Magazine article Artforum International

Nayland Blake: YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS/GALLERY PAULE ANGLIM

Magazine article Artforum International

Nayland Blake: YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS/GALLERY PAULE ANGLIM

Article excerpt

Get together, reuse remember, give something away: These are feel-good values, even if rubber bondage masks may he among the souvenirs. Nayland Blake's recent pair of shows, played ebulliently with innuendo. But "FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!," a group of interlocking installations at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, really did mean to proffer *a tool kit for sustaining communal pleasures. Running concurrently at Gallery Paul, Anglim, a miniretrospective--comprising just four works--was titled "Not Drowning, Waving." Twenty-six years into his career and counting, Blake inverts Stevie Smith's darkly comic 1957 poem on isolation and death ("Not Waving but Drowning") to express a comically dark affirmation of survival and saying hi.

"FREER.OVE!TOOHBOX!" was organized as five "stations," though the exhibition checklist identified fourteen named parts, and it felt like even more. The first station featured, Too/Box Again, 2012, a history-painting-size reproduction of Chuck Arnett's mural for the legendary San Francisco leather bar the Tool Box. (An image of the mural appeared in a 1964 Life magazine article on "Homosexuality in America," and Blake included a copy of the issue, displaying it in a reliquary of Styrofoam, Plexiglas, steel chains, and nylon straps.) The guys in Arnett's image cluster close, as if to form one body, a sense of solidarity Blake emphasizes by connecting the figures with leashlike ribbons sutured to and draping off the banner. Nearby, a station titled "Maypole Way" was similarly ghostly yet festive: a plywood catwalk, carpeted with black rubber and decorated with a Felix Gonzalez-Torres-style lightbulb string installed beside a maypole-shaped assemblage festooned with banners. reading Dus--an anagram for 'Stud, another famous SF bar. So perhaps the waving surfer whom Blake celebrates died after all. The show comprises, in a way, scenes from his afterlife. But ashes to ashes, funk to funky, his memories seem happy.

Nearby, a station titled "Video Studio," was a side room appointed with gold Mylar panels, more dressing-room lights, and a tutu. No one, on the clays I visited, went in. No one pranced on the catwalk, either, and this emptiness, combined with the convention center-esque YBCA space, sucked energy from the peppy installation. …

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