Given, a shop on the site of Supervisor Harvey Milk‚Äôs old camera store in the Castro, is currently displaying in its monthly art gallery a series called ‚ÄúSupersonic‚ÄĚ by Michael Murphy. His graphic works have been included in shows from Tokyo to Amsterdam and Spain. His work, he said, conjures up imagery of another time, when the jet set was the future and design possibilities were endless. In my interview of the artist, Murphy said his ‚Äúultimate goal is to create a fresh, contemporary tectonic, while recognizing certain influences of mid-20th century design and cultural zeitgeist.‚ÄĚ Atomic deserts, hovering metal ships, roadside steel and glass space age superhighways are included in his repertoire. He said, ‚ÄúThese are purely iconic influences, however, not ingredients for a nostalgic creation of a particular style.‚ÄĚ The moods and environments are deliberately ambiguous. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs left to the viewer to decide if they are looking at places of desolation and loneliness or scenes of quiet solitude,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a fantasy world out there somewhere that could actually be a real world if you want it to be.‚ÄĚ He works with giclee prints and ink on paper in a limited series. The pieces are slightly reminiscent of David Hockney from the ‚Äė70s and early ‚Äė80s.
Murphy was born and raised in San Francisco; started studying engineering and gave it up to practice architecture for nine years; went to Ireland and London for ten years; but missed San Francisco so much that he has moved back here. ‚ÄúI really just wanted to design,‚ÄĚ he said. His personal philosophy in life is to enjoy architecture and ‚Äúreally concentrate on what you want and spend your life doing, because time goes really fast.‚ÄĚ He added, ‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre not doing something you like, try to find something else, for God‚Äôs sakes.‚ÄĚ
His pieces are designs of what he wanted to see - and perhaps inhabit in some of the places. He said he admired the culture that existed in the ‚Äė50s and ‚Äė60s. He admits that there is also some irony going on. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just my black humor, and I can‚Äôt help it.‚ÄĚ For instance, you‚Äôre living in the middle of a desert and there‚Äôs an atomic bomb going off. One of his pieces, not on display, speaks of ‚Äúa blast-free home,‚ÄĚ referring to the ‚Äė50s commie cold war bomb scare and resulting bomb shelters in the houses.
Murphy took me on a tour, left to right, of the gallery wall. First on the left is ‚ÄúGetting There Is Half the Fun,‚ÄĚ with a ‚Äė50s French helicopter as well as a ‚Äė70s American car. ‚ÄúI was trying to throw various things together to see what would happen,‚ÄĚ he explained. The sharp, angular backgrounds are inspired by cartoons ‚Äď ‚Äúnot so much the Jetsons, but mostly Wiley Coyote.‚ÄĚ The next is untitled but is a luxurious home with an airport from the future and an old ‚Äė70s Chevy Impala. ‚ÄúPrivacy Screen‚ÄĚ is truly ironic, since the screen cannot possibly offer any privacy. ‚ÄúI went for a very clean, modern look in that one - with no airplanes or vehicles,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI just liked the solitude of it.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe Sky Club‚ÄĚ is a private club where you can lounge while waiting for your car or flying saucer in the desert. ‚ÄúUn, Dos, Cha-Cha-Cha‚ÄĚ is homage to the ‚Äė60s with both Spanish and tiki d√©cor plus contemporary art. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a party house,‚ÄĚ he explained.
My favorite is ‚ÄúProgress Will Bloom through Atomic Power,‚ÄĚ which could be either a past or futuristic ad for nuclear power: yes, we could be blown to smithereens at any minute, but just look at the beauty! He said, ‚ÄúAgain it‚Äôs my dark humor showing something beautiful and fantastic and then something that‚Äôs willing to actually destroy it.‚ÄĚ
Murphy concluded, ‚ÄúI hope people come in with an open mind and let themselves be captivated.‚ÄĚ I highly suggest art lovers do just that ‚Äď at Given, 575 Castro Street ‚Äď all month long.