As Bay Area art lovers learned earlier this year, the bounty of art galleries in Mill Valley – propelled in recent years by local gallery proprietors Seager/Gray Gallery, Desta Gallery, Kim Eagles-Smith Gallery and Robert Green Fine Arts – took another major step forward when longtime San Francisco dealer Anthony Meier moved his namesake gallery across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mill Valley taking over the spaces on Throckmorton that were previously occupied by Pollen + Wool and Christopher Salon.
“I think change is good,” Meier, who is president of the Art Dealers Association of America, said at the time. “It re-sharpens everyone’s focus and attention span, with some reevaluation of how you want to do it and where you want to do it.”
Meier’s gallery is located in a 5,200-square-foot former Studebaker car dealership, dating from 1925. The new space more than doubles the gallery’s footprint, and includes a 400-square-foot art history research library that is open to the public by appointment.
“Spaces with flavor, good bones, architecture, height, light are quite few far between,” Meier said. “In terms of some sweet little places, everything is six to ten miles across the bridge, but I would say Mill Valley is the sweetest: the proximity to nature, pure beauty, cool history with it being a mill town before the bridge. There’s great energy.”
The inaugural exhibition at the space paid tribute to the area’s local history. Titled “In the Shadow of Mt. Tam,” the show referenced the striking views of Mount Tamalpais.
Now comes word that Meier is announcing his representation of San Francisco-based artist Jesse Schlesinger (b. 1979, Kentucky), who works across sculpture, installation, drawing, and photography to investigate notions of place and the ways in which both natural and architectural environments engender experience and understanding.
Trained in a wide array of traditional crafts and material processes including woodworking, bronze casting, glassblowing, ceramics, and stone carving, Schlesinger’s work evidences an appreciation for the intricacies of craftsmanship. This is reflective of his upbringing as the son of a carpenter and his respect for his skilled fabricators and studio assistant, Robbie Gould.
Schlesinger has spent a great deal of time in Japan—including as a two-time recipient of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Fellowship through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—working with a wide range of different craftspeople in his travels across the country. His interest in and adoption of such practices was inspired by his work with Paul Discoe, who is often credited with bringing traditional Japanese timber-framing to California, and from whom Schlesinger learned this technique. Akin to Discoe’s practice, and that of other local influences such as JB Blunk, Schlesinger’s philosophy, and his site-specific projects in particular, foreground a deep reverence for materials, which are often sourced locally from the region or area in which his work is sited. This will be true of two large-scale permanent public art commissions that Schlesinger is currently working towards in San Francisco.
Bookending the city, one commission will be located on Judah Street near Ocean Beach while the other will unfold along Natoma Street as part of the Natoma Art Corridor that leads pedestrians from the Transbay Transit Center to SFMOMA. The latter, commissioned by the Department of Public Works in conversation with SFMOMA, will respond to its setting within the heart of the city by featuring a mixture of cast bronze, sheet form stainless steel, cast glass elements, and notes of sky blue, which take shape on an architectural scale with integrated seating. Thinking deeply about site means that Schlesinger considers how his permanent outdoor projects will fare over time. While the Natoma project is largely protected from harsh weather and can thus incorporate painted materials, his installation near Ocean Beach, commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission, will be composed entirely of carved stone and cast bronze on concrete pedestals so that when they are subjected to the ocean breeze, salt, and sand, they will weather and patina beautifully over time. Located on the last commercial stretch of Judah Street, these sculptures will create a visual transition between the built environment and the natural world.