Four mornings a week, Amanda Curreri holds open studio hours at Royal Nonesuch Gallery, where she is the third artist this summer to undertake a uniquely public residency. I found her working on a denim-and-yellow-fabric weave at a messy table. Several other such weaves adorned the walls, along with a pair of blue jeans, a simple drawing of tussling coyotes, some vintage issues of Playboy and Esquire, and a copy of Thérèse et Isabelle, by lesbian French author Violette Leduc. A hanging American flag curtained the artist from Saturday morning Telegraph Avenue.
I asked about the purpose of the flag. "To deal with it," Curreri responded, thoughtfully. She went on to explain her fraught (her term) relationship with US national symbolism: Its entanglement in systems of violence has long disturbed her, while people close to her have acted complicity, if not especially zealously, in such systems. Her ex-spouse was in the military. So was her father — the flag veiling her temporary studio was the one sent to her upon his death.
Curreri's residency, which will ultimately shake out into an exhibition at Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco this winter, unfolds from its title: Aunque, Violencia es Total. Spanish for "although" or "even though," aunque denotes an alternative space that exists in spite of a predominant one — here, presumably, the American state of "violencia es total."
"I'm building the upcoming exhibition to be the space of 'even though,'" said Curreri. "Like the Wild West allows you to swagger, spit, carry a pistol, I want to create a space of aunque that is filled with desire in the face of violence."
Hence, the blue jeans, coyotes, and homoerotic literature opposite the mainstream gentlemen's magazines. Also roaming this intellectual frontier space is the wily figure of Jean Genet, French poet, playwright, critical theorist, and voice for desire in spite of politics and social taboo. His works litter the gallery, and on August 24 Curreri is staging a public reading of excerpts from his writings, to be called "Jean Genet in the Aunque."
"It will be helpful to test out the ideas in a performative choreography," said Curreri with regard to the reading. "That's the general approach for the month — public testing ground."
Indeed, while the flag happened to be a solid place to begin my inquiries, Currieri's residency is not equivalent to a typical exhibition in which every object can be assumed to hold calculated place. Rather, many objects, such as the weaves, function more as "pre work," which may or may not evolve into anything that will wind up in the eventual exhibition. "I'm midstream," Curreri said, "so to use the residency to my benefit I've got to be a bit vulnerable showing work in progress."
Amanda Curreri's residency for Aunque, Violencia es Total runs through September 7 at Royal Nonesuch (4231 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). 415-652-1623 or RoyalNonesuchGallery.com