Jessica Silverman’s New Chinatown Gallery Achieves ‘Must-See’ Status in Historic District
Jessica Silverman’s The new gallery is surrounded by icons of San Francisco’s Chinatown, and since opening in May, the space has steadily garnered attention as one of the Historic District’s new art destinations.
One block from Dragon’s Gate at 621 Grant Ave., the pale brick building with its pagoda-shaped green eaves and red trim is one of the neighborhood’s distinctive architectural treasures, which once belonged to the famous Louie family from Chinatown. Across the street, Sainte-Marie Cathedral stands sentry, its red brick reflected in the new gallery windows.
It was important to Silverman that the entry offered an insight into the ethics of the gallery, known for its roster of diverse and acclaimed artists, including Judy Chicago and Isaac Julien. New dark brick masonry from the Kallos Turin architectural firm frames the entrance and windows. The undulating door handles made from a cast by architect Antoni Gaudi glow in the sun, and Silverman’s new vertical logo on the glass door echoes their shape, with a looseness she hoped to capture.
âIt was sort of meant to go against a kind of male neutrality,â says Silverman, who opened his first gallery space in 2008 on Sutter Street.
Most of the galleries that she and her partner, writer and sociologist Sarah Thornton saw in Art Forum and Frieze magazines had conservative, stately fonts and logos that were bold but uncomfortably rigid. Silverman and his gallery are known as anything but.
âAs a reseller, you want something with an identity, you want something translatable,â says Silverman, noting that they wanted to do âsomething fun and fresh, something that seemed unexpectedâ.
Silverman worked with Jessica Fleischmann, founder of Los Angeles branding and graphic design studio Still Room, to create a logo that had energy and expressed a strong femininity. The font is a personalized version of a composition by designer Nikloas Wrobel.
âIt’s not feminine, it’s ‘feminine’,â says Fleischmann. âThere are strong verticals and then unexpected curves. This calls into question some expected notions of femininity.
Silverman is delighted with the results. âBeing a woman in this field and a cheerful woman in this field, you want to do something strong but not masculine. “
Silverman, 38, has been a gallery owner for 13 years, spending the past eight years in a space in the Tenderloin on Ellis Street. The new gallery is twice the size of the previous location, with enough space for a private showroom and on-site storage. Abigail Turin, co-founder of international architectural firm Kallos Turin, says that during the project the building defined the character of the renovation, as well as Silverman’s desire to locate it in an area known for its storefront culture and its pedestrian character.
âJessica approaches things with a really personal mindset,â says Turin. âShe has a distinctive eye. It was fun working with her for this reason. The space reflects this different eye and state of mind.
Its 5,000 square feet is most strongly felt in the main gallery, which is separated from the entrance by a wall used as additional hanging space, then opened up with high ceilings leading to the mezzanine level of the gallery office. Sealed and satin blonde plywood floors to preserve their pallor and the feeling of expanse.
During the first group exhibition of “We Are Here” by Silverman in space which runs until Friday, July 2, a photo of Julien – “When the tree blooms”, from his series “The ten thousand waves’ exploring ancient and contemporary China – greets visitors at the entrance. Lauren Wermers’ âKusineâ, stainless steel and concrete sculptures resembling cacti, are placed in the windows.
Once in the main space, Davina Semo’s large âAgent of Balanceâ mobile hangs in the center, and the works of Rashaad Newsome, Conrad Egyir and Matt Lipps draw attention.
The gallery officially opened with an exhibition by Clare Rojas, newly represented by Silverman. âWe Are Hereâ will be followed by a solo exhibition for the first time on Thursday, July 8 from San Francisco concept photographer Catherine Wagner titled âClues to Civilization,â which is also new to the gallery. In August, a Chicago exhibition is scheduled with the de Young Museum’s retrospective on the pioneer of feminist art.
It’s an exciting program to return to after a year without in-person shows due to the move and the pandemic.
Wagner calls the space “an elegant blank slate”, to present a work filled with “little touches that do not over-announce themselves as they punctuate the space”.
Even the gallery bathroom has one of those touches: a custom tile mural by artist Claudia Wieser.
Now that the renovation is behind it, Silverman says the joy and stress of opening the first two shows in the new space has been like “a honeymoon phase … but also like a merger in traffic.”
âI think having the artists and clients here finally made it real,â she says.
Artist Rose Simpson, who appears in “We Are Here,” says the new gallery reflects Silverman’s desire to invest in artists, especially emerging artists like her. Before joining the gallery in 2019, the Santa Fe-based sculptor said her work was generally “pushed to the margins” and categorized as strictly as Native American art, limiting her exposure. âThe enthusiasm that Jessica showed for my work and seeing myself as a contemporary artist was not the normal reaction in Santa Fe,â says Simpson.
For Silverman, the curatorial side of the gallery has long been one of her favorite parts of her work, and with the expanded gallery space, she believes it will allow her and her artists to grow together. .
âI’m really interested in representing artists throughout their careers, making sure they have long-term success, and showing people their work,â says Silverman. âI like being able to apply this model to where I am. “
Jessica Silverman Gallery: âWe Are Hereâ ends Friday July 2; “Catherine Wagner: Clues to Civilization” opens Thursday July 8th. Until August 14. From noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. 621 Grant Avenue, SF 415-255-9508. essicasilvermangallery.com
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