Paint, print, power: Fall Arts museums & galleries, part 2

  • by Sura Wood
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022
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'Uncovering Alice Rahon' at Gallery Wendi Norris
'Uncovering Alice Rahon' at Gallery Wendi Norris

One article simply was not enough to contain the eclectic cultural riches offered this season in museums and art galleries. So, here goes with a second chapter and a palette of shows, from an evocation of life behind bars to the hottest gay chronicler of 1970s New York, and a magical painter/poetess who hung with the Surrealists and Frida Kahlo.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Auntie Belle Emme 1979, in 'Peter Hujar curated by Elton John' at Fraenkel Gallery  

Peter Hujar curated by Elton John @ Fraenkel Gallery
Hujar's good friend, Fran Lebowitz, who posed for an early 1974 portrait in her bed, recalled that he hung up on "every important photography dealer in the Western world." Not a shock then he had only eight solo exhibitions in his lifetime. Though now considered one the greatest American photographers of the late twentieth century, Hujar was living in poverty when he died in 1987 from complications of AIDS at 53.

A quintessential New Yorker of a certain era and milieu, he was a well-connected denizen and chronicler of the Lower East Side cultural scene of the 1970s and early '80s. He photographed underground literati; the occasional Cockette, and predominantly male, usually nude, friends and lovers such as David Wojnarowicz, a younger artist, former hustler and Hujar's partner for a spell. The 50 photographs chosen by Sir Elton, who acquired his first Hujar image in 2011, include portraits of Stevie Wonder, Peggy Lee, Edgar Winter, Ethyl Eichelberger and other drag performers, stars from Warhol's stable as well as animals and stark landscapes.
Sept. 8-Oct.22. Free. 49 Geary St.

Xaviera Simmons, "Skin Hunger," 2021, photographs, videos, animations, paintings; on view in "Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration" at BAMPFA photo: Craig Smith  

Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration @ BAMPFA
The team behind Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive's group show took a novel approach, collaborating with prison activists to generate works about mass incarceration. Archival pictures of imprisonment are shown alongside specially created installations by a dozen emerging and veteran artists from the U.S. and Latin America. A companion film series runs Sept.1-Nov 16, along with screenings of Pier Pasolini's films (see Fall Arts films). Through Dec. 18. Free/members, UCB students, 18 & under/$14. 2120 Oxford St., Berkeley.

Luke Butler's 'Number Nine' at Jessica Silverman Gallery  

Luke Butler: Overture @ Jessica Silverman Gallery
Reflecting his love of television, 20th-century movies and the world of illusion, Butler's chromatic acrylic paintings, painstakingly detailed in silvery tones, incorporate reality-based, staged imagery of San Francisco's architecture and moody urban landscapes, its rain soaked streets and roiling coastlines. He tips his hat to noir and movies shot in the city, specifically Hitchcock's "Vertigo," rendered in color, and "Bullitt," sometimes making cameo appearances a la Hitch in the imaginary scenarios he concocts. Free. Sept. 16-Oct. 29. 621 Grant Ave.

'Into View: Bernice Bing' at the Asian Art Museum  

Into View: Bernice Bing & Lost Kingdoms of Ancient China @ Asian Art Museum
Born in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1936 and orphaned at the age of five, the abstract painter Bernice "Bingo" Bing was raised in a succession of orphanages and foster homes. She turned to art in her twenties, studying with Richard Diebenkorn and Saburo Hasegawa. But her outsider status as a Chinese American woman and a lesbian stymied her career.

Endeavoring to correct that, the museum acquired the show's 24 heretofore unseen artworks. They range from patterned canvases with a warm color palette reminiscent of Pierre Bonnard to vivid paintings influenced by the Bay Area Figurative movement and others that fuse Zen calligraphy and Western modernism.

'Lost Kingdoms of Ancient China' at the Asian Art Museum  

In "Lost Kingdoms of Ancient China," the Asian goes the full-on archaeological splendor route with recently excavated treasures from aristocratic tombs —ritual vessels, ornamental jade masks, musical instruments, ceremonial objects and yes, even a bronze water cooler— of the Zhou Dynasty's Zeng and Chu kingdoms. The Bronze Age civilizations, which flourished 3,000 years ago along the Yangzi River, were conquered in 221 BCE.

"Into View: Bernice Bing," Oct. 7—May 1. "Lost Kingdoms of Ancient China," Oct. 7—Feb. 7. Free/Members-$20. 200 Larkin St.

Uncovering Alice Rahon @ Gallery Wendi Norris
Pals with Paul Klee, Joan Miro and Man Ray, for whom she modeled, and a contemporary of Frida Kahlo and the formidable Leonora Carrington, the French/Mexican poet and visual artist Alice Rahon was well received in the 1940s but overlooked as time wore on. The gallery's solo show marks her first in San Francisco since 1953.

Among the rarely seen early works on display: luminous oils and subtle sand paintings, sculpture, assemblages, examples of pictographs recalling cave paintings and magical landscapes, conjured with a combo of volcanic ash, crayons, snails, stones, feathers and graffito technique, the scratching of a canvas surface to expose subterranean colors. October 1-November 5. Free. 436 Jackson St.

'The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion' at Museum of the African Diaspora  

The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion @ Museum of the African Diaspora
More than 100 arresting photographs and videos from an array of international fashion photographers, who grab the eye with provocative images of fantasy and elusive glamour, will fill the museum.

These creative tastemakers, whose spreads have appeared in Vogue, Allure and glossy ad campaigns for big name designers —Dior, Jimmy Choo and Stella McCartney, take your pick— work at the intersection of race, gender, art, and the behemoth industry that is fashion, confronting conventional notions of beauty and concepts of Blackness. Quil Lemons's autobiographical "Glitterboy" series, which tweaks traditional masculinity; Beyonce's groundbreaking 2018 Vogue cover, and a portrait of rapper Lizzo from Playboy magazine are on tap. Oct. 5—March 5. Free/Members-$12. 685 Mission St.

Joan Brown Retrospective at SFMOMA  

Joan Brown Retrospective @ SFMOMA
Brown, a much admired San Francisco artist, who died in a freak accident in 1990, never wanted to be marginalized as a female painter. "It's such bullshit," she once said. "You couldn't tell my paintings from any of the guys of my generation, except that in some cases mine were better." She rose to prominence just prior to the advent of 1960s feminism.

Bucking pressure to adhere to and espouse the ideological line, she staunchly remained apolitical and opted for the domestic sphere. That independent stance cost her. A trailblazer, not a true believer, she was excluded from the ranks of feminist art shows. Now, her body of work finally gets its due.
Nov. 19—Mar. 12. Free-$37. 151 Third St.

'Strikethrough: Typographic Messages of Protest' at Letterform Archive  

Strikethrough @ Letterform Archive
(Editor's note) "Strikethrough: Typographic Messages of Protest" continues its second exhibit of protest graphics. Curated by Silas Munro and Stephen Coles, the exhibition will feature more than 100 objects, including broadsides, buttons, signs, t-shirts, posters, and ephemera spanning the 1800s to today, including ephemera from ACT UP, Guerilla Girls and the Black Panthers. Upcoming events include guest lectures and workshops. 2339 Third St.

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