Program Type: 
Nayland Blake: FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!
October 12, 2012 - January 27, 2013
Downstairs Galleries


Artworks shown on this page:

Nayland Blake
Ruins of a Sensibility
1972-2002 (with thanks to Lynne Tillman)
Records, electronic equipment, and plywood
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery

Nayland T. Blake and Nayland W. Blake
Untitled, c. 1963-64
Enamel on masonite
36 3/4 x 72 1/4 inches
Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery

Nayland Blake: FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!
Oct 12, 2012 — Jan 27, 2013
Downstairs Galleries

Nayland Blake was one of the pioneers of performance art in the Bay Area in the 1980s. His work often explored aspects of the queer urban lifestyle. Though now based in New York, his most recent work is a return to his earlier processes from that period, where materials and spontaneity generate sculptural works that are informal, precarious, nonsensical, and odd or uncanny. While Blake is known for his symbol-laden works of black and white bunnies, ghosts, black liquid, or household objects gone awry, he is now entering another phase of production, where he intends to eschew an approach to object-making that trades on creating symbolic meaning. This is an interesting gamble and one that appears to be motivated by a desire to wipe the slate clean and get back in touch with the most intuitive aspects of his practice.

For his upcoming solo exhibition at YBCA, Blake will create spontaneous sculptures using his life as the catalyst. This concept stems from his 1993 work, Equipment for a shameful epic, which operated as a kind of kit of materials that were available for assembly. This work, described in the Daily News as a “Halloween grab bag of gory rubberized heads, plastic weapons, and masks of Nixon, Reagan, and Jason (of Friday the 13th infamy) hints at some real-life slasher film enacted on the American body politic, circa 1970-90.” It is representative of the bricolage drive in much of Blake’s work, as well as his use of humor as a way to bring repressed attitudes to the surface.

Another important conceptual underpinning for this exhibition is a videotape by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen titled The Bride Groom Stripped Bare (2002). While this video is not part of the exhibition, the deconstruction and reconstruction of the fabric wrapping and shaping is representative of the spirit of intuitive art-making that is at the center of this project.

Public Programs for Nayland Blake: FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!

The overarching rubric for this public program series is "show and tell," a concept developed by the artist. All presenters will discuss an object at some point in their lecture, talk, performance, etc. This is one way to create a pattern of presentation throughout the series and drive home the deep relationships that people have with things as a way of making meaning in their lives.

Nayland Blake asks all who attend a “Show and Tell” public program to bring an article of clothing to donate to the exhibition. The item will then be incorporated by Blake into artworks that will become part of the exhibition.

Several public programs take place during the initial installation of the exhibition, during regular gallery hours, and again during a second installation period where the artist will make changes and additions to the exhibition.

See below for dates and events.

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    Oct 6, 2012 5:30pm – 7:30pm
    Downstairs Galleries

    A reading of queer poetry and fiction by San Francisco Bay Area authors Justin Chin, Kevin Killian, D.Scot Miller, and Maggie Nelson.
    In partnership with RADAR Productions.

    Presenter bios:

    Justin Chin »
    Kevin Killian »
    D. Scot Miller »
    Maggie Nelson »
  • SHOW AND TELL: Carlos Motta and Larry Rinder in Conversation
    Oct 8, 2012 5:30pm – 7:30pm
    Downstairs Galleries

    Artist Carlos Motta and Larry Rinder, executive director of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, discuss queer difference and public identities. Motta will speak about two recent projects: We Who Feel Differently, a solo exhibition and symposium that took place at the New Museum, New York; and Petite Mort: Recollections of a Queer Public, a book that assembles drawings, by over sixty gay men, from memories of spaces in New York City where public sexual encounters occurred. Rinder’s talk will include a discussion of the 1995 groundbreaking exhibition, In a Different Light, which he co-curated with Nayland Blake, who will provide an introduction to the event.

    Presenter bios:

    Carlos Motta »
    Larry Rinder »
    October 12, 2012 – January 27, 2013
    Downstairs Galleries

  • Opening Night Party — Nathalie Djurberg & Nayland Blake
    Oct 12, 2012 7:00pm – 10:00pm
    Downstairs Galleries

    Step over to the dark side and join us in celebration of the openings of Nayland Blake: FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX! and The Parade: Nathalie Djurberg with Music by Hans Berg, two exhibitions that delight in dominance and submission, eroticism and power in distinct and provocative ways. Live music by L.A. based Nite Jewel (solo performance), local experimental sound artists Moira Scar as V.E.X. and Duchess Hotplate, and San Francisco's own DJ Primo. Delicious beverages provided by New Belgium Brewery and Blue Angel Vodka.


    Nite Jewel »

    Moira Scar as V.E.X. and Duchess Hotplate »

    DJ Primo »
  • Ruins of a Sensibility — Open DJ Turntables
    October 13, 2012 – January 27, 2013
    Downstairs Galleries
    FREE with gallery admission

    FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX! provides visitors an opportunity to explore Nayland Blake’s unique collection of over 3,000 LPs. You are invited to sign up for a DJ set to spin at the turntables within the installation, Ruins of a Sensibility.

    Nayland Blake's Ruins of a Sensibility
    is open and streams live (when someone spins) during regular gallery hours: Thu–Sat, noon–8pm, and Sun, noon–6pm

    After reserving a spot above, come to the gallery and check in with a gallery guide to begin your set. Remember these rules while you are the DJ:
    • Your reservations is held until 10 minutes into the hour. If you have not begun to spin after 10 minutes, your reservation is released.
    • Your set is forfeited if you leave the turntables for longer than 15 minutes.
    • You are welcome to reserve as much time as you like. However, we reserve the right to cancel your booking at our own discretion.
    • As Ruins of a Sensibility is an exploration of Nayland Blake’s musical collection, you can only spin the records Nayland has provided.

  • SHOW AND TELL: Youth Workshop — Passing the Baton
    Oct 14, 2012 1:00pm – 3:00pm
    Downstairs Galleries
    FREE with pre-registration

    Nayland Blake leads a workshop with teens on creativity, art making, and queer identity.

    This event is FREE with pre-registration — email

    In partnership with Bay Area Girls Rock Camp.

  • SHOW AND TELL: Gayle Rubin Lecture — “Yerba Buena, the Tool Box, and the Politics of Urban Space”
    Nov 18, 2012 1:00pm – 3:00pm
    Downstairs Galleries
    FREE with gallery admission

    The Yerba Buena complex, the Tool Box bar, and the gay and leather presence in this part of SoMa resulted from a constellation of factors in the history of San Francisco: the location of its early industries, the distribution of working class housing, and the politics of redevelopment and urban transformation after World War II. Gayle Rubin, associate professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan explores the tangled relationships between sex, de-industrialization, and the political economies of land use in San Francisco. With an introduction by Demetri Moshoyannis, executive director, Folsom Street Events.
    In partnership with Folsom Street Events.

    Presenter bio:

    Gayle Rubin »
  • SHOW AND TELL: Richard Meyer Lecture — “At Home in Marginal Domains”
    Nov 29, 2012 5:30pm – 7:30pm
    Downstairs Galleries
    FREE with gallery admission

    Richard Meyer, professor of art history, Stanford University, is particularly concerned with the ongoing cultural debate over sexuality and gender and its effects upon modern art and visual culture. For this lecture he focuses on art history and queer subculture, especially how marginal visual artifacts are a means to recognize the necessity of attending to what the dominant culture discards or trivializes.

    And a special event:
    Decorative Piercing by Lolita Wolf
    Lolita Wolf will lead a decorative piercing performance with Nayland Blake.

    Presenter bios:

    Richard Meyer »
    Lolita Wolf »
  • SHOW AND TELL: Queer Punks in Conversation
    Nov 30, 2012 5:30pm – 7:30pm
    Downstairs Galleries
    FREE with gallery admission

    This conversation examines queer punk history from the 1980s to the present, including the music, politics, lifestyle, and trends of local musicians and innovators. Moderated by Marke Bieschke, managing editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Speakers include musician/tattoo artist Leslie Mah of Tribe 8; writer, dancer, and performer Brontez Purnell of Gravy Train!!! and The Younger Lovers; Jess Scott of Make-A-Mess Records, Brilliant Colors, Index, and Flesh World; and Matt Wobensmith, founder of Goteblüd Vintage Zine Store and Outpunk.
    In partnership with Down at Lulu’s.

    Presenter bios:

    Marke Bieschke »
    Brontez Purnell »
    Matt Wobensmith »
  • SHOW AND TELL: Nayland’s Makeover: Drag + Bay Area Personae
    Dec 1, 2012 5:30pm – 8:30pm
    Downstairs Galleries
    FREE with gallery admission

    Panel discussion led by Joël Tan, YBCA’s director of community engagement and a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence about “getting ready” for a drag identity, including presentations by Cliff Hengst and D-L Alvarez; Sister Mary Jaunita Higher Power, and Sister Selma Soul; Shannon Trumble, a former member of Club Uranus; a “getting ready” performance by Nayland Blake; and a wrap-up party in YBCA’s loading dock.
    In partnership with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

    Presenter bios:

    D-L Alvarez »
    Cliff Hengst »
    Sister Mary Juanita Higher Power »
    Sister Selma Soul »
    Joël Barraquiel Tan »
    Shannon Trimble »
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Artist Bio

Nayland Blake is an artist, instigator, writer, and educator, currently living in Brooklyn. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum; the Studio Museum of Harlem; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the de Young Museum. His writing has appeared in Interview Magazine, Artforum, Out, and OutLook. In 1994, Blake co-curated, with Lawrence Rinder, In a Different Light at the Berkeley Art Museum, the first major museum exhibition to examine the impact of queer artists on contemporary art. He is currently the chair of the ICP-Bard Program in Advanced Photographic Studies at the International Center of Photography. Blake lived and worked in the Bay Area from 1984-1996.


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Nayland Blake: FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX! is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Abundance Foundation
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Lam Research

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Exhibitions 12-13 is made possible in part by:
Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan, Meridee Moore and Kevin King and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Free First Tuesdays
Underwritten by Directors Forum Members

Media sponsor:
Bay Area Reporter