Picture this: museum and gallery highlights for fall

  • by Robert Brokl
  • Tuesday August 29, 2023
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Yayoi Kusama, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Yayoi Kusama, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Art exhibits to look forward to this Fall run the gamut from spectacles to the more scholarly.

Art viewers inclined toward Barbieheimer blockbusters will flock to the Yayoi Kasuma exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, opening Oct. 14, featuring her popular Infinity Mirrored Rooms. Kasuma emerged as a transgressive Bad Girl artist, getting attention for soft stuffed phallus sculpture and nude happenings at unlikely locations like the sculpture garden at New York's Museum of Modern Art, like her impromptu 1969 event entitled "Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead."

She checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Japan, where she lived for years. Now, at 94, her mirrored rooms and obsession with colorful polka dots and forever-young persona has made her a Blue Chip art world darling, with worldwide museum shows. Kasuma's Infinity Rooms join the roster of immersive productions of work by Dali, Matisse, Dali, even Hockney most recently, that have proven major draws. Expect crowds and ticketing competition.

Wolfgang Tilmans exhibit, "To Look Without Fear" at SFMOMA  

Also at SFMOMA, the Wolfgang Tilmans exhibit, "To Look Without Fear" is a comprehensive exhibition of the influential artist's work to date, charting the development of his practice from the 1980s through the present, across multiple genres of photography. From early experiments with a photocopier to ecstatic nightlife images, intimate sometimes homoerotic portraits, incisive documentation of social movements. Nov. 11- March 3, 2024.
151 3rd St. https://www.sfmoma.org/

Other local venues feature work just as exciting, without the circus, for those with a preference for more "traditional" artwork.

"Portrait of Henry VII of England," by Hans Holbein the Younger, "The Tudors," Legion of Honor  

There's still time to catch the "The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England" exhibit at the Legion of Honor, through Sept. 24, at its only West Coast venue. The monarchs used art to "project royal gravitas," soft power. The trip would be worth it just for the Hans Holbein portraits, including his much-reproduced, stunning Henry VIII painting, from Rome's Palazzo Barberini. Another rare painting of a monarch depicts Queen Elizabeth I, just as resplendent but less rotund, by Nicholas Hiliard.

Visit for the paintings, but stay for the tapestries and textiles, sculpture and jewelry, and other treasures. Potentates need not be philistines, too.
100 34th Ave. https://www.famsf.org/visit/legion-of-honor

'What Has Been and What Could Be' at Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (photo Whit Forrester)  

The ongoing exhibit "What Has Been and What Could Be" at Berkeley's University Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive continues into 2024. Ignore the odd title, and welcome the opportunity to see more of the museum' permanent collection. The BAM/PFA's distinctive Brutalist museum on campus was vacated for this repurposed but unfortunately smaller structure downtown, with no permanent collection display.

This sprawling show attempts to correct that deficit, with fine examples of early curatorial efforts to promote African-American artists, and devotes a room to East Bay artists. (Jay DeFeo's work always a delight, but in this category?)

Some gems, tucked away in the "Still Life" section, include an especially elegant Paul Wonner piece, and a rather somber, green Richard Diebenkorn painting, a riposte to Matisse's exuberant monochromatic "Red Studio."

The late gay collector extraordinaire, Eli Leon, who stuffed his Oakland cottage with quilts by female, mostly East Bay, African-Americans (most of which were donated to the BAM/PFA by his estate), gets his due, with a wall label and rotating examples from his collection. On view now is a vibrant Rosie Lee Tompkins quilt.

Other extraordinary pieces include the iconic, small but potent, portrait of an armed Aunt Jemima by Betye Saar, and an arresting photograph of the abolitionist and former slave Sojourner Truth, a cartes-de-virite cardboard postcard marketed by Truth herself to fund her efforts.
2155 Center St., Berkeley. www.bampfa.org

Malaquias Montoya poster, Oakland Museum of California Art  

The Oakland Museum of California presents "Por El Pueblo: The Legacy and Influence of Malaquias Montoya," opening Oct. 6, in the Great Hall. Montoya's posters and prints reflect his long legacy as an activist artist, founder of the Mexican-American Liberation Front, and professor at UC-Davis, in the Department of Art and Chicana/o Studies.

Montoya's enormous impact upon succeeding generations of artists is documented with examples of their work. Photographs and other more personal material will enlighten viewers about this titular Chicano artist, the son of a migrant farmworker family. A timely exhibit, on the heels of the OMCA's popular Angela Davis exhibit, in the midst of the ongoing demagoguery over immigration.
1000 Oak St. https://museumca.org/

Hokusai woodblock prints, San Francisco State University, "See You Space Cowboy...From Hokusai to Hiphop"  

"See You Space Cowboy ... From Hokusai to Hiphop," at the Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco State University, should be an important contribution to the documentation of the outsized role in visual culture Japanese art, from ukiyo-e woodblock prints to anime and manga, has played over the centuries, "recurring motifs that crossed lines of art, fashion, memes, international animation, and popular culture in general."

Sublime Hokusai woodblock prints on loan from the Sutro Library headline the show, reflecting his major contribution to Western artists who seized upon his innovations. The contemporary artist Sylvia Solochek Walters, SF State professor emerita, takes woodblock printing, using exacting reduction printing techniques, in a more personal direction. Craig Nagasawa references Godzilla, from the 1954 Japanese horror movie.

Anime-inspired skate decks reflect the democratic, something-for-everyone, worth the trek with no advance booking and timed entry, even. 1600 Holloway Ave.

"Staying Power: Women Artists Through the Decades" runs at SHOH Gallery through Sept. 23. Prominent, primarily East Bay artists including Jam Wurm, Livia Stein, Hilda Robinson, and Kim Anno will be represented by their current work, alongside work from the 1980s, usually an intriguing premise for a show. 700 Gilman, Berkeley.

Gallery Wendy Norris showcases Pakistani-American artist Ambreen Butt, with her solo exhibit, Nov. 9 through Dec. 23, entitled "Lay Bare My Arms." She "explores the complexities of contemporary global politics, female identity and living as a Muslim in the United States," combining her training in traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting in Lahore, Pakistan, with topical themes and more contemporary techniques and scale.
436 Jackson St. https://www.gallerywendinorris.com/

Castro Art Walk (photo: Jackson Karlenzig)  

Any visit to the Castro district should include stops at the small galleries that mostly showcase LGBTQ contemporary artists. Each of these galleries are part of the first Fridays Castro Art Walk. Read our coverage in last week's issue.
and visit https://www.castroartwalk.com/

2358 MRKT, 2358 Market St. https://www.2358mrkt.com/
The GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St. www.glbthistory.org
MAG Galleries, 18th St. https://www.mag-galleries.com/
Schlomer Haus Gallery, 2128 Market St. https://schlomerhaus.com/
Strut SF, 470 Castro St. https://www.sfaf.org/locations/strut
Queer Arts Featured, 575 Castro St. www.queerartsfeatured.com

On August 24 at 5pm, Queer Arts Featured will transform its gallery space into the interactive two-month project, "Wet Paint: A Work in Progress." Curator Devlin Shand describes it as "a living, collaborative group art piece."

"We hope to give everyone the opportunity to try something new, something bold, and something beautiful together!" he said. "Come as you are. All skills levels and creative expressions are welcome. There will also be Queer A.F. artists in the gallery to encourage, guide, and connect!"

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