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, through photographs, drawings, installation, and new media works by a range of contemporary artists from the Bay Area and beyond. Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet 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. Through themes of mapping, landscape, and population, the exhibition reveals the unseen or undiscovered parts of our communities, 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—representing them in physical and digital form—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 new and innovative 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 create 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 free for all. Lordy Rodriguez uses the language of cartography to explore the cultural and historic identities of our community.

Forming the backdrop for our lives, our parks and open-space environments offer places for reflection, recreation, and celebration, providing venues for active community life. Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet bring us closer to natural and man-made landscape elements, encouraging us to see the parts of our terrain that we may overlook. 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 7-11 sculpture, encouraging us to see the familiar corner store with a new perspective. Incorporating traditional photographic processes with satellite imagery culled from Google maps, Greg Stimac addresses the power of landscape in shaping community identity.

Ultimately, people are the forces that build our communities and infuse them with life.  Artists in Front Yard/Backstreet highlight the populations in our community that we may not, or choose not to see, or provide novel perspectives on the people we see everyday. Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao create dress tents that humorously blend performance, sculpture and photography to challenge representations of women by exploring what lies underneath the façade (or under the dress). Whitney Lynn’s video documents famous San Francisco street performer David Johnson (a.k.a. Bushman). 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 gold leaf and 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: Aug 29, 2015