Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Fall preview: Bay Area art museums

Fine Arts

"Rodeo Drive #3" (1984, printed 2014), dye destruction print by Anthony Hernandez. Photo: Courtesy the artist
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Whether you're looking to journey back to 17th-century France or even further into the past with a South Asian tale older than the Bible, or are a thwarted astronaut yearning to defy gravity and rocket to the new frontier, local museums can take you there this fall. And away we go!

SFMOMA's fully packed fall schedule makes one keenly aware of the draught during their three-year absence from the scene and how great it is to have them back, with even more exhibition space than before. The benefits of that expansion are exemplified by the new Pritzker Center for Photography, which accommodates at least two shows this season. Anthony Hernandez offers a wide-ranging survey of the career of the adept American photographer, an L.A. native born to Mexican immigrants parents, who captured the desolate, sometimes tacky beauty of his hometown as he moved seamlessly from black & white to color, 35mm to large-format cameras, and the human figure to landscapes. (Sept. 24-Jan. 1) Japanese Photography: From Postwar to Now highlights the museum's own extensive collection, the emergence of women photographers, and the donation of over 400 works from Japan, a major contributor to amateur and fine-art photography after the war whose artists addressed contemporary culture and the country's complicated relationship to the U.S. (Oct. 15-Mar. 12) Bruce Conner: It's All True, a comprehensive survey dating from when Conner burst on the scene in the late 1950s until his death in 2008, assembles 250 experimental films and videos, assemblages, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, photograms and performances by this remarkably versatile Bay Area figure, who pioneered the use of found footage in filmmaking and found objects in collages, practices that are now in vogue in the art world, while also being a charter member of the underground film movement. (Oct. 29-Jan. 22) William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time incorporates the South African artist's familiar visual motifs and themes as well as film, performance and sculptural elements and moving images in a new multimedia installation exploring the history of time. (Dec. 10-April 16)

YBCA Space Program: Europa New York "mad genius" sculptor Tom Sachs embarks on his third hand-made futuristic DIY mission to the far reaches of the solar system. Its goal: the colonization of Europa, the icy sixth moon of Jupiter, which is thought to harbor evidence of life. It should be noted that Sachs, a practitioner of bricolage, is on track to beat the competition, including NASA, which won't launch its own mission there until 2020. One of the artist's largest and most complex installations, it takes over nearly the entire YBCA campus with a Mission Flight Control hub, a Landing Excursion Module and a Tea House, among other things. Who says you can't go to outer space on toothpicks and a smile? (Sept. 16-Jan. 15)

Soundsuit (2011) by Nick Cave: mixed media including beaded baskets, pipe cleaners, bugle beads, upholstery, metal, and mannequin. Photo: James Prinz Photography, courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Anderson Collection Nick Cave One would be hard-pressed to go unnoticed in Cave's outrageous Soundsuits, the mixed-media, delightfully outrageous, wearable full-body sculptures named for the racket they produce when worn. The gay Chicago-based artist, whose professional bent is fashion, scavenges through thrift shops, remnant barrels and the attics of relatives for materials to construct ornate costumes that are great equalizers, concealing all traces of race, gender and age, and giving wearers license to make a spectacle of themselves. (Sept. 14-Aug. 14, 2017)

GLBT History Museum Stroke, a show of provocative erotic-magazine illustrations that's up through Oct. 16, will be a hard act to follow, but at least for a time, it shares space with Through Knowledge to Justice: The Sexual World of Dr. Magnus Hirschfield (1868-1935), a new historical exhibition that examines the life and legacy of a noted sexologist, thinker, and courageous advocate of homosexual and transgender people. Hirschfield's organizations, the first of their kind, were banned by the Nazis; he died in exile in 1936, three years after the regime seized power. (Through Nov. 23)

de Young Museum Frank Stella; A Retrospective Having merely two of Stella's large-scale cartoonish kerpow sculptural paintings in the same room can be overpowering, so it's something to ponder a full-on retrospective of 50 artworks by the post-WWII abstract artist who stretched the boundaries of his canvases with radical shapes and materials jutting from their surfaces. Encompassing 60 years of output, it includes his shaped 3-D canvases and Moby Dick -inspired painted reliefs and sculptures. (Nov. 5-Feb. 26) Danny Lyon: Message to the Future, an expansion of a 2012 de Young show devoted to the artist, is a retrospective of the work of a leading 1960s street photographer concerned with socio-political issues and society's marginalized. (Nov. 5-April 30)

Legion of Honor The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of 17th Century France is the first major U.S. exhibition to focus on the Le Nain brothers: Antoine, Louis and Mathieu. All were unmarried, childless, and lived and worked together, giving new meaning to the idea of collaboration. The show includes altarpieces – one traveling from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris – devotional paintings, portraits and the compassionate images of peasants for which they're most famous. (Oct. 8-Jan. 29)

"Hanuman leaps across the ocean," folio from the small Guler Ramayana series (approx. 1720). India; Pahari region, Himachal Radesh. Pigments and gold on paper. Museum Rietberg Zurich. Photo: Rainer Wolfsberger

Asian Art Museum The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe showcases depictions of a sacred narrative known as the Ramayana. It chronicles the adventures of Rama, a prince; his beloved, Sita; Hanuman, their stalwart monkey companion; and last but not least, the villain of the piece: Ravana, a 10-headed lord of demons who spirits Sita away and wreaks havoc, as demons are wont to do. The 135 sculptures, paintings, puppets and masks come from far-flung locales such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, the U.S. and Europe. (Oct. 21-Jan. 15)

Contemporary Jewish Museum If you haven't been to the Stanley Kubrick exhibition yet, make a beeline there before it closes Oct. 30. It's the best "artist-at-work" show you're likely to see anywhere. Next up is From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art, which features works by 24 artists who probe memories – personal, collective, historic and imagined – that are not their own. (Nov. 25-April 2)

OMCA All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Panther Party's founding in Oakland in 1966, views the legacy of the controversial group, the racial injustice and social activist milieu that led to their rise, and how they're viewed today, with recollections from former Panthers, artists and members of the community. Right on! (Oct. 8-Feb. 12)


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