March 23, 2015 - Doug Hall
March 23, 2015

Doug Hall

View of Doug Hall, The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described (detail), Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1987. Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of the Modern Art Council and the San Francisco Art Dealers Association. © Doug Hall. Photo: Charles Mayer.

Doug Hall
The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described

March 28–June 6, 2015

Opening: Saturday, March 28, 6–8pm

Walter and McBean Galleries
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
Hours: Tuesday 11am–7pm,
Wednesday–Sunday 11am–6pm

Curated by: 
Hesse McGraw, San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), vice president for exhibitions and public programs
Rudolf Frieling, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), curator of media arts

“The storm is in the mind. The lightning is in the room. It is the terrible uncertainty: the imperceptible, the sublime, the invisible made physical…”
–Doug Hall, 1987

Doug Hall’s seminal large-scale installation The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described (1987) includes three channels of video, a functioning Tesla coil, two large steel chairs, and a commanding steel-mesh barricade. The work brings together powerful moving images of nature in turmoil, physically imposing sculptural elements, and startling bolts of electricity that periodically extend from the coil. These explosive and unpredictable moments offer a potent signal that we are subject to the forces of nature and the influence of media.

Taking its title from a phrase in an 18th-century treatise by Edmund Burke on romanticism and the sublime, Hall’s installation sets idealized notions of nature against its often-terrifying reality. The video cuts between documentary and found footage of industrial plants, interiors of utility and research facilities, and intense weather conditions—tornados, floods, fires, electrical storms. The work, originally commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, for Hall’s midcareer survey The Spectacle of the Image (1987), addresses the physical manifestation of power and stages a critique of mediated images. 

This exhibition marks the first time The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described has been on view in San Francisco since 1989, when it was presented by SFMOMA in the museum’s original location at the War Memorial Veterans Building. This co-presentation is part of the SFMOMA On the Go., a program that offers an array of art experiences around the Bay Area and beyond, while the museum is closed for major expansion construction.  

About the artist
Doug Hall lives and works in San Francisco, where he was born in 1944. He founded the media art collective T. R. Uthco (1970–78) with Jody Procter (1943–98) and Diane Andrews Hall. His acclaimed work spans performance, video, photography, and sculpture, and has been exhibited nationally and internationally. A Professor Emeritus at SFAI, Hall will be the subject of a major retrospective in 2017, which will originate at SFAI and is co-curated by Susan Miller and Hesse McGraw.

The Uncertainty Salon 
Saturday, March 28, 8–10pm
San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall
800 Chestnut Street

Participants include Amy Balkin, artist; Bill Berkson, poet and critic; Amy M. Ho, artist; Susan Miller, curator; and Julia Scher, artist.

Film screening
Thursday, April 16, 7pm
San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall
800 Chestnut Street
Co-presented with the San Francisco Film Society
Introduced by Doug Hall

Doug Hall, Storm and Stress (1986), 47:52 minutes. Collection SFMOMA.
Michael Klier, Der Riese (The Giant, 1982–83), 82 minutes. Courtesy the artist.

Doug Hall: The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described is jointly organized by SFAI and SFMOMA. Generous support is provided by Linda and Jon Gruber. Generous support is provided by Linda and Jon Gruber and Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle. Additional support is provided by Pamela and Richard Kramlich.

SFAI’s exhibitions and public programs are made possible by the generosity of donors and sponsors. Major support is provided by Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund. Exhibition support is provided by Fort Point Beer Company and Gregory Goode Photography. 

SFAI exhibitions and public programs
San Francisco Art Institute’s exhibitions and public programs provide direct access to artists and ideas that advance our culture. The Walter and McBean Galleries, established in 1969, present exhibitions at the forefront of contemporary art practice. The gallery serves as a laboratory for innovative and adventurous projects and commissions new work from emerging and established artists. SFAI’s public programs develop meaningful interactions between artists, students, and audiences through lectures, performances, education opportunities, and artist-driven experiences. Together, the exhibitions and public programs of SFAI promote an environment that catalyzes the creative processes of its student-artists and thinkers, and creates intimate connections between the SFAI community and the public.

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San Francisco Art Institute and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art present Doug Hall
Doug Hall
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