John Law is an enigma. And if you ask him, he wants to stay that way. After forty-two years of artmaking, urban explorations, pranks, happenings and a multitude of essays, somehow, he remains largely unknown in the art establishment. What’s more is that hardly anyone is aware of his roles in significant collectives, some he has co-founded, others that he has been a contributor to: Communiversity, Suicide Club, The Cacophony Society, Billboard Liberation Front, Dark Passage/Ars Subterranea, Seafoam Palace LLC, SF Cyclecide Bike Rodeo, Survival Research Labs, SantaCon/flash mobs, Madagascar Institute, SEEMEN, Laughing Squid, Burning Man, and last but not least The Bronx Pipe Smoking Society.
“I’m real sick” 1977
“Jack Napier” (JLaw) & BLF
Photo of original billboard
18” x 12”
SIGNMAN: John Law is a three-month long retrospective of the San Francisco based artist John Law, curated by Pro Arts’ Executive Director and Curator, Natalia Ivanova Mount. The exhibition, scheduled to open on June 7th, 2019, at Pro Arts Gallery will include rare documentation of events, pranks and explorations, neon art, and multi-media installations.
“Golden Gate Bridge vertical no hands” 1986
18” x 12”
“John’s work offers tales from the underground that challenge our contemporary moment, characterized by a zombie-like addiction to social media, weakened ability and will to gather, explore and experience informally,” says Curator of the retrospective Natalia Ivanova Mount.
We need the rituals of the underground today more than ever so we can imagine the world beyond capitalism, beyond commodification, and the menial production of objects and ideas in an art world, beholden to a market value. It is time to give props to one of the most under-recognized luminaries in San Francisco and beyond, John Law.
SIGNMAN: John Law retrospective will be accompanied by a public program, consisting of talks by several of John Law’s key collaborators and friends.
“Golden Gate Bridge 50th Anniversary, Sunday May 24th 1987”
Photo 16” x 10” 1 of 7 photos in series
About the Artist:
John Law has been embedded in Oakland and San Francisco‘s underground art, pranks and events world since 1977. A member of the legendary Suicide Club, Law was instrumental in forming the later Cacophony Society which in turn gave birth to the Burning Man festival and the Billboard Liberation Front. Cacophony was the inspiration for the novel and movie Fight Club.
Law was a performance artist and an aerial performer in the 1990s working with machine art and theatrical troop Seemen and his on aerial performance troupe Aerial Action Team. An avid urban explorer, Law photographed many major bridges around the world while climbing them creating some unique images.In addition to cofounding and acting as Operations Manager of the Burning Man Festival during its early years,
Law pioneered the use of neon at the now world-famous festival and originated the neon outline for the Burning Man figure. Laws neon work included other desert collaborations, prominently Desert Site Works with photographer/artist William Binzen.
Law, along with with Flecher Fleurdujon, directed the feature film Head Trip showcasing the antics of punk rock performance troupe Cyclecide accompanying The Bay Area’s massive Doggie Diner heads on a cross-country trip to perform at the famous punk club CBGB’s in New York City.
Law is currently involved in creating new neon art pieces incorporating various plastic media, transparencies, found objects, and text. Law has lectured around the world on the history of Bay Area underground arts scene and its influence on the larger world.
Law remains deeply involved in the ongoing worldwide UrbEx scene and collaborates with many extreme underground exploration characters and secretive cabals.
About the Curator:
Natalia Ivanova Mount is a dynamic cultural activist and organizer with extensive experience in nonprofit leadership, development and strategic partnerships. She has organized numerous exhibitions and site-specific projects, experimental theatre productions, sound-based performance, film, radio, and public programs and events. Originally from Bulgaria, Mount lived in New York, where in the early 2000, she co-founded FLUX Art Space – a pioneering nonprofit organization that commissioned and produced long-term art projects, claiming the intersection of art, technology, and civic engagement. In 2010, Natalia launched the first radio station in Central New York, Redhouse Radio, that aired exclusively arts and culture programs. During that time, she was also the Executive Director of Redhouse Arts Center, a multi-disciplinary space and residency program, located in Syracuse. In the beginning of her career, Natalia worked at MoMA PS1 and the Clocktower, both located in NYC. Currently, she is the Executive Director of Pro Arts Gallery & Commons where she is actively engaged in the co-creation of the first Art & Culture Commons model in Oakland. Mount is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards in recognition of her cultural practice. She holds a BA in Criminal Justice, MA in Art Market, and MBA in Media Management.
Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 | 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
In Conversation Public Program Series
Mark Pauline & John Law | Friday, Jun 21 2019 | 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Preeminent machine artist, longtime art “prankster” Pauline and his troupe Survival Research Labs influenced generations of transgressive artist. His massive scale robotic “ballets of destruction” using repurposed military and industrial hardware and a great range of huge destructible props are unlike anything else seen in an art context, though perhaps not unfamiliar to mechanized warfare aficionados. Pauline and John Law became acquainted in the early 80’s while exploring the abandoned factories of San Francisco, Pauline for mechanical detritus to repurpose as art, Law scouting for locations to mount large-scale site-specific events for the Suicide Club & later Cacophony Society. In the early 90’s Law joined the SRL crew and built some of the largest destructible props for shows in Japan, Texas, LA, and San Francisco, many of these props incorporating neon as a design element.
Don Herron & John Law | Thursday, Jun 27 2019| 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Don Herron: Originator of the Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour now in its 41st year. The tour is the longest live literary walking tour in America. Herron was, along with John Law an early member of the Suicide Club. The pair will be talking about live action role-playing games (L.A.R.P.’s) and other events from the Suicide Club days of the late 1970’s. Herron is the editor and/or author of more than a dozen books, most dealing with hard-boiled detective fiction.
Julia Solis, Ron English and John Law | Tuesday, July 16 2019 | 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Julia Solis: An early originator in the world of urban exploration, Solis influenced later Urbex‘s luminaries, prominently Ninjalicious, Moses Gates, Steve Duncan and others in the “leave no trace” ethic adopted by the now worldwide community. Her two books, “New York Underground” and “Stages of Decay” are standard reading for serious urban explorers. Solis and Law will discuss the shadowy world of UrbEx (urban exploration) and tell tales of their various (mis) adventures exploring worldwide over the last 25 years.
Ron English: Painter and influential street artist and billboard hacker. English and Jack Napier (John Law) of the Billboard Liberation Front became acquainted in the late 80s and worked together several times over the decades on billboard “improvements” in New York City and San Francisco. English was, along with Shepard Fairey and others a character in a Simpsons episode. The pair will discuss the dangers of perpetrating “illegal” art.
William Binzen& John Law | Thursday, July 25 2019 | 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Large-format expansive-tableau photographer. Binzen devised much of the philosophy that later became integral to the Burning Man Festival’s culture. In conjunction with the Cacophony Society and John Law, Binzen created four Desert Site Works events in the early 1990s that were liminal experiences that resonate in the larger culture to this day. Binzen and Law will discuss the philosophical underpinnings of Burning Man and tell tales of the playa from long before the event devolved into an entertainment for body painted naked wealthy attorneys and Hollywood types running amok on bad drugs.
Scott Beale & John Law | Saturday, August 24, 2019 | 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
An early adopter of Internet based communication and social media; Scott was a primary figure in exposing the San Francisco’s artists & pranksters to the web. Long before Facebook, Scott’s “The Squid List” was how those interested in the SF underground found the most intriguing events, openings, shows, as well as other creative folks. Beale is owner of Laughing Squid, one of the oldest independent web hosts and culture blogs. Law is a minority owner and “Director of Special Projects” for The Squid. Beale was the first webmaster for Burning Man and, in his capacity as defacto scene videographer, filmed hundreds of Cacophony and early BM events and various other extreme group activities, taking place beyond the borders of normality. Beale and Law will discuss the interplay between and influence of the San Francisco underground on the nascent computer/internet/social media world of the 90’s in The Bay Area.
Closing Reception: Saturday, August 24, 2019 | 8:00 p.m. – Midnight
SIGNMAN: John Law is a monumental exhibition, covering 40 years of work and life. We need your support in order to realize this exhibition in a way, in which we dare to dream.
Your generous donations will fund directly all exhibition-related expenses, including artist and public program speakers’ fees.
For more information on how to make a donation, please contact the curator of this retrospective and the Executive Director of Pro Arts, Natalia Mount at email@example.com or donate directly, through PayPal here:
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!
SIGNMAN: John Law is in part funded by the Rex Foundation.
Additional support is provided by The Zellerbach Family Foundation.