Press Release

Embark Gallery Presents "This Is A Test"

Four emerging artists present experimental work in Dada-inspired exhibition

Mengmeng Lu. Test 3*3, 2017. Digital photography.

Mengmeng Lu. Test 3*3, 2017. Digital photography.

Every Tuesday at noon the test of the emergency broadcast system echoes over San Francisco “This is a test. This is only a test.” Both ominous in a dystopian sense and reassuring in it’s reliable repetition, the siren and accompanying voice have become an emblem for this show, in which four emerging artists present experimental works that try and try again. As the original Dadaists turned to absurdity to protest the politics of their time, these artists trouble contemporary systems of logic through trial-and-error artmaking, ultimately presenting new possibilities for the “purpose” of art, and all the while documenting the process.

Mengmeng Lu (SFAI) exhibits a playful photographic series inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse In Motion. Whittling down identity to a cyborg-like character that she then applies to different models whilst simultaneously referencing this historical modernist achievement, Lu breaks down barriers of time and history. The work questions the threshold between “life” and “lifelike” and these double images act essentially as a performance of the artist’s own psyche, tested upon different bodies.

Judit Navratil (CCA) shares with us her long-distance somersault career, which is part of an ongoing project in which she inhabits different characters and travels to various locations to practice her craft. The rolling is a meditative practice, forcing the artist to accept and adapt to what lies ahead. Yet it also a demonstration of futility, akin to a hamster spinning in a wheel. It is in the superfluous and amusing qualities of this simple act that Navratil finds freedom.

Oberon Strong. ALL FALLS DOWN, 2017. VHS/digital video, 5 min 49 sec. Still.

Oberon Strong. ALL FALLS DOWN, 2017. VHS/digital video, 5 min 49 sec. Still.

Oberon Strong (SFSU) is an experimental filmmaker whose work explores the queer body and otherness. Strong’s work draws upon the aesthetics and technologies of their childhood to create a queer dystopia, in direct challenge to a utopia in which the hero overcomes repressive social constructs. The deconstructed qualities of the work aim to show that gender has no form or content, and embraces indefinability.

Cristina Velazquez (SFAI) will perform live in the gallery with an iteration of These Flags, a performance that challenges divisions made by Nationalism and invented borders. Questioning the rhetoric of a country that stands “united” during an actually extremely divisive presidential administration, Velazquez’s performance is a metaphorical action for peace that is ultimately futile, as the artist acknowledges such a utopian state will probably never be realized.


This exhibition was juried by Micki Meng of Altman Siegel Gallery and Clea Massiani of Bass & Reiner.

Press Previews by appointment.

Opening Reception: November 10, 2017. 6-9pm

Hours: 12–5pm every Saturday and Sunday, November 11 - December 16

Media Contact: Angelica Jardini, Curatorial Director

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Embark Gallery Presents “Neighbors”

Four emerging artists explore contemporary politics of race, culture and citizenship

Christopher Marin. Lift Me Up, 2016-2017. Acrylic on canvas mural.

Christopher Marin. Lift Me Up, 2016-2017. Acrylic on canvas mural.

Though in some ways the world has never been more globalized, a troubling trend of Nationalism is (re)emerging. These four emerging artists from local graduate institutions grapple with issues of race, culture, and citizenship, probing the complicated power structures that sustain our definitions of us (U.S.) vs "Them." Art has always been a useful means through which to understand culture and with Neighbors we are attempting to dissect this fraught political moment by provoking conversations that have the power to shift perspectives. The artists’ thoughtful investigations into these charged and divisive issues ask us to reconsider learned belief systems, dismantle malevolent frameworks of oppression in governance and to remember past political struggles as we strive to achieve a more just and inclusive society.

Christopher Marin (CCA) presents beautifully rendered, mural-sized portraits of Black American history.  Shown in an enclosed space, the life-sized paintings envelop the walls and the viewer entirely. An audio track booms throughout the small room, sampling Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama and other important figures represented in his work. Underlying these snippets of speech is an almost celebratory musical remix of old protest songs and contemporary Hip-Hop, peppered with news stories that revolve around police brutality and Black Lives Matters protests. The jarring juxtaposition is emotional and ultimately hopeful, though past struggles and atrocities are certainly not glossed over. Marin gets at the complex state of contemporary race politics in a society where Black culture is appreciated (often fetishized), appropriated and, ultimately, monetized without the recognition of the systemic and institutional consequences of living in a country built on slavery. Tall light posts in the main gallery stand in for proud brown bodies as Marin’s red portraits take the place of celebratory street banners. Rendered on blue paper, the work reluctantly takes on the colors of police lights and of the American flag.

Shari Paladino. Habitas, 2017. Wood. Installation view.

Shari Paladino. Habitas, 2017. Wood. Installation view.

Amy Nathan (Mills) presents an installation that aims to offer new ways of understanding power structures, ultimately dismantling them. Beginning with a photograph of President Trump in the Oval Office watched over by his chosen presidential portrait of Andrew Jackson, Nathan gathers empirical data and deconstructs the image according to form and color. Following a precise set of invented rules, Nathan remakes the image as a series of silkscreen prints which teeter on a small ledge. Through this process Nathan destroys the inherent performance of the picture and exposes its fallacies, questioning the misuse of “logic” by those in the seats of power. The precarious installation also reminds us of the chaos that could ensue if, or when, our current systems fail.

Shari Paladino (UC Berkeley) will install Habitas, a sculptural performance set for a piece based on the hidden paternity story of her older brother. The script, titled Dark Italian Recipe, consists of mismatched narratives and cut up stories, calling into question the sub-textual narratives of race, heritage, purity, and culture. In the script the term “Dark Italian” comes under scrutiny for for the role it plays in the family’s response to having one mixed race child, and for its peculiar combination of racism and charade. The semi-autobiographical piece is ultimately a critical investigation into self-definition and belonging, and investigates racism in American culture through a lens of nostalgia and personal memories.

Keyvan Shovir (CCA) shows a series of sculptures shaped as military aviation planes and drones, decorated like the spiritual architecture of mosques from his home country of Iran. The vibrant works are titled “Mihrab” after the niche in the wall of mosques that faces towards Mecca. Through this clashing of imagery, the delicate lace cutouts on top shapes that infer violence, Shovir references the community and pride inherent in the Muslim practice of prayer, which continues on even in the face of Islamophobia and warmongering.

This exhibition was juried by Micki Meng of Altman Siegel Gallery and Clea Massiani of Bass & Reiner.

Embark Gallery offers exhibition opportunities to graduate students of the Fine Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. We provide a space for an engaged community of artists, curators and scholars, and we aim to expand the audience for up and coming contemporary art. The juried exhibitions are held at our gallery in San Francisco at the historic Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

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Press Previews by appointment.

Opening Reception: September 22, 2017. 6-9pm

Hours: 12–5pm every Saturday and Sunday, September 23 - October 28

Media Contact:  Angelica Jardini, Curatorial Director //

I Am Maneuvering With Difficulty

I Am Maneuvering With Difficulty

Embark Gallery is pleased to present Angela Willetts as one of three inaugural artists of R&D Projects, a series of research-intensive postgraduate fellowships and summer solo exhibitions. In researching Fort Mason’s history and following conversations with National Park Service historians, Willetts’ explorations of the defunct military base led her to consider how the psychology of fear and defense systems currently operate within her own life. Borrowing military strategies and languages, her work underscores themes of vulnerability and protection through task-based performances, drawings, and handmade, site-specific flags.

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Lurid Ecologies & A Few Select Bits of All Knowledge

July 28 – August 19
Opening Reception Friday, July 28, 5-8pm

Embark Gallery is pleased to present Tanja Geis and Christopher Nickel as the inaugural artists of R&D Projects, a series of research-intensive postgraduate fellowships and summer solo exhibitions. With this program, we are extending our support of emerging MFA artists to their postgraduate careers by offering graduated artists who have previously shown with Embark the opportunity to develop new scholarly and investigative projects in partnership with local nonprofits. Geis was paired with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Nickel responded to the Internet Archive.


Lurid Ecologies: Ways of Seeing the Bay

Tanja Geis | UC Berkeley 2015

Geis has partnered with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) to develop an exhibition responding to their work monitoring, conserving and restoring the San Francisco Bay. For Embark, Geis reimagines the substrates set in the bay for colonization by Ostrea lurida, the native oyster, for a series of phantasmagoric drawings made using mud pigment from the Bay. These drawings are shown alongside a 3-channel video installation, shot in research tanks at the Romberg Tiburon Center.

Ostrea lurida. Lurid oyster. The etymology of “lurid” is uncertain yet some of its earliest uses referred to the interplay of light and darkness, the aspect of things when the sky is overcast, the color of smoky flames, or perhaps the appearance of sunlight filtered through silty Bay waters. These works consider the vitally important, complex, and often turbid endeavor of SERC's research, and its techniques and apparatus, to address how scientific and aesthetic framing of complex ecologies inform how we look and what goes unseen. The restoration of native oysters in San Francisco Bay is part of the Living Shorelines Project which is funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy.

Geis makes paintings, installations, videos and participatory events that explore liminal and mongrel spaces as zones for the transformation of ecological perception. She holds an MFA in Art Practice from UC Berkeley, an MRM in Marine Management from the University of Akureyri, Iceland, and a BA in Fine Art from Yale University. Her work has been exhibited at the Berkeley Art Museum, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History and venues in New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, the UK, Japan, and Iceland. She was born in Hong Kong and lives in Oakland, CA.


A Few Select Bits of All Knowledge: A Visual Archive

Christopher Nickel | Stanford 2015

For A Few Select Bits of All Knowledge: A Visual Archive, Nickel mines the image collection of the Internet Archive—an ever-expanding visual database of user generated digital (and digitized) media—for the raw materials to create large-scale scroll-like tableaus. These digital collages of seemingly unrelated images have been filtered through the eclectic categories employed by the Whole Earth Catalog—a publication that acted as compendium and how-to guide for the utopian visions enacted by the self-sufficient back-to-the-land communities of the 1960s and 70s. Visually drawing the two together acknowledges both the active role that the Whole Earth Catalog took in promoting digital networks as the emerging form for self-organizing communities, while also serving as a direct model for our current Internet-based aggregators, searches engines, and the non-hierarchical system the Internet Archive has applied to its multiple repositories as they seek to fulfill their mission of providing “Universal Access to All Knowledge.”

In his recent projects, Nickel has focused on the physical presence of the Internet, attempting to recast its virtual, disembodied appearance as a physical object— a single fantastically complex body with mass and material, with a long history of evolution, existing in specific geographic locations. He holds an MFA from Stanford University, a BFA from California College of the Arts, and lives and works in Oakland, CA.

Upcoming: I Am Maneuvering with Difficulty

August 25 – September 16
Angela Willetts | UC Davis 2016

Willetts, following conversations with National Park Service historians, has created a body of work addressing the history of the Fort Mason campus and the semiotics of naval and military infrastructures. Using open­-ended, experience-­based inquiry around physical materials to explore ideas of entanglement and interdependence, Willetts' work encompasses sculpture, performance, installation and video. Originally from the UK, she has lived and worked in the Bay Area for the last eighteen years. 

Artist Websites

Embark Gallery
Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture
2 Marina Blvd., Bldg. B, Ste. 330
San Francisco, CA 94123

Gallery Hours
Saturdays and Sundays 12 – 5pm or by appointment from July 28 – August 19

Press Preview
Thursday, July 27, 10am – 5pm [by appointment]

Press Contact
Christopher Squier,

Press Release: F Exhibition at Embark Gallery

Six emerging artists explore the theme of failure in Embark’s newest show.

Whitney Aguiniga. Not for Nothing, 2016. Archival Pigment Print.

Whitney Aguiniga. Not for Nothing, 2016. Archival Pigment Print.

This Spring, as students earn their degrees from the 8 Bay Area institutions Embark Arts supports, Embark Gallery presents a show exploring failure. Inevitably an integral part of the creative process, failure is often touted as the symbol of valiant artists experimenting with new ideas, methods or media. This exhibition aims to instead showcase failure as a valid conceptual strategy on its own, and not just the byproduct of artistic risk-taking. Presenting alternatives to “success” as it is commonly understood, the artists in this exhibition use subversive modes of failure to both political and aesthetic ends.

Whitney Aguiniga (Mills) works in humorous photography that speaks to the humiliation of artistic trials and tribulations. Exploring different materials and challenging herself to take the meticulously rendered photographs with no outside help, Aguiniga toes the line between success and failure while commenting on the archetype of ‘The Artist’, similar to how Cindy Sherman before her addressed ‘The Woman’. For Keith Daly (SJSU), the presentation of a book of rejected applications to previous Embark shows is a droll exercise in self-deprecation and irony. It not only outlines a most common experience for emerging artists and graduate students, but is also a nod to past conceptual art that catalogs failure, like Michael Asher’s “The Museum As Muse,” in which Asher edited a catalog of all the works deaccessioned by the MoMA since 1929.

Mattson Fields. Maybe if you had let me take karate I wouldn’t be gay, 2016 Nunchaku, faux fur.

Mattson Fields. Maybe if you had let me take karate I wouldn’t be gay, 2016 Nunchaku, faux fur.

Flavia D’Urso (CCA) is a ceramic sculptor whose work speaks to corporeal vulnerability- the failure of the body in the face of decay and when corrupted by the machine. Mattson Fields (Mills) explores the binary expectations of identity as both a man and a gay man, to embrace masculinity or to reject it. In his own words, “I oscillate between the two, never truly achieving either.” Tamara Porras (CCA) presents a heartfelt research project she began upon discovering the man who raised her was not her biological father. This exploration of the failure of family, memory and heritage reveals how one’s search for selfhood can often be futile, or at least out of our immediate control. Meganne Rosen (CCA) addresses the failure of the nation in the 2016 election. Inspired by the “subversive pockets of women” in the Midwest who did not vote for Trump, and disgusted by the 53% who did, Rosen has created a visual representation of the violent ideological rupture in contemporary American politics.

Press Previews by appointment.

Opening Reception: Friday, June 16, 2017. 6-9pm.

Hours: 12–5pm every Saturday and Sunday, June 17- July 22, 2017.

Media Contact:

Angelica Jardini | Curatorial Director

Embark Partners with the Headlands to present Grad Fellow Show

The 2016-2017 Headlands Graduate Fellows explore the modes and methods of art practices in a multitude of ways. 

Saturday, May 20th through Wednesday, June 7.
Opening Reception: Sunday, May 21st, 1–4PM.

No End in Sight presents the work and practices of Headlands’ 2016–17 Graduate Fellows. In the spirit of the organization’s history of encouraging artistic exploration and experimentation, this exhibition travels the path of an idea to fruition, taking various routes and perspectives. What happens when we begin to understand an art practice as an evolution rather than a result-oriented endeavor? Whether it be with meticulous research, collection of scientific data, sketches as preparation for acts of chance, the organic development of the handmade, thinking through digital culture via analog devices, or the act of autobiographical documentation, No End in Sight asks fruitful questions rather than presenting final answers.

Curatorial Statement

By Tania Houtzager & Angelica Jardini

In an increasingly commodified art world, No End In Sight aims to refocus our attentions from the product to the process of seven artists who have been thinking through their own practice and its place at the Headlands Center for the Arts. This exhibition reveals how these artists approach problems, think through complex subjects, and eventually decide how best to present their findings and creations to the public. While their results are quite varied, Shannon Abac, Jose Figueroa, Kunlin He, Cy Keener, Nicole Lavelle, Holden Schultz, and Angela Willetts all take us on conceptual journeys through their unique modus operandi.

Nicole Lavelle, 2017

Nicole Lavelle, 2017

Inspired by Headlands’ coastal location, the work of Cy Keener and Nicole Lavelle both probe for information from the land and the sea. Keener roots his process in scientific research and the poetic ephemeral. His handmade buoys, launched into the ocean and tracked by GPS, are designed to send measurements of waves and the color of the sky back to his studio. Prototypes, sketches, molds, and photographs show how the artist developed his objects, and how they remain in open-ended progress. Lavelle also utilizes research in her practice, on both cultural and personal levels, to create compelling narratives. Using an old family cabin as a starting point, Lavelle interweaves facets of her own life into an interpretive investigation of land use, housing, culture, and community in Marin County. Her experimental visual essay will turn social practice project as she performs a live lecture in which she guides the audience through the complexities and eccentricities of this site in contemporary California.

Kunlin He, 2017

Kunlin He, 2017

Like Keener and Lavelle, Kunlin He and Jose Figueroa use fact-based research to reimagine the historical through a personal lens. Kunlin He focuses on Headlands’ military history, interweaving Chinese folk tales with his findings to question preconceived notions of fixed chronology. The result is a unique amalgam of fact and fiction, presented via traditional Chinese ink painting techniques and contemporary installation. Jose Figueroa similarly explores personal history through autobiographical paintings that act as a vibrant diary, providing insight to the artist’s inner life and thought process. Together, the paintings become a symbolic archive, full of talismans of specific places and times that simultaneously form the basis of a potentially life-long project.

Holden Schultz, 2017

Holden Schultz, 2017

Angela Willetts, Shannon Abac, and Holden Schultz each explore the potentialities of their mediums. Willetts tests the boundaries of objects and subjects in video documentation methods of her performance practice. Through the relationship between her body and various materials, she deconstructs the binary of the self and other, and opens a dialogue with endless possibilities. While her performances originate as dedicated tasks, the act of doing subsumes her original goals. Abac also explicitly presents the effects of working processes in her large sculptural vessels with accompanying maquettes. The elements of chance and risk are clearly rendered, presented as the results of experiments with an array of materials, thus expanding the definition of ceramic art. Schultz disassembles and reconstructs obsolete technology—including projectors, cameras, and scanners—into functional objects, ultimately reimagining the ways that photography might provide new ways of seeing. At its most powerful, Schultz’s work presents a reinvention of image creation through an ingenious hybridity of the old and new. His work, like all of the artists’ works in the exhibition, is dedicated to imagining new paths, connections, and horizons.

About The Graduate Fellowship Program

Headlands’ Graduate Fellowships is a year-long studio program for recent MFA graduates in partnership with esteemed Bay Area academic institutions. Graduate Fellows are given the support of a private studio, public presentation opportunities, and participation in Headlands’ peer-to-peer community of local, national, and international artists.

This event is part of the Headlands's off-site program series while their campus is currently closed to the public for construction on The Commons. The Headlands is co-presenting and collaborating with several Bay Area cultural organizations and partners; see all off-site events here.

Embark Gallery Opens Spread and Celebrates Expansion

Seven emerging artists explore the theme of growth in updated gallery

Carmina Eliason, photograph of Café con Leche, an ongoing project. "Conversation Residues (Detail Shot)" Herbert Sanders Gallery, San Jose. November 2016

Carmina Eliason, photograph of Café con Leche, an ongoing project. "Conversation Residues (Detail Shot)" Herbert Sanders Gallery, San Jose. November 2016

Embark Arts is proud to announce a 300 sq. ft. addition to Embark Gallery. In honor of Embark’s expansion, Spread will explore the theme of growth. Ideas of change, improvement, transformation, transition, multiplying, metamorphosis and/or modification permeate this show. From urban sprawl to illness, mimesis and the social practice of sharing ideas, Spread addresses a variety of subjects through installation, performance and other innovative processes.

Amy Cella comments upon the endlessly duplicated and modified dissemination of images in the digital realm through a mimetic photographic process. Carmina Eliason presents Café con Leche, a social practice project that encourages participants to discuss issues of race and ethnicity in a communal setting, over a spread of coffee, milk and shared stories. Matthew Floriani and Amber Imrie-Situnayake both address the concepts of home and shelter. Floriani’s dilapidated miniature neighborhood evokes issues of gentrification and the uneven distribution of wealth, while Imrie-Situnayake’s installation work aims to blur the line between the domestic and the wild, reminding us of humankind’s impending and inevitable collapse back into nature.

Amber Imrie- Situnayake. Homeland, 2017. Photography printed on canvas, thread, branches, rocks, buckets.

Amber Imrie- Situnayake. Homeland, 2017. Photography printed on canvas, thread, branches, rocks, buckets.

Gianna Paniagua’s large-scale sculptures made of intricately cut paper reflect on the rapid cell growth of disease and the fragility of the human body. On opening night, Paniagua will reveal her process in a cathartic live performance piece. Meganne Rosen’s work explores the fluid relationship between painting and sculpture. Her installation, a “sprawling organism” that consumes the gallery, is site-specific and will be shown for the first time.

Embark Gallery offers exhibition opportunities to graduate students of the Fine Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. We provide a space for an engaged community of artists, curators and scholars, and we aim to expand the audience for up and coming contemporary art. The juried exhibitions are held at our gallery in San Francisco at the historic Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

Press Previews by appointment.

Opening Reception: April 7, 6-9 pm

Hours: 12–5pm every Saturday and Sunday, April 8 - May 7

Media Contact: Angelica Jardini, Curatorial Director: