Image: Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, Picnic Dress Tent, 2005, chromogenic photograph,
                                40 x 48 in.; courtesy of the artists

“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives.”

—Rebecca Solnit        

Front Yard/Backstreet explores the connections between people and their communities. These artists encourage us to see our communities in new ways, by showcasing unique and unexpected features of our landscapes, neighborhoods, blocks and parks, and the businesses and people who inhabit them. Featuring works in a wide range of media, Front Yard/Backstreet explores themes of mapping, landscape, and population, ultimately encouraging us to reconsider our relationships to the places in which we live work, and play.

“Maps encourage boldness…They make anything seem possible.”—Mark Jenkins

Maps are vital tools for exploration, documentation, and memory. They help us to make sense of our communities and serve as nostalgic reminders of the places we have lived, visited, and dreamed about. Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet find inspiration in the form of maps to create artworks that explore our relationship to place. Val Britton refers to her complex mixed-media works as “emotional landscapes” that suggest imagined roadways, land masses, and oceans. Craig Dorety in collaboration with Jim Campbell creates an illusion of a three-dimensional urban landscape in a two-dimensional format in Inverted Pixel Array—Street Scene NYC. In her laser-cut works, installations, and FRICKbits app, Laurie Frick tracks and visualizes personal data—including her walking and sleep patterns. Matt Gonzalez assembles street-grid collages from found materials to reflect his urban landscapes. Kate Pocrass encourages us to see the everyday in a new light in her This is Happiness: Palo Alto map, which is available for free to all. Lordy Rodriguez uses the language of cartography to explore the cultural and historic identities of our community.

Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet bring us closer to both natural and man-made elements in our landscape, encouraging us to see parts of our terrain that we may have overlooked. Deeply concerned with the environmental fragility of our coasts and marshes, Tanja Geis presents a site-specific installation created from mud collected from the nearby Baylands. Amanda Marchand’s compelling photographs offer us a rarely-seen view of gardens at night. Tracey Snelling plays with scale in her miniature dwellings, incorporating video to suggest alternate narratives. Blending traditional photographic processes with satellite imagery culled from Google maps, Greg Stimac addresses the power of landscape in shaping community identity.

Ultimately, people build our communities and infuse them with life.  Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet highlight populations in our community that we may not see, or have chosen not to notice. They also provide novel perspectives on the people we see every day. Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao create dress tents that humorously blend performance, sculpture and photography, challenging representations of women by exploring what lies underneath the façade (or under the dress). Whitney Lynn’s video documents famous San Francisco street performer Greg Jacobs (a.k.a. Bushman) as he plays with his own visibility. In meticulously detailed pencil drawings, Joel Daniel Phillips spotlights residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home community, work produced during a residency at the Palo Alto Art Center. Arne Svenson employs unique compositional techniques to elevate the manual laborers who are his subjects.

Friday Night at the Art Center: Opening Celebration for
Front Yard/Backstreet

Friday, September 18, 7 - 10 p.m.
Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road

Join us as we celebrate the opening of Front Yard/Backstreet with hands-on artmaking, interactive activities presented by the Mobile Arts Platform, a special performance by exhibiting artists Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, food trucks, live music by Old Broads Rule, and a cash bar featuring a specialty cocktail provided by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

Last Updated: Sep 24, 2015