At SFAI, George Kuchar comes back to life

I first heard of the Kuchar brothers — George and Mike — in a class (taught by Denah Johnston) earlier this year where we watched portions of a documentary on them and saw clips from their films, and it was interesting. But that was it: just interesting. Weird, unconventional, unique, even inspiring in some parts (but invoking a feeling of pity in others). Certainly interesting — but nothing more. I wasn’t hooked. It didn’t have any obvious lasting effect on me.

Then I visited the Living in Studio Kuchar exhibit at the San Francisco Art Institute. Seeing all of George’s work carefully arranged, presented uniquely and interactively in a mesh of multimedia creativity, in the company of ardent fans and others like myself only just discovering his incredible legacy, changed everything. I “got” something more about his work. Arriving in an excellent mood, having a good time even before entering the main exhibit and the free wine and food certainly helped put me in the right place, but it was the awesome set up and the art itself that sealed the deal. I didn’t feel like I was seeing his art and films, I felt like I was experiencing them, discovering them.

The pictures spread askew across all the walls, framing projections of selected films. Brightly colored walls and huge, catchy quotes. Hanging screens with more video. Televisions with more video. A private viewing room with more video. Video tape players attached to the televisions so you could choose what to watch, and a record player where you could choose the record. Benches to sit on to watch the films, or just to take it all in. Paintings. Random curios. A stage with costumes, props and cameras.

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