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Drawing Smoke



Walking into the Mills Art Museum, you will be met by smoke and the smell of burning cedar. Do not be alarmed, this is all part of the show.

Four Exhibitions, 20 Pounds of Incense, 73 Suspect Words, and a Fireproof Dress opened to a lively reception last Wednesday with a crowded gallery, wine and an eclectic show that was a feast for the senses.

Visitors gathered first around the large, green, smoking pattern sprawled across the floor. At 16′ x 16,’ Where a Man Meets Man in San Francisco, a piece by featured artist Inhwan Oh, dominates the room.

Like a jumbled crossword puzzle, poured green incense forms raised letters that upon closer inspection reveal cryptic words.

Those in the know will recognize the names of several local gay bars and clubs. The incense at one corner of the piece has been lit and, as the lines of incense burn, such names as “Divas,” “Oxygen” and “Tavern” stand out in white ash.

Oh was present to meet the public in his self-proclaimed “first solo show.” Although this piece is very specifically related to San Francisco, it is adapted to location. His first performance of this piece was in Korea, after a visit to his parents there.

“When I’m in Seoul, I use Korean language and names of places there,” said Oh.

Peggy Ahwesh’s featured piece, 73 Suspect Words, consists of two wooden chairs facing a television with headphones. The television screen flashes words, repeating some, such as ‘Leftist,’ ‘oversocialization’and ‘NAFTA’ – even the name ‘Emperor Hirohito.’ These 73 words are taken from one well-known work.”It is the interrogation of the Unabomber through his manifesto,” said museum director Stephan Jost.

The third exhibit in this show is From Image to Text – Mills Women Write about the Collection. This is a selection of pieces from the Mills permanent collection curated by art history students under the tutelage of Dr. Mora Roth.

The remaining exhibit displays more samples from the Mills permanent collection. Notable works include Diego Rivera’s beautiful oil painting Mother and Child and the promised Fireproof Dress, an iridescent silver fabric adorned with patches of several corporate logos. The dress is designed to be worn by a brave female driver of Formula One racing cars.

With over 270 guests, the opening of this show was a success. “I think [the show] is beautiful, smart, and provocative,” said Jost. “I could not be more happy with it.”

The show is also disappearing; soon the ash will be swept up and the Unabomber will be replaced by Icelandic Landscape paintings. Ahwesh’s She Puppet and 73 Suspect Words runs through Sept. 8, and Smoldering Relations shows through Oct. 20. Don’t pass up the opportunity to experience this varied and fun exhibit.