ROGUE REVIEW: Cuz We Ran Out of Bad Sculpture: William Emmert at Guerrero Gallery

What happens when galleries are forced to close their doors due to rapidly increasing rents? Where do artists show their work when the White Cube is no longer an option? One possibility is to open your home for exhibitions, as Andres Guerrero of the Guerrero Gallery has done. The Guerrero Gallery, which was located in the Mission District, closed its doors in 2013. This is the third time Guerrero has hosted an exhibition at his residence in the Hunter’s Point neighborhood. The third, but also the final, of the Guerrero home shows is a solo exhibition by Oakland-based artist William Emmert, titled “Dare to Dream.”
William Emmert "Dare To Dream" Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

William Emmert “Dare To Dream” Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

“Dare to Dream” consists primarily of painted paper reproductions of everyday objects and sewn felt flatworks mounted on paper frames feigning to be wood stretcher bars. Blurring the line between art and the everyday, William Emmert’s 3D paper pieces are nearly-identical copies of their originals, many of which are charged with cultural infamy and nostalgia: Stephen King books, VHS tapes, incense holders, an American-Canadian flag fusion.
William Emmert "Dare To Dream" Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

William Emmert “Dare To Dream” Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

In some cases Emmert’s objects are such well-executed clones that they are difficult to distinguish amongst the actual household items throughout Guerrero’s house. A set of keys have been tossed on Guerrero’s coffee table, several stray screws have been abandoned in a bedroom wall, a black box fan sits on a wooden table by the stairs, used books are scattered about the house on any available surface, and even the shelves on which these items sit. Taken out of the context of the White Cube, the pieces, in many cases, become camouflaged in their household environment. The viewer, acting as both gallery visitor and nosy house guest, has to wander through bedrooms, living room, and hallways with a microscopic, voyeuristic perspective to determine what are Guerrero’s belongings and what is artwork: “Is this art? Is that art? What about the thing on this table? Or the table itself?”
William Emmert "Dare To Dream" Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

William Emmert “Dare To Dream” Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

The flatworks, on the other hand, are less like clones of actual objects and more like paintings executed in felt. Where the 3D objects have a spellbinding charm akin to the pleasure of indulging in a cult classic film or a pulp fiction novel, the felt paintings have a more derisive, outright humor, as in “Cuz We Ran Out of Bad Sculpture” and “Shit is Fucked Up and Stuff.” Emmert’s works have no scruples about being bold and hilarious; mocking themselves, the sacredness of art making, and art world at large. In one instance, shards of broken plexiglass fail to protect (if not, pose a threat to) the crumpled, unhinged artwork underneath. Seemingly random phrases in felt are piled on top of one another, juxtaposing and overlapping their meanings, such as “Where is Justice” with “How’s Your Website Working Out” and “Oldest Ride Longest Line” with “This Is So Fun”. In some cases, large sections of felt are hastily cut out, revealing the wall behind the frame. The intentional recklessness with which many of the felt paintings are treated stands in high contrast with the meticulous handmade quality of the paper books and other 3D objects.

William Emmert "Dare To Dream" Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

William Emmert “Dare To Dream” Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

Through the use of inexpensive materials, everyday objects, careful reproduction in some cases and haphazard treatment in others, Emmert’s works distort and warp concepts of value. Retro pulpy Stephen King thrillers are elevated to the level of art, while the traditional practice of painting is treated with irreverence and knocked down a few notches. Furthermore, exhibited inside Guerrero’s home and outside the pristine white walls of the gallery, the ‘everyday’ is more pervasive. Art suddenly seems more accessible, less elitist, but no less valuable and necessary. This in-home exhibition also seems to indicate that no matter how lamentable the state of the art scene and the seemingly imminent monoculture in San Francisco, artists will always find new and different channels in which to thrive.

William Emmert "Dare To Dream" Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

William Emmert “Dare To Dream” Guerrero Gallery, Photo by Amy Mutza

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