HG Magazine: Issue no. 22
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 
Issue no. 22

Remembering Alan Rath 1959-2020

Alan Rath, Vanity, 1992, vintage medicine cabinet, aluminum, custom electronics, CRT, approximately 48 x 44 x 25 inches
30 years ago, I walked into the San Jose Museum of Art for a meeting and was genuinely startled by several objects there… sculptures that were unlike anything I’d ever seen. They were assembled from electronic equipment: aluminum, steel, wires, circuitry and cathode ray tubes. Some also incorporated found elements like metal cages, wooden crates, a photographer’s tripod. Their inner workings — wires and chips and whatever-the-hell-else made them function — were, somewhat indecently, exposed. The cathode ray tube screens flickered moving imagery of body parts — roving eyes, waving hands, lips with protruding and wagging tongues. In spite of the obvious handmade-ness, idiosyncratic materials and somewhat lurid video imagery, the work was sculpturally sophisticated. Elegant, even. And it was funny. Really funny. These machines had personalities. They seemed alive: to know — and to care — that I was in the room with them.
Alan Rath, Atherton Wallflower, 2001, aluminum, acrylic, polyethylene, custom electronics, speakers, 100 x 94 x 16 inches
You have to remember, this was 1990. There were no smart phones, laptops or apps. Most computers were room-sized. Artists had been making and institutions had been exhibiting video art for a few — but only a few — years. A couple of artists were building robotic artworks. They were usually funky and only semi-functional. Nam June Paik was making installations and artworks that used old televisions as displays for video imagery... but he seemed to be a lot more interested in the video than the sculpture.
Alan Rath: Virtual Unreality installation view at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, February 23 - June 2, 2019
The work I saw that day was technologically revolutionary, but the engineering was used in service to the form… not merely to show off technical proficiency. Here was an artist who was a masterful sculptor, someone for whom every material and aesthetic decision was considered and impeccable. Nothing was there just for looks, yet nothing, no matter how functional, wasn’t beautiful. A friend quite correctly said he believes Alan’s work is most closely related to Alexander Calder’s. Indeed, Rath’s work is first and foremost beautiful sculpture. And like Calder, it’s also mirthful.
Alan Rath, Positively, 2012, aluminum, fiberglass, custom electronics, motors, ostrich feathers, 84 x 72 x 60 inches
That was my mind blowing introduction to Alan Rath's art. A couple of years later I met Alan and eventually was privileged to work with him. Alan the person was no less impressive than Alan Rath the artist. The first thing I noticed was, “wow, this guy is probably the smartest person I’ll ever meet.” But a level of intelligence that would have been intimidating in most people was tempered by Alan's kindness, his ease and his wit. All you need to do is read the titles of his artworks to get a sense of how funny he was: Useless Tool, Nose it All, Tongue Tied, Likker, Flatulence Free Asparagus, Vestigial Tail, Info Glut, LaLa ZaZa, Oral Fixation, Possibly, Always, Unknowable, Again, Yet Again, Yes! Yes! Yes!
Alan Rath in his studio with arts patron Peter Lipman, 2013
The Hosfelt Gallery team and I spent most of 2018 working with Alan and our colleague Cathy Kimball and her team on his survey show — Virtual Unreality — at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. The exhibition (which opened February 23, 2019) was gorgeous, as is the catalogue, which is supplemented by a super-slick augmented reality application that lets you animate the robotic sculptures so the pictures on the pages appear to move, look around, throb, wave, and flutter their appendages. Most impressive is the index compiled for the catalogue, documenting every artwork Alan made from 1985 until his death on the 27th of October. 507 pieces. Almost every component of every piece custom-designed and handmade by Alan: the hardware, the software, even the digital animations that make the videos. It’s an incredible amount of work... a fittingly impressive legacy.
Alan Rath, Evermore, 2013, fiberglass, polypropylene, aluminum, custom electronics, motors, speaker, pheasant feathers,
120 x 108 x 54 inches
I miss my friend Alan very, very much. But every time I see one of his sculptures, Alan will be with me, looking around, waggling his tongue, waving his hands… and making me smile.
"A pillar of the Bay Area art community, Alan was an innovator of the highest order and one of the kindest, sweetest men I’ve ever known. Behind his unfailing graciousness and modesty lay a keen intelligence, equal parts engineering know-how, aesthetic sophistication and conceptual brio... I can’t think of a single artist working today whose output remotely resembles his."

Read David Roth's tribute to Alan on Squarecylinder.

In the News

Rina Banerjee, She had guts! She got lost and she fought a lot, hung her inside cords, colon, stomached all that she could. She stood on a beach with one arm a hook and the other held fish, held out her actions, feared no God as nature, her mother was on her heel's side. She was all guts!, 2019, acrylic, collage and copper leaf on paper, 30 x 22 inches
Congratulations to Rina Banerjee for receiving a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant. The New York–based Joan Mitchell Foundation this year has awarded grants to twenty-five artists who are seen as deserving greater national recognition. Each grantee will receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds to assist them in making exceptional work.

In the Shop

Alan Rath: Virtual Unreality catalogue
Nothing short of magic happens when you combine the catalogue Alan Rath: Virtual Reality with the custom image-recognition application developed in conjunction with the book. When the full-page catalogue images are viewed through the app on a smart phone or tablet, the sculptures come to life, revealing the complexities of their movements and animating them as they were intended to be seen.

Alan Rath: Virtual Unreality is available for purchase in our Online Shop.

In the Studio: Driss Ouadahi

"Driss Ouadahi’s paintings clarify the parallels and differences that continue to weave the life of Europe and North Africa together. One example of this are the construction forms of modern global urban development, as developed by Le Corbusier and others, which go back to North African mud-walled buildings. Ouadahi doesn’t make value judgements about this cultural transfer when he shows images recalling facades or construction grids. He works instead with internalization, and concentrates on what constitutes memory: color and light. His paintings are realistic, but the subject matter is transcended by a technically complex method of painting."

— Beate Eickhoff, Curator, Vonder Heydt-Kunsthalle (2018)

Driss Ouadahi: Revisited Spaces is on view through November 25. Schedule an in-person viewing of the exhibition here.

In the Studio: Jean Conner


In Conversation

Curator's Workshop: Jean Conner
Friday, November 13 at 12 pm PST

Join the San Jose Museum of Art's assistant curator Kathryn Wade as she discusses her research for an upcoming solo exhibition with Jean Conner.
This conversation is open to San Jose Museum of Art members only. To become a member and support an outstanding institution, click here.
In Conversation: Carter Foster & Lordy Rodriguez
Tuesday, November 17 at 12 pm PST

Join us on Zoom for a conversation with Carter Foster, Deputy Director at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, and Lordy Rodriguez as they discuss the cultural significance of mapmaking and Rodriguez's current exhibition Polar Democracy on view at Hosfelt Gallery through November 25.

Register for the virtual conversation here.
For Your Table
Driss Ouadahi's Tajine

1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pinch saffron pistils
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
Olive oil
1 inch long piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 lemons, peeled and thickly sliced
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup Kalamata olives
3/4 cup raisins
1 handful of pine nuts
1 small bunch cilantro
1 small bunch parsley
4 medium carrots, peeled and chunked
1 zucchini, halved and quartered lengthwise
2 potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, coarsely diced
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 small butternut squash, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cup couscous
Optional: Garlic

In the oven, preheat a traditional tajine dish (or a covered cast iron casserole) to 350 degrees.

On the stovetop using a large heavy-bottomed pan, add olive oil and brown the chicken pieces over medium-high heat until they are golden on all sides, then transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add onion, then spices and ginger, stirring constantly until onions soften.

Add 2 cups water and chicken with its juices, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Put the chicken and onion mixture into the preheated dish, then add the vegetables (excluding butternut squash), olives, raisins and half of the sliced lemons. Tie the cilantro into a bunch so that it can be easily removed after cooking.

Cover the dish and put it in the oven at 300 degrees for one hour.

In the meantime, toast the pine nuts in the oven and sauté the slices of butternut squash in olive oil in a skillet. When the squash begins to brown, add the pine nuts, honey, salt, and pepper.

To make the couscous, bring 1 3/4 cups water to boil. Add salt and a drizzle of olive oil and couscous. Return to a boil then remove from heat and cover for at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Remove tajine from the oven and pull the chicken out from under the vegetables placing them at the surface of the dish along with the remaining slices of lemon. Remove the cilantro. Raise the temperature to 350 degrees and return the uncovered dish to the oven for about 10 minutes to brown the chicken.

Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with couscous and the side dish of butternut squash and pine nuts.
Hosfelt Gallery is located at 260 Utah St, between 15th & 16th streets. Wheelchair accessible entrance at 255A Potrero Avenue. For more information call 415.495.5454 or visit hosfeltgallery.com.

Open by appointment Monday through Saturday
To schedule an appointment, call the gallery or sign up online:

Hours: M, Tu, W, F, Sa 10-5:30, Th 11-7

Copyright © 2020 Hosfelt Gallery, All rights reserved.
260 Utah St
San Francisco CA 94103