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Arts + CultureArtSOMArts show kicks off Dia de los Muertos season

SOMArts show kicks off Dia de los Muertos season

Opening Fri/6 with a huge party, this artist-made offrenda extravaganza is an essential community event.

ART LOOKS San Francisco takes its Day of the Dead seriously — it’s a sacred moment —  but, in the spirit of the magical holiday that pierces the veil between worlds, we also approach it playfully and full of commemorative verve.

This year, the Memorial & Migration: Day of the Dead exhibit, opening October 18 at the Oakland Museum, includes a tribute to Ghost Ship victims. The fabulous and family-friendly Dia de los Muertos Community Concert at the SF Symphony, November 5 — featuring ensemble La Santa Cecilia and all-female mariachi band Mariachi Flor de Toloache —  brings together spectacular music with colorful decor.

And of course there’s the big Dia de los Muertos procession in the Mission, Wednesday, November 2, beginning at 7pm at Bryant and 22nd Street.

Papel picado installation by Victor-Mario Zaballa

But the annual tradition that kick is all off is the SOMArts extravaganza of artist-made offrenda, plus music, food, poetry, and more. (It’s not for nothing that it won a 2016 Best of the Bay Editor’s Pick.)  This year’s exhibit is entitled “Remembrance and Resistance,” “merging traditional Mexican altars with contemporary art installations, the exhibition presents a superabundant array of perspectives remembering, honoring, and celebrating the dead. Inspired by cherished relationships, current events, and personal and collective histories, more than 25 altars by over 50 participating Día de los Muertos artists build a dense environment of creativity that creates space for meaningful reflection and community engagement.”

This year includes a special tribute to activist and arts booster Ebonny McKinney, who passed away this year, among the colorful and thought-provoking alters and installation. The show, not in its 18th year, will again be curated by arts legend Rene Yáñez and his son Rio. 

It all opens this Fri/6 with a must-attend party, 6pm-9pm, $12-$15 at SOMArts Gallery. This is one of my favorite parties of the year, bursting with local artists and fun, not to mention some sharp social commentary. Pretty sure there will be killer tamales there, too. 

Press release below: 

SOMArts Cultural Center Presents
18th annual Day of the Dead Exhibition celebrates the life of Bay Area arts advocate Ebonny McKinney and all those who dare to dream
October 6–November 9, 2017
Exhibition and programming curated by René and Rio Yañez

Now in its 18th year, the annual Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center offers one of the most internationally diverse Día de los Muertos celebrations in the United States. Merging traditional Mexican altars with contemporary art installations, the exhibition presents an incredibly wide array of perspectives remembering, honoring, and celebrating the dead. Inspired by cherished relationships, current events, and personal and collective histories, more than 25 altars by over 60 participating Día de los Muertos artists build a dense environment of creativity that creates space for meaningful reflection and community engagement. 

Chosen by father and son curators René & Rio Yañez, this year’s theme, Remembrance and Resistance emphasizes the importance of mourning in the context of resistance struggles. In the Trump era, the intense focus on political resistance can overshadow the need for collective mourning. Since its inception, Day of the Dead at SOMArts has offered a space for community reflection and remembrance, refusing to forget those who have been lost to police brutality, gentrification and displacement, and environmental destruction. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to honor the dead and reflect on their legacies. What can the lives of our ancestors teach us about resistance and creativity in the current political climate? 

Remembrance and Resistance is dedicated to San Francisco activist Ebony McKinney, known by many for her tireless advocacy to advance equity in the arts through her work with the San Francisco Arts Commission and as co-founder of Arts for a Better Bay Area (ABBA) advocacy group. The exhibition is also dedicated to the generation of Americans known as Dreamers — To young people everywhere who are threatened by Trump administration policies, the exhibition will assert, “You are welcome here.” 

The exhibition unveiling, Friday, October 6, 6:00–9:00 pm, $12–15 sliding scale admission, features music by San Francisco-based Caribbean fusion band LA GENTE and multi-disciplinary performance from the all-female dance group La Mezcla.

Exhibition highlights include painter and printmaker Xavier Viramontes who will contribute silkscreen prints from his “American Hero” series that highlight the invaluable contributions of immigrants to American culture. 

Staff members from the San Francisco Arts Commission and SF Grants for the Arts will memorialize their beloved colleague Ebony McKinney with an altar, providing community members an opportunity to hear Ebony describe in her own words why the arts are so vital to building a society that works for all. 

Highlighting the appropriation of Day of the Dead and Latinx culture to examine the gentrification of the Mission District, artist Ani Rivero Rossi will create a tableau of Día de los Muertos Barbie dolls. Artists Francis Li and Mark Hellar’s interactive installation will encourage visitors to contribute their own photos to create a digital mosaic portrait of contemporary and historic resistance leaders. 

The Black Woman is God co-curators Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green will create an altar honoring the contributions of Black women as social change-makers, artists and activists throughout history. 

Additional programming includes a Mission Salon dedicated to the cultural diversity of the Mission District on Friday, October 20, 6:00–9:00 pm curated by David Kubrin and featuring San Francisco poet laureate Kim Shuck, and the ticketed closing night party Thursday, November 9, 6:00–9:00 pm.

Remembrance and Resistance: Día de los Muertos 2017 Exhibition
Friday, October 6–Thursday, November 9, 2017
Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Friday 12–7pm, Saturday 11am–5pm and Sunday 11am–3pm
Free admission during gallery hours
Information: somarts.org/remembrance

Opening Event
Friday, October 6, 6–9pm
$12–15 sliding scale admission
Tickets: remembranceopens.eventbrite.com
Exhibition unveiling features a Día de los Muertos inspired artist market and music by LA GENTE. 

Mission Salon
Friday, October 20, 6–9pm
$12–$15, no one turned away for lack of funds
Tickets: missionsalon.eventbrite.com
Experience the cultural vibrancy of the Mission District with an interactive salon curated by David Kubrin and featuring San Francisco poet laureate Kim Shuck. Performances by Trio Cambio, Los Nadies, Josue Rojas, and Musical Art Quintet. 

Closing Event
Thursday, November 9, 6–9pm
$7–10 sliding scale admission
Tickets: remembrancecloses.eventbrite.com
The final opportunity to view and interact with the altars features live music by Candelaria and interactive installations.

Rene Yáñez, founder and former Artistic Director of San Francisco’s Galería de la Raza in San Francisco’s Mission District, was one of the first curators to introduce the contemporary concept of Mexico’s Day of the Dead to the United States with a 1972 exhibition at the Galería. Each subsequent year he curated a Day of the Dead exhibition either at the Galería or at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Then, in 1994 and 1998, he curated Rooms for the Dead and Labyrinth for the Dead at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. His first year curating a Day of the Dead exhibit at SOMArts Cultural Center was 1993. 

Active as both a visual and performing arts curator and artist, as well as an outspoken activist, Yáñez co-founded the successful Chicano performance trio Culture Clash. In 1998, he received the “Special Trustees Award in Cultural Leadership” from The San Francisco Foundation for his long-standing contribution to the cultural life of the Bay Area. In 2017, Yañez was the recipient of the Douglas G. MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award from the San Francisco Art Institute for his leadership in the Bay Area arts community.

Yáñez has curated numerous exhibitions including Chicano Visions (2001–2007), an exhibition hosted by museums such as the de Young Museum (in San Francisco), El Paso Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Notable recent projects include programming produced for the de Young Museum’s Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. This programming featured Yáñez’ interpretations of the works of Pablo Picasso in anaglyph 3D, as well as a fashion runway show Viva Frida: From the Blue House to the Catwalk.

In 2009, 2011, and 2012, Yáñez created a living altar for the San Francisco Symphony’s Day of the Dead concert featuring a large cast, crew, and suite of musicians, curated Four Juan Five, an exhibition about the San Francisco Mission District at Alley Cat Books, and performed in Guillermo Gomez-Peña’s Corpo Illicito at the New Performance Gallery in San Francisco.

In 2014 Yáñez printed a popular zine, Zine a la Mode over a Pot of Coffee, with a circulation of over 800 copies. His recent work includes a collaboration with artist Patrick Piazza for an installation on the De-Appropriation wall on Valencia street, an exhibit with the S.F. Print Collective about displacement, and Las Chicas de Esta Noche, a drag queen review show at the de Young Museum in collaboration with comedian Marga Gomez. With his collective The Great Tortilla Conspiracy he has participated in art events benefitting the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness and the St. Peters Dining Hall.

Rio Yañez, born and raised in San Francisco, is a curator, photographer, activist and graphic artist. As an artist he has exhibited his work from San Francisco to Tokyo and created artwork installations for Jean Paul Gaultier’s touring exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. His Bay Area solo exhibitions include Pocho Adventure Club at Galería de la Raza in San Francisco, Cholas to Picasso: The 3D Artworks of Rio Yañez at Asterisk Gallery, Bubblegum Crisis at Ginger Rubio Salon and Pochos & Pixels at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Multicultural Center.

Yañez is a curator of more than 10 exhibitions. As with his curatorial work, a part of Yañez’ visual art practice is dedicated to exploring how Chicano and Asian Youth have used social media to exchange aesthetics and language. In addition to creating graphic art, Yañez is a founding member of The Great Tortilla Conspiracy, the world’s first and only tortilla art collective. As a tortilla artist he silkscreens art and political graphics onto tortillas using edible inks and serves them to eat to the public as interventionist performance art. Yañez’ recent projects include self-publishing board games designed around Chicano pop culture icons and a collaborative series of portraits with activist and performer April Flores.

SOMArts Cultural Center, founded in 1979, leverages the power of art as a tool for social change through multi-disciplinary events and exhibitions. Equipping artists with the space, mentorship and support they need to shift perspectives and innovate solutions, SOMArts fosters access to arts and culture for collective liberation and self-determination.

SOMArts plays a vital role in the arts ecosystem by helping activate the arts citywide. We do this by providing space and production support for non-profit events, as well as fairs and festivals throughout the Bay Area, and offering a robust program of art exhibitions, classes, events and performances that are affordable and accessible to all. SOMArts’ exhibition programs receive critical support from the San Francisco Arts Commission and The San Francisco Foundation, and are sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts.

SOMArts is located at 934 Brannan Street—between 8th and 9th—within 2 blocks of 101, I-80, Muni lines and bike paths. For public information call 415-863-1414 or visit somarts.org. Stay connected by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Marke B.
Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

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