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

Fall preview: Bay Area art museums

Fine Arts


Gustav Klimt, "The Virgin" (1913), oil on canvas. National Gallery Prague. Photo: Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
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Variety, not quantity, is the watchword for the fall season at Bay Area art museums, and thankfully, there's not a blockbuster in sight. Here are some pathways to cultural enrichment in the coming months.

Martin Wong, “The Annunciation According to Mikey Piñero Cupcake and Paco” (1984) Photo: Courtesy of Syracuse University Art Collection

BAMPFA "Martin Wong: Human Instamatic" charts the eclectic output of this Chinese-American artist's prolific 30-year career, cut short by his death in 1999 from AIDS-related illnesses. Though inextricably linked with New York's Lower East Side art scene of the 1980s, Wong grew up here in Chinatown and Eureka, where he started as a street artist, chronicling the aesthetics of the multi-ethnic neighborhoods he moved through. The show includes psychedelic set designs for the Cockettes; calligraphic poems; and an impressive body of work produced after he relocated to New York in 1978, when he turned to painting and hung with the city's queer and working-class, immigrant communities. (Sept. 20-Dec. 10) "Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument" gathers over 80 objects from the esteemed photographer's archive – vintage silver prints, contact sheets and unpublished images – for an in-depth exploration of his debut Life magazine photo-essay "Harlem Gang Leader" (1948). In addition to an on-the-ground depiction of Harlem, the materials lend insight into the gang's complex 17-year-old head honcho; inner-city youth, poverty and race; the relationship between text and image; and an even trickier one between an African American photojournalist and white editors who selected what should be published. (Sept. 27-Dec. 17) bampfa.org.

Legion of Honor The highly anticipated "Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter" is the first survey of Gustav Klimt's masterpieces to journey to the West Coast. Klimt, an Austrian symbolist painter and charter member of the Vienna Secession movement, is most famous for the splendid " Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" (1907) and "The Kiss" (1907-08), painted with gold leaf during a so-called Golden Phase inspired by mosaics and Byzantine motifs. Though his works rarely travel, 33 of his sketches and paintings will soon be in dialogue with Rodin sculptures from the Fine Arts Museums' permanent collection, in an exhibition that coincides with the 100th anniversary of both artists' deaths. (Oct. 14-Jan. 28) FAMSF's brilliant antiquities curator Renee Dreyfus, whose illuminating exhibitions are far too rare, brings a wealth of scholarship and insight to her latest outing, "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World." It examines an ancient practice, particularly prevalent in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Aegean, Greece and Rome, which involved the painting of sculptures in dazzling colors that, when unearthed by archaeologists centuries later, had faded after millennia of exposure to the elements. Painted reproductions of classical statuary and objects suggest how they were intended to appear. (Oct. 28-Jan. 7) legionofhonor.famsf.org.

de Young Museum "Maori Portraits: Gottfried Lindauer's New Zealand" features portraits of major personages, as well as images of warriors, politicos and elders from the nation on the other side of the world during its tumultuous birth in the mid-19th century. (Sept. 9-May 6) "Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire" shows off the latest discoveries from the Sun, Moon and Feathered Serpent pyramids in Mexico. (Sept. 30-Feb. 11) deyoung.famsf.org.

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, installation view of “(This is Not a) Love Song” at Verge Center for the Arts (2016), from “Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid” at CJM, SF. Photo by John Wilson White

Contemporary Jewish Museum In "Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid," 16 mostly local artists put a contemporary spin on traditional Jewish stories and characters. Relying on a combination of Old World cautionary tales, supernatural elements and the 2009 anthology "Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales," a tome that encompasses 1,500 years of oral and written storytelling, the artists interpreted source material of their own choosing, from the Golem to legends of giants and princesses. (Sept. 28-Jan. 28) thecjm.org

Asian Art Museum "Couture Korea" offers a whirlwind tour of Korean fashion. From recreations of the fancy duds, kings robes and 18th-century courtesan finery worn in the courts of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) to the Korean-influenced, haute Parisian chic of Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld and daring clothing by "master of deconstruction" Jin Teok, the show focuses on the beauty, craftsmanship and historical context of garments that are also works of art. (Nov. 3-Feb. 4) asianart.org.

SFMOMA The preeminent 20th-century photographer Walker Evans created his most iconic body of work during the Great Depression, but "Walker Evans," a definitive new retrospective at SFMOMA, provides a broader perspective of the artist's remarkable 50-year career, with an emphasis on his interest in American vernacular culture and his ability to transcend mere documentation and elevate everyday life into the realm of art. The exhibition includes over 300 vintage prints, Polaroids, magazine layouts, the artist's collection of postcards, and several of his architectural paintings. (Sept 30- Feb. 4) Incorporating over 150 career-spanning artworks, "Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules" pays homage to the experimental, out-of-the-box spirit of the painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and graphic artist who liked to say he mined "the gap between art and life." Rauschenberg, whose early ventures presaged the Pop Art movement, utilized found objects and images and other materials in innovative ways while working across disciplines with a mix of rigor, abandon and wry wit. (Nov.18-March 25) sfmoma.org.

Cantor Arts Center Marking the centenary of the august sculptor's death, "Rodin: The Shock of the Modern Body" draws from the extensive holdings of the museum, which boasts the largest collection of the forward-thinking artist's fabulous bronzes outside of Paris. The three-gallery exhibition, which reflects Rodin's obsession with human form, showcases 100 lifelike figurative works, noteworthy for their intense humanity and muscular energy. (Opens Sept. 15.) "Curiouser" assembles video, photography, sculpture and sound installations from several slyly playful bodies of work by Brooklyn/Berlin-based artist Nina Katchadourian, who gives the mundane a big fat kiss of the surreal. (Sept. 15-Jan. 7) museum.stanford.edu.

 






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