After Life: Fernando Orellana and Al Honig in SF Weekly
Talk to Ghosts at Incline Gallery
by Peter Lawrence Kane
The fascination with the prospect of life after death had motivated artists since time immemorial, from outright hucksters like Todd Burpo (Heaven is For Real) to cerebral auteurs like Stanley Kubrick. The Mission’s Incline Gallery and guest curator Valerie Leavy have put together a two-person exhibit that examines the hereafter, through the lens of artists Fernando Orellana (based in Troy, N.Y.) and Al Honig(who lives and works in San Francisco).
After Life contrasts Orellana’s Shadows series (which asks what devices we might develop to let the “living-impaired” overcome their disability) with Honig’s Urns to give a voice to the deceased, as mediated through current technology and a secular, scientific approach to the fate that awaits us all.
Like the tokens the ancient Egyptians and the Toltecs gave the dead to help them navigate the underworld, Orellana’s work combines an interest in the paranormal with the mundane. (We’re all going to want to text our friends from the beyond to let them know how we’re doing, after all.) Capturing minute changes in temperate and light and transmitting them to an LCD screen, After Life effectively hunts for ghosts in our midst.
Meanwhile, Honig’s Urns carve out a neo-Dadaist space by endowing human-scale vessels for human remains with anthropomorphic qualities, as if to give the dead a new body. Each urn has a “window” through which the dead may see the world they left behind and, possibly, register as evanescent dings on Orellana’s screen.
Like the nearby Chapel music venue, Incline Gallery was once a mortuary. (“Incline” refers to the ramps used to transport corpses down to the embalming room.) And this smart-but-not-overly-clever exhibit might not generate the melancholy screams (or excitable chitchat) of long-pent-up ghosts, but it will certainly probe the disquiet of the dead.
After Life, July 10 – Aug. 8, opening reception Friday, July 10, 6-9 p.m., at Incline Gallery, 766 Valencia.