“God forbid you reveal anything deeply felt,” remarks Katy Grannan on the subject of contemporary art making. “It’s got to be concealed beneath the armor of a rigorous, academic thesis. It’s the rare artist who can pull it off without bearing the brunt of smug, ironic criticism.” The Bay Area-based photographer and filmmaker goes right for the gut in her latest curatorial effort, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” a group exhibition opening tonight at San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery that addresses the raw, emotive frankness of the human condition.
A welcome antidote to the art world’s prevailing obsession with slick critical theory, the show takes its directive from the title of Carson McCullers’ 1940 novel and the poem by William Sharp that inspired it (written under the pseudonym Fiona Macleod), assembling a diverse cross-section of 18 artists, across age and medium, in their first exhibition at Fraenkel. “‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’ manages to describe, in six words, what it feels like to be a human being,” Grannan says. “It also, for me, articulates the driving force behind making art and the often lonely experience of searching for meaning and the sublime.”
With a range of figurative and abstract paintings, contemporary photography, drawings, mixed-media works, found sculptures, videos, and artist’s books, highlights include a plush, totemic mixed-media fabric and yarn sculpture from Judith Scott, images from young photographers Bryson Rand and Heather Rasmussen, and a video piece from Zak Arctander. The unarticulated yearnings of alienation, pathos, and the search for a method of communication largely resonate with Grannan, her practice, and her approach to the exhibition. “Loneliness, isolation, and the need to find meaning and purpose has dictated everything I’ve done and continue to do, and it’s what speaks to me in any medium,” she explains. “Even if I’m bothered—in fact, I especially like to be bothered or made uncomfortable. Then I look a little more closely at my way of seeing and discover my own limitations. Art should be uncomfortable. It should bring us to life and shake us from our complacency.”
THE OPENING RECEPTION FOR “THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER” IS TONIGHT, FROM 5:30 TO 7:30 PM, AT 49 GEARY STREET, #450, IN SAN FRANCISCO. THE EXHIBIT WILL BE ON VIEW THROUGH AUGUST 22.