“Meanwhile in San Francisco” is the show at SPUR to accompany the book by the same name, an “illustrated documentary” as the author, Wendy McNaughton calls it, of neighborhoods from around San Francisco. From the poor and destitute on 6th street – a street without any produce – to the hipsters in the Mission, where everyone apparently has a crush on the girl at the Tartine Bakery, McNaughton illustrates the stereotypes of the city. The show is laid out in neighborhoods and activities, one wall for Chinatown, another wall for the people who ride the bus, and another wall for 6th street. Little dots on the wall connect one image to another, leading viewers on a virtual tour of those areas. One of the problems is that the images are reproduced and scaled to fill the exhibition space without regards to the original drawing size. The result is disjointed, where some drawings are shown huge and other drawings are shown small. The speed of the drawings varies tremendously. Some drawings, all of which are watercolor and ink, tumble off the page in hurried gestures, while others linger with subtle variations in skin tone. At its best, the show reveals something about the city – something like “These are the people of your neighborhood”. At its worst, the show says nothing new about the stereotypes of the area. No good prejudice goes overturned or unchallenged. The poor are valiant in their poverty, recognizing that their community will soon be destroyed by waves of gentrification, and the hipsters are parodies of themselves, all trying to be unique, but all looking alike. Seeing McNaughton’s original drawings, and them delving deeper into the stories of the neighborhood to bring out the surprising and the unknown would have been a much more satisfying exploration of this great city, known as San Francisco.
Wendy McNaughton’s exhibition is up through October 10th.
written by POVarts West Coast Editor: Chuck Frank