SF supe Mandelman opens Pride Month with art exhibit

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday June 2, 2022
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Jun Yang, left, joined Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Joseph Abbati, Anthony O'Donnell, Serge Gay Jr., Simon Malvaez, and Lea Magdangal at Mandelman's Pride Month kick-off art show; in the background are paintings by Abbati and Magdangal. Photo: Eric Burkett<br>
Jun Yang, left, joined Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Joseph Abbati, Anthony O'Donnell, Serge Gay Jr., Simon Malvaez, and Lea Magdangal at Mandelman's Pride Month kick-off art show; in the background are paintings by Abbati and Magdangal. Photo: Eric Burkett

At least a few dozen people were crammed into gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's second floor City Hall offices in the late afternoon June 1 for rainbow cake and a display of art by six San Francisco LGBTQ artists in a small kick-off event for LGBTQ Pride Month.

Cheerfully, Mandelman welcomed the crowd to his office but acknowledged that this year's Pride celebration was different than in years past.

"And of course, there's more tragedy in the world but art actually gets better, we know," he told visitors. "The role, and the importance of artists, of art, actually grows as times become more tumultuous and as people suffer more, and that's a horrible thing, but it actually is true. And so I'm just so excited to have the artists in my office and to have all of you. So have a wonderful, wonderful Pride everyone!"

The collection of work displayed in the supervisor's office replaced an unintentionally extended display, a collection of tapestries titled "Larger Than Life" depicting several notable San Francisco drag queens such as Juanita MORE!, Heklina, Sister Roma, and others, by artist Joseph Abbati. Like many things just over two years ago, his work had been intended to be displayed for only a short while but the COVID pandemic prevented him from being able to take it down and Mandelman's staff continued their work under the watchful eyes of Honey Mahogany and Peaches Christ for more than two years.

Mahogany, a trans person and chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, announced Thursday that she's running for District 6 supervisor. She had been de facto chief of staff to former D6 supervisor Matt Haney before he resigned after being elected to the state Assembly. Matt Dorsey, a gay man whom Mayor London Breed appointed to Haney's seat, is also seeking election in November.

Curated by Abbati and South Korean-born artist Jun Yang, the paintings and photographs were placed around his office, interspersed with some of Mandelman's own collection. Yang, who was invited to organize the show, had initially invited Abbati to show with him but the two then decided to include other artists, as well, said Abbati.

The result is an eclectic but impressive display of work representing multiple styles and media. In addition to Abbati and Yang, the other artists are Serge Gay Jr., Lea Magdangal, Simon Malvaez, and photographer Anthony O'Donnell.

For Gay, displaying his work in a political setting such as a supervisor's office is only appropriate.

"My work is very political," the artist said and when it came to decide what to include in his selection, he chose political pieces.

Gay's selection of four works is hanging over a conference table in Mandelman's own office, each is seemingly done in black and white until you look again and see that he has used color sparingly. One is a self-portrait, depicting him with an exposed heart, as he looks through a grove of tropical plants, surrounded by African masks and holding up one of his hands which appears to be dipped in gold, or at least gold paint. Another depicts a black runner, dressed in track gear, chained to an iron ball, and pulling out ahead of his fellow racers who are only beginning to cross the start line. Behind them, a vast crowd of anonymous viewers watch the race from the stands which bear advertisements for soft drinks and Freedom Bank.

In another room, a stunning portrait of a beautiful, androgynous woman hangs alone on the wall in a work by Magdangal, the only woman among the six artists. The colors are bright, spring-like, and the model — lanky, relaxed, and dressed in a white tank top and what appears to be a Greek fisherman's cap — looks at the viewers almost as if she has barely noticed them at all. According to Mandelman, District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar took a particular liking to the piece.

This isn't the first time Mandelman has displayed art for public viewing in his office but COVID, of course, had put a damper on that. Gay state Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has been offering exhibitions of art in his San Francisco office for a few years now or, he did, until COVID put the kibosh on that, as well, Abbati and Mandelman said. Artist Abbati had been curating those shows. Mandelman said he'd be interested in having someone curate future shows in his office, too.

The current collection is on display in room 284 of City Hall, through the end of November.

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