every city tells a story……..

Manifest Destiny


Walking down Bush Street towards Downtown San Francisco, the view of Manifest Destiny has much in common with the exaggerated perspective of a Wayne Thiebaud painting.  The sharp crest of the hill points the viewer forward and down simultaneously setting the stage for the smaller than true 19th century cabin-like structure by collaborating artist team Mark Reigelman and Jenny Chapman.  The work is huddled against the brick property line wall of the adjoining building, as if to stay warm, affixed like a barnacle on the mother ship.   From here, one can easily see how Manifest Destiny has been intentionally set apart.   The surrounding landscape is a hard urban canvas predominantly comprised of buildings dating from shortly after the Great Earthquake of 1906, made of brick, terra cotta and all manner of non-combustible materials.  Reigelman/Chapman instead chose vintage barn wood as their material, weathered and aged like kindling.  A stovepipe protrudes through the roof of the cabin implying a fire within as if any second the structure could burst into flames.  The windows of the commercial buildings lining Bush Street face in.  The gable of Manifest Destiny has turned 90 degrees, facing its peaked roof in the opposite direction, windows on both front and side, confirming its status as the black sheep bad boy of the block.   A solar powered light glows from the interior each night.  The implied resident has returned after a long day at the farm.   Yet, the site is in the center of the banking district of San Francisco, a neighborhood that empties out close to 6PM.

Manifest Destiny balances precariously between surrealism and pastiche.  The details of the cabin have been abstracted just enough to pull the work away from a literal re-enactment of the historical designs.   The lack of door for entry or ladder for approach is a confirmation of inaccessibility.   No smoke wisps out from the stack.  The cabin has been built with measurements shy of something workable, a knowledge registered by the proximity of the windows like a human size measuring tape on the adjoining building.  The suspension of disbelief has been visibly blocked.

The project is the first of the SoEx Off-Site: Graue Awards organized by Southern Exposure with the explicit mission to support works engaging in the public domain of the Bay Area beyond the walls of the traditional gallery.   Manifest Destiny was a multi-layered venture into the democratic domain of the art world, first layering itself as a finishing touch on a work in progress, the city of San Francisco.  The cabin has little meaning away from the site.   Then second, the piece then morphed into a series of concept friendly photographs which found a life of their own on the internet, bouncing from blog to blog with an enviable visibility, engaging a world of viewers less familiar with the gallery bound art world. Artist/ architect team Regeilman of New York, and Chapman of San Francisco have forged a bi-coastal collaboration fitting to a cyber success story, spanning coast to coast, one foot in the internet and the other on the street.    The vulnerability of the lone cabin struggling against the odds is an image easily digested and adored, both as a snapshot icon on an iphone or as a sudden discovery while walking along the busy city street.

Preview of review for Sculpture Magazine.

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