Art takes a new direction with Josh Greene and his Least Favorite exhibit at the Nelson Gallery. The San Franciscoan-based artist brings the new term “social practice movement” to light with his approach of untraditional art objects.
“Josh is a leader in this emerging field of artists who don’t just make paintings or take photos; he sets up social situations, or social practice,” said Nelson Gallery curator Renny Pritikin.
Inspired by a conversation with his wife, The Least Favorite exhibit resembles the beginnings of his MFA show at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. For his MFA project, Greene asked his family what he should do for his show. With their responses, he created the MFA project. The Least Favorite exhibit was inspired by similar dialogue.
“My wife mentioned that one of my projects was her least favorite and randomly my mom made a comment about a different project the next day,” Greene said.
Turning the clock back almost ten years, Greene repeated a similar process for getting ideas. Asking his immediate relatives to evaluate his past work and choose their least favorite, Greene got to work.
“It was interesting to hear my wife and my mom’s perspectives on my work,” Greene said. “I decided to solicit other members of my family and made a small book with footnotes.”
Avoiding traditional photos, sculptures and paintings, Greene creates circumstances that encourage people to make connections with each other, thus strengthening communities and enhancing shared experiences. His unique approach has a variety of effects on different groups of people.
“From a young age, Josh was always an observer of behavior,” said Greene’s mother Ellen Medway. “He often made comments that were older than his years. I don’t know if he would agree to this, but I think the divorce had a major impact on his developing empathy at an early age. This may have contributed to his ability to express things in a unique way.”
Whether it is a whole wall of self-written descriptions from his family members or a room dedicated to breathing and experiencing others’ pain and suffering, Greene’s art brings something different to the public.
“I hope that people get a bunch of things out of my art,” Greene said. “I get inspired from a combination of things – ideas, interactions and conversations I’ve had.”
The interactions that inspire Greene’s work draw either on anything from light and random events to deeper emotional experiences.
“Since the onset of this project, Josh’s father died unexpectedly and tragically of a massive heart attack as he was mountain biking in Mammoth. Seeing the photo of his empty chair at his law office casts a sad veil over the exhibit,” Medway said.
Typical art showcased in museums and galleries includes the traditional and well-known paintings, recognizable artists or and even sculptures that make no sense to someone without an art background. The Nelson Gallery wanted a new type of art to be integrated into these public places.
“I was trying to bring interesting, cutting edge work to the Bay Area to expose people to young artists. I want students to have an expanded view of what art can be,” Pritikin said.
Greene’s ability to express himself in a different way than many other artists of this time is expressed in the reviews and comments on his creations.
“[Greene] has a great imagination and a willingness to be vulnerable when he displays things like his relationship with his wife displayed on the wall,” Pritikin said.
Medway is proud of how her son has grown as a person and an artist.
“Josh has worked for a lot of years to create conceptual art and the life of a creative person is never easy,” she said. “I admire his tenacity and, most of all, I admire the wonderful way he has taken on the art of being a new father and a loving husband.”
The Least Favorite exhibit opened at the Nelson Gallery March 31 and runs through May 22.
ELIZABETH ORPINA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.