted by the stretching, contorted yogi she depicts.

Finally, Los Angeles-based Jennifer Locke’s six-channel video presents the artist enacting six sets of exercises, synched with post-production tools, creating a loop of activity that acts as an extended metaphor of endurance.

Joshua Abelow, Marina Abramovic, Libby Black, Chris Finley, Lee Friedlander, Eric Giraudet, Lee Gulditte Hestelund, Jennifer Locke, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eadweard Muybridge, Paul Pfeiffer, Summer Wheat

Running Witch
Running Witch
Joshua Abelow, 2014

John Houck

December 13, 2017 - February 23, 2018

Opening Reception: December 13th, 5-8pm

Jessica Silverman is pleased to present “Hands, See Mouth,” the first San Francisco solo show by John Houck. The exhibition’s title comes from a dream in which Houck looks up the word “hands” in an index and it says “see mouth” but, when he looks up “mouth,” it tells him to “see hands.” The experience suggests an endless loop of visual and tactile entwinement and alludes to the synesthesia of perceptions, perspectives and mediums that inform his work.

The exhibition includes work from three of Houck’s series. In “Playing and Reality” (2013 – present), the artist creates layered trompe l’oeil compositions, which feature his own paintings, printed photographs and creased colored paper. Using a process that involves photographing and re-photographing, Houck obscures the viewer’s certainty of what is painted and what is photographed, blurring the boundaries between documentary and illusionary space. He uses a soft color palette, comprised mostly of mixed shades rather than primary hues. And his paintings, which are rarely shown on their own, refer to varied art historical styles, including impressionism, constructivism, minimalism, op art and conceptualism.

Surreal elements are also at play in his “Coordinate Systems” series (2016 – present) in which photographic prints of plaster casts of the artist’s hand are overlaid with grids painted in flashe vinyl paint. The works explore the tension between the organic and the mathematical, digital technology and the literal digits of the human hand. The final images involve great sleight of hand, collapsing the space of the painted and the photographic, suggesting the malleable nature of memory and imagination.

Finally, diptychs from Houck’s “Accumulators” series (2013 – present) act as calmer counterpoints to the complex layers and shifting perspectives of the other two bodies of works. These sculptural diptychs are made through a process of creasing and photographing sheets of colored paper multiple times. The images are printed, folded again and re-photographed, accumulating layers of creases and shadow. With titles such as Accumulator #14, 3 Colors #1E9AC0, #8DC2D5, #AC5754, which notes the color combinations within the work in HTML “hex code,” Houck makes a nod to his training as a software engineer.

“Hands, See Mouth” bears witness to the poetry of Houck’s voracious photographic practice, whose ambitious combination of magical realism and abstraction appeals to both our sensory and cerebral selves.

John Houck

John Houck (b. 1977, South Dakota) has shown extensively in the United States and abroad. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary (2017), Boesky West in Aspen (2017), On Stellar Rays in New York (2016) and Johan Berggren Gallery in Malmö, Sweden (2015). He has also participated in group shows at the International Center of Photography, New York (2016), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015), and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014). His works are in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has an MFA in Fine Arts from UCLA and a BA in Architecture from Colorado University. He also completed the Whitney Independent Study and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture programs. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

John Houck - Bullseyes, 2017
John Houck - Bullseyes, 2017
53 x 42 inches