May 2013

Hosfelt Gallery, a Place for Smart Artists

Keith Burbank

Visitors that step into the Hosfelt Gallery at 260 Utah Street are greeted by a feather-fluttering automaton. The machine, which includes organic components, and others like it are part of the gallery’s current exhibition of sculpture by Alan Rath, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) electrical engineering graduate. Rath’s work is included in collections at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His work will be displayed at the Hosfelt Gallery until May 18.

“He is one of a handful of artists in the entire world who was a pioneer in technology artworks,” said gallery owner Todd Hosfelt. According to Hosfelt, there are five or ten pioneers in the field; the two most important are Bay Area artists Rath and Jim Campbell. Campbell, a Potrero Hill resident, has degrees in mathematics and engineering from MIT. 

Rath has been sculpting for the past 25 years. His work has included robotics; incorporating feathers, both ostrich and pheasant, is new. Rath made the circuit boards for his robots, programming the artwork so that it recreates its “choreography all the time.” According to Hosfelt, Rath’s experience over the past 20 years led to the exhibition, which took more than a year to create. 

Rath feels strongly about keeping his sculptures plugged in round the clock. The sculptures are sensitive to motion and heat; they move when someone or something is in the room. Rath wanted the sculptures to be autonomous; to “have their own life.” The sculptures are “excited to see you, like a puppy,” Hosfelt said. 

Campbell’s work uses light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, to produce low resolution images. Last year SFMOMA commissioned a work from Campbell for the museum’s atrium. The Hosfelt Gallery includes a Campbell piece that consists of a digital image of a street scene. Cars and a bus move through the scene, which is displayed using 1,000 LEDs; a computer screen uses more than one million LEDs. In his work, Campbell likes to show how little information we need as human beings to understand an idea. 

Dianne Dec and Nicole Lampl staff the Hosfelt Gallery, which shows contemporary paintings, photographs and sculpture. Dec has been Hosfelt’s business partner for 15 years; Lampl, who studied art history at the University of California, Berkeley, has been with the gallery for almost a year. The gallery originally opened in 1996 on Federal Street, between Bryant and Brannon, before spending 12 years on Clementina Street. It moved to Utah Street last fall after developers bought the Clementina Street location to build condominiums. The Utah Street gallery is located in the Forderer Cornice Works Building. According to Hosfelt, the building was built by the grandfather of the family that owns it. “The second I saw the light in this space I was sold,” he said.

Hosfelt shows art from all over the world, including recently from Pakistan, India, Argentina, Uruguay, Europe and the United States. Shows change every six weeks. Because of the gallery’s size – 8,900 square feet – the next show will feature two artists. Calcutta born Rina Banerjee will exhibit a bright pink Taj Majal replica, containing seashells, porcupine quills, and other items. Banerjee has a degree in polymer engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale University School of Art. 

Filipino-American and Stanford University graduate, Lordy Rodriguez, will bring big, brightly-colored drawings to the gallery, based on maps Rodriguez hopes will help people find their existential and philosophical place in the world. “It’s really beautiful fun work,” Hosfelt said. According to Hosfelt, there’s more to the work than being pretty, with intelligence a theme that runs among the artists who exhibit at the gallery. 

 

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