Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Kiki Gallery

The TD crew took the time to see Lawrence Rinder read from his new book and answer questions from Bill Arning, AA Bronson, Andrea Fraser, and the audience. We noticed his favorable mention of the late Kiki Gallery: he said it inspired hope. We had only heard of it previously from Keith Mayerson, who showed his UC Irvine thesis project, "Pinocchio the Big Fag," at the space. If the Kiki people had the foresight to show Keith, and if Lawrence Rinder liked it so much, then we should look into it.

According to this site and this other site, Kiki Gallery was a small gallery located in San Francisco’s Mission District. It was a provocative, intelligent presence in the Bay Area art community from 1993 to 1995. Kiki’s founder and director, Rick Jacobsen, shaped a lively program of exhibitions, readings, and performances by emerging artists. The confluence of innovative art, gay culture, and performance that was distinctive to Kiki had its antecedents in the mid-1950s projects of King Ubu Gallery and Six Gallery. (In these pioneering artist-run spaces, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Jess, Wally Hedrick, Jay De Feo, Allen Ginsberg, and others presented and supported one another’s work. The same creative energies effloresced in the theatre of the Cockettes, in the conceptual art and performance movement of the 1970s, and in the rich history of alternative art spaces in the Bay Area. These energies had a brilliant, though brief, flowering at Kiki.) The gallery became highly regarded for its director’s imagination and fearlessness in presenting challenging new work.

In its existence of only twenty-two months, Kiki was known for many memorable shows and events, beginning with the exhibitions Caca @ Kiki and ending with Piece: Nine Artists Consider Yoko Ono. The archives includes: exhibition catalogues (Sick Joke, Fresh Produce), publicity materials (Late Night with Joan Jett Blakk), performance stills (David E. Johnston’s Gone Dollywood), original art (Keith Mayerson’s Pinocchio the Big Fag), Catherine Opie, and Nayland Blake.

Unknown, Joan Jett-Blakk and Babette: Hosts of talkshow/performance series produced by Rick Jacobsen, circa 1993
Gelatin silver print

Top of Page: Keith Mayerson, "Lampwick and Pinocchio" and "Island of Boys," 1993

Proposal for an exhibition...

Kiki: "The proof is in the pudding"

What: Kiki de Montparnasse? Kiki Smith? No. Kiki was a gallery founded by Rick Jacobsen in San Francisco from 1993-1995. During its 3 years of operation, Kiki hosted art exhibitions, readings, and performances. In that short time an incredible group of artists engaged with the gallery- and over ten years later continue to practice within a charged contemporary dialogue. The following is an exhibition conceived though the lens of another curator… a list of artists predefined over a decade ago... by a voice cut short too soon.

Who: D.L. Alvarez, Lutz Bacher, Nayland Blake, Jerome Caja, Cecilia Dougherty, Vincent Fecteau, Richard Hawkins, John Lindell, Keith Mayerson, Marlene McCarthy, Jennifer Moon, Yoko Ono, Catherine Opie, and Francis Stark. (List still in formation)

Work: Running the gamut from photography, video, performance, drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation, this exhibition would demonstrate Jacobsen’s prescient embrace of all media, his intuitive nature coupled with political concern, and the curatorial ease with which he made it all come together.

Installation: John Lindell would be invited to design the exhibition. An under recognized pioneer of the critical examination of space, Lindell's work can often involve little more than paint and light as seen in the seminal "From the Corner of the Eye" at the The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to his recent renovation/intervention of Marlene McCarthy and Christine Vachon’s loft featured in The New York Times.

Ephemera: For each exhibition, Jacobsen produced a small edition of zine-like catalogues that are collected within the Kiki Gallery records, currently housed at the San Francisco Public Library. Included in this archive is the guest book from the gallery with a fascinating historical roster of names as well as invitations, press, contact sheets, slides, photographs, drafts of performance pieces, and some correspondence. A complete list can be viewed at: A xeroxed catalogue from this potent resource could be made for the exhibition.

Summary: One of Kiki's last exhibitions revolved around Yoko Ono's relationship with Fluxus. Years before her traveling retrospective examined the wide scope of her interdisciplinary work, Jacobsen was already there. One afternoon he ushered me into the back room, giddy as a little boy, to listen to a message Ono had left on his answering machine- he couldn't believe it. "The proof is in the pudding" she sweetly said, though it sounded kind of witchy as she repeated it over and over again while Jacobsen laughed with glee.
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