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Surf's Up at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery: Jeff Clark, Doug Acton and Frank Quirarte Speak on August 22
Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark on a big wave. Clark will speak on August 22 at 1 pm at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery located in Fort Mason Center.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. In conjunction with the exhibition, Pipeline: Art, Surfing, and the Ocean Environment showing at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery in Fort Mason Center thru August 28, 2009, the gallery will host an appearance by Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark and the surf photographers Doug Acton and Frank Quirarte on Sat., August 22 at 1 pm. Come hear what the famous break is really like from the perspective of those who witness it year after year. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibition which opened on July 16th examines the influence of surf culture on Bay Area artists and features paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, film, and mixed media works alongside custom surfboards by Jeff Clark, one of the most noteworthy big wave surfers. Artists in the exhibition include Doug Acton, Anthony Bacigalupo, Jo Ann Biagini, Leo Bersamina, Charlie Callahan, George Corzine, Peter Shepard Cole, Keone Downing, Jessica Dunne, Jack Y. Ford Collection, Colin Gift, Dale Hope/Kahala, Terry Hoff, Max Lawrence, Ian MacLean, Reuben Margolin, Serena Mitnik-Miller, Linny Morris, Adrienne Keahi Pao, Frank Quirarte, Don Ross, and Charles Valoroso.

The title of the exhibition takes its name from the Pipeline, a wave that breaks at Ehukai beach on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, the birth place of surfing. The sport was popularized by Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku in the early part of the 20th century. It spread to the United States, catching on first in California, and reached new heights in the 1960s, when surfing as a phenomenon became a nexus between youth culture and expressions of personal freedom. In recent years, California surfers have become an important arm of the environmental movement, raising awareness about the condition of the shoreline and ocean.

Exhibition Highlights
The surfboards on exhibit at the gallery were created by Jeff Clark. Clark is famous for having surfed the giant waves of Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay, California 15 years before the area was widely discovered by the big-wave surfing community. Maverick’s is now considered by most experts to have the largest and most dangerous big wave breaks on the planet, reaching heights in excess of 60 feet.

In the works of local surf photographers Doug Acton and Frank Quirarte, the world of big-wave surfing comes into sharp focus. Both men are known for their work in the frigid waters of Half Moon Bay where the big wave breaks called Maverick’s. Writer Ben Marcus described Maverick’s as "gloomy, isolated, inherently evil. The reef is surrounded by deep water, and lies naked to every nasty thing above and below the Pacific: Aleutian swells, northwest winds, southeast storms, frigid currents, aggro elephant seals and wilder things that snack on elephant seals ... Maverick's radiates danger."

At Maverick’s, Acton and Quirarte practice an art ultimately defined by access. In order to capture surfers’ decisive moments atop mountains of water, these photographers must immerse themselves in the same life-threatening elements. Quirarte first experienced Maverick’s as a member of the Personal Watercraft (PWC) rescue team created after surfer Mark Foo died surfing the break. He took his first photographs from his PWC jet ski. Today, his images grace the pages of surfing’s biggest publications and he recently won Surfer magazine’s 2006 award for Photo of the Year.

Doug Acton has photographed at Maverick’s since the early 1990s and his work there has earned him international acclaim. His photos are currently featured in Inside Maverick’s: Portrait of a Monster Wave, a book that offers unmatched access to the waves and culture at the infamous surf spot. Acton captures today’s elite surfers caught in their most anxious moments before hitting the waves and the books also brooches issues that threaten to split the surfing community such as the debate over motor powered towin vs. paddling to the wave.

Reuben Margolin looks closely at water, observing its dynamics and translating them first into the language of math and then into handcrafted forms using salvaged materials that might otherwise be discarded. The resulting kinetic sculpture, Spiral Wave is a moving tribute to the unseen forces that propel water around our planet connecting every continent.

For artist and surfer Charlie Callahan the flotsam and jetsam he comes across while surfing are irresistible raw material for his large-scale paintings of exoskeletons of urchins. Apparently, left unchecked by their main predator the Sea Otter, urchins can overgraze on kelp beds and cause coastal degradation. The recurring motif reads like a metaphor for our own role in upsetting the ecological balance.

Artist and open water swimmer Ian MacLean shows mixed media, collage, and three-dimensional pieces. Packaging/Merger is made of discarded material which he transforms into a precious item using a metallic finish. The circular depressions, in this piece and Antenna hint at Asian items such as Tibetan singing bowls, Indonesian gamelan, and Filipino mancala game boards. The pencil drawings Wind 2 and Wind 3 are stenciled with indecipherable text that resembles Sanskrit. MacLean explains that the text is a mash up of dubious names of ships he’s seen. This brings to mind the responsibility shell game that ensued after the tanker Cosco Busan spilled 53,500 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay in 2007. A collage called Bradbury Travel Brochure, juxtaposes ideal tourist settings with industrial eyesores.

The painter and designer, Charles Valoroso grew up surfing Kalapaki on the island of Kauai. In the 1970s, he went on surfing safari as a photographer with Keone Downing, Mark Liddell and Buttons Kaluhiokalani. He is noted as the first artist to pay homage to the Aloha shirt in a series of large-scale oil paintings. His work has been translated into textiles for the Kahala shirt line. For this show he presents an installation piece with ephemera on loan from Keone Downing and the Jack Y. Ford collection. The paintings on panel are inspired by the patterns stamped on Hawaiian tapa (bark cloth). Paintings of the ocean that verge on the abstract and pieces from his series on the Bikini atoll are also shown.

By day, tech-savvy artist Anthony Bacigalupo creates light shows for bands such as Third Eye Blind. For this show, he has installed a video and sound piece called Vatn, where he uses formal elements almost as a painter might. Vatn doesn’t fix its subject, but instead ripples, laps, reflects, blurs and dissipates. Meanwhile, the soundtrack, introduces dreamlike fragments that come to no firm conclusion, but rather, confound, please, soothe and frighten.

Peter Shepard Cole’s realist works evoke the early period of Hawaiian contact with the West. His references are haunting; the Hawaiian Princess KaɄiulani donned in layers of Victorian garb and hand-tohand combatants. In one painting, Self Portrait as Captain Cook, Cole imagines himself in the vulnerable position of the man who opened the door to Hawaii’s transformation and paid a high price for it. Cole/Cook is surrounded by fauna (Iiwi, Hawaiian Rail) found in the late 1700s, but driven to extinction within only one hundred years.

Doug Acton | Anthony Bacigalupo | Jo Ann Biagini | Leo Bersamina | Charlie Callahan | George Corzine | Peter Shepard Cole | Keone Downing | Jessica Dunne | Jack Y. Ford Collection | Colin Gift | Dale Hope/Kahala | Terry Hoff |

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