Review: Everything but the kitchen sank by Alejandro Almanza Pereda
At the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s show presents a fresh perspective on the somewhat tired subject matter of the still life. In SFAI’s Walter & McBean Galleries, Almanza converted gallery space into working studio for the months of July and August 2015. During this time, the artist worked with several assistants in a massive, custom built indoor water tank. Outside the tank was a collection of a seemingly random assortment of objects all over the place—on shelves and across the floor of the entire gallery. Inside the tank, the artist and his assistants arranged these miscellaneous items in different configurations. Due to the underwater environment, gravity did not take its usual toll on the objects, presenting an interesting opportunity to create still life arrangements in a weightless environment.
For September and October 2015, the water tank and assortment of objects are removed and the exhibit transforms into a presentation of the documentation of the project. In the SFAI-produced brochure, the exhibit post-August is a presentation of photographs and video. However, at the time of this writing, only black and white photographs are displayed with the exception of one video upstairs behind a curtain, which is easy to miss. The resulting experience of walking through the Walter & McBean galleries is that of almost floating through suspended images of suspended objects that appear to counter the effect of gravity. Other than the text on the wall of the galleries, there is no reference to the involvement of water. There is also no text accompanying the individual images, which leads the viewer to the understanding that the artwork itself was the act of creating the images, not the images themselves.
The title “Everything but the kitchen sank” conjures an image of an entire house or other dwelling sinking into something (the ocean or perhaps the earth itself) except for the contents of the kitchen, which paradoxically includes typical kitchen items such as food and dishes along with other items including shoes, a yo-yo, and a hammer. This enigmatic assortment of “kitchen” items and their resistance to gravity is a hallmark of Almanza’s work which frequently provokes viewers into considering their relationship to everyday objects through an unsettling perspective.
Concurrent with Almanza’s displayed work in the Walter & McBean Galleries, the artist has also constructed an elaborate scaffold of fluorescent lights in front of the famous Diego Rivera mural in SFAI’s adjacent Diego Rivera Gallery. This individual piece is called “Change the world or go home” and calls into question the typical visitor’s interaction with the mural (the lights make it difficult to photograph the mural) and with their own association between Diego Rivera and both murals as an art form and the context of Latin American art/culture production. This bold statement about art and inter-cultural interaction deserves to stand on its own, separate from the work displayed in the Walter & McBean Galleries. Perhaps more a bureaucratic or logistical consolidation by SFAI of both displays under the banner of “Everything but the kitchen sank” than artistic intent, but the pieces appear to have very little in common. Nonetheless, both are worth a viewing. But you may want to keep in mind that though they are united by geographical proximity and the same artist’s vision and labor, you may want to think of them as separate works to be viewed independently.