Then head to the Legion of Honor (on the site of a former graveyard, muahaha) and see French artist Alexandre Singh’s show, A Gothic Tale (through April 12), which includes a 20-minute film, The Appointment, an absurd and dreamlike thriller. The main character wakes up to find “12 o’clock at the restaurant La Folie” written in his appointment book – but he doesn’t remember making the date or who he is meeting.
When no one shows up at the restaurant, he gets obsessed with solving the mystery. Nothing says haunting and creepy like organ music, and the film’s score, written by a Dutch composer, is performed at intervals on the museum historic Spreckels organ.
San Francisco’s ties to film noir, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Orson Welles’ TheLady From Shanghai inspired Singh, as well as the Legion being on top of a former cemetery. The mirrored walls in A Gothic Tale are a nod to a famous scene from Welles’ 1947 movie with a shootout in a hall of mirrors, and doppelgängers, or doubles, are a device used in Gothic literature.
These divided selves first popped up in German literature of the 1800s, and also have appeared in the work of Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, famously inThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and in TV shows like The Vampire Diaries. Many video games have some version of fighting an evil version of yourself. The Legion itself is a doppelgänger of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris.
Before entering the room where The Appointment is showing, you go through the Legion’s medieval art gallery, where doppelgängers, such as prints of Roman tombs by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and biblical scenes by Albrecht Dürer, hang on walls covered in mirrors.
Singh looked through the museum’s collection with contemporary arts curator Claudia Schmuckli, to find works for A Gothic Tale. He and art historian Natalie Musteata, who produced The Appointment, worked to create a surreal experience with prints that look like duplicates – but are mirrored, bastardized, or pirated, Singh said on the opening night of the show.
“We are presented in this Hall of Mirrors with reflections of ourselves and reflections of characters where there are little eerie differences,” Singh told the crowd. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate the eerie, the uncanny, the strange, the horror in a museum context, which may sound odd, but then when you walk through these galleries and see all the decapitated bodies and Christ being tortured on the cross, it’s not so strange.”
People who’ve watched a couple seasons of Orange Is the New Black sometimes think they have a savvy understanding of what it’s really like in prison. It’s a panopticon that’s also like a de facto segregated middle school cafeteria, where long stretches of boredom are punctuated by acts of caprice and cruelty—and for every tireless do-gooder who believes the inmates are capable of re-entering society on their own two feet, there’s at least one sociopath.
The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison, a collaborative exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (through November 17), complicates this picture somewhat through the use of found photography. Poor, who’s taught photography at the facility since 2011, has had to make up for the fact that her incarcerated students are not allowed to possess cameras, and the resulting collection comes from a cache of unarchived (and, in many cases, bizarre) photographs she was given access to by the prison authorities, presumably after earning the administration’s trust. Constrained by the inability to instruct people about apertures and f-stops, she taught them to perform close, often psychologically canny, readings of images.
Unfortunately, the exhibit, which premiered at the Milwaukee Art Museum, isn’t always mounted in the most easily comprehensible way; viewers see the original photograph on one wall and then a heavily marked-up version, full of inmates’ marginalia, somewhere else. But the composite effect is strong, as a picture of life inside San Quentin accumulates from all perspectives.
Established in 1852, it’s the oldest prison in California, and the site of the state’s death row—inactive since 2006, and probably kaput, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a moratorium on capital punishment earlier this year. The “minimum-maximum” facility houses some 4,000 people. But most of the photos are from the mid-20th century, a time of fights, unlikely camaraderie, and sad Christmas trees decorated with paper (because anything sharp or breakable was almost certainly contraband). We learn that as recently as the 1950s, San Quentin had its own school, for the workers’ children. It’s impossible not to read the naughty expressions in a 1958 class picture and wonder if they would later return to San Quentin in a different capacity.
Of the shots taken within the prison walls, the photographs are often tender but seldom happy. If anything, happiness in prison is highly suspect, as in the image of a professional-looking man smiling into a cell. There’s no one else in the frame, so is he a neatnik warden taking pleasure in a tidy space, or something more sinister?
Weirder still is the image of an inmate, his new bride, and a clergyman all touching a marriage certificate. Facing to the side, the officiant is smiling, but the woman’s eyes are full of resignation over the life she’s about t embark on, an expression belied by her meretricious flower brooch. This one could be a Garry Winogrand, or even a Weegie—as could the one of a veterinarian (we assume) holding a stethoscope up to a cat that an inmate is holding.
Without few notations from San Quentin officials, Poor passes these photos onto us, to share in the wonder as to why these minimally catalogued images were even taken. But that’s what makes it interesting. And it’s clear some of the inmates had fun, too, combing through the prison’s past and offering a great deal of insight. Some of their speculations can be jarring, as when someone scrawls that a picture has been re-created or otherwise staged. A shot of a person, wedged in a crate of “tomato catsup” tins with only their hands and legs visible, looks a little too-perfect, less like an escape than someone demonstrating how to make an escape. It’s not all fun, of course: A cord tied almost in a mini-noose that dangles into the prison yard from a parapet suggests a lynching and a reign of terror.
There are bodies all throughout “The San Quentin Project,” often documented as if for medical purposes. Beyond the guys boxing or lifting weights, there are images of bruised, lacerated, swollen, wounded, and scarred men. A guard with an abrasion on his cheek looks ready to kill whoever did it. But the best photographs are the ones that leave you slightly confused, like one of a sad-eyed guy on the phone in some prison office. It looks to be the 1970s, and he’s manspreading so that we can see the crotch in his jeans has been patched. Behind him, there’s a baseball bat, and a sign on the windowsill reading “ULCER DEPT.,” a piece of self-aware office humor from the days before Dilbert clippings. Why was something so banal worth capturing? It wasn’t then, but 40 years later, it sure is, and Poor’s student Harold Meeks had a field day documenting every last detail, from the rotary telephone to the guy’s tattoos.
The most magnificent image—also from the ’70s, based on the hairstyles—is of a Black family, a smiling young man and his late-middle-aged parents. Everyone’s dressed up, so there’s no indication if the young man is an inmate or a staffer. But his mother’s body language and weary half-smile seem to suggest a prison visit. Her pained expression says she prays for her son, who she knows deep down to be good. It’s called “Mother’s Day.”
“The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison” Through November 17
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley Tickets and more info here.
Lino Tagliapietra became an apprentice glassblower in his hometown of Murano, Italy, at 11 years old and was given the title of Maestro when he was 21. He visited Seattle for the first time in the late 70s, and introduced students at the Pilchuck Glass School there to the tradition of Venetian glassblowing.
Tagliapietra, who now splits his time between Seattle and Murano, has had his work exhibited at some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including the de Young Museum of San Francisco, the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
At 85, Tagliapietra, considered one of the best glassblowers in the world, hasn’t stopped innnovating and trying new things. He’s expanded on traditional glassmaking, experimenting and playing with new forms. When he came to the United States, he saw that ceramics and textiles, considered crafts, were becoming thought of as fine art. He has been pushing that transformation in terms of its perception as fine art with glass.
In a show at San Francisco’s Montague Gallery (through October 13), “Radiance,” you can see in the 22 pieces there, all made in the last two years, his experiments with light and color as well as his series of intricate, gravity-defying sculptures, called Dinosaur.
“Lino’s technical excellence is extraordinary,” said Dani Montague, the owner of the gallery, pointing out some of Tagliapietra intricate work on display. “His artistry and design are superb and his use of color is phenomenal.”
To the artist, the light in San Francisco is special—and he wanted to capture that in the pieces in Radiance.
“San Francisco is like glass – it looks very strong, but there is a fragility too,” he wrote in an email. “There are very few places in the world that have this light—it makes colors dominant.”
After more than seven decades of glassblowing, Tagliapietra says there is always more to learn about his material. The conversation about art and craft that surrounds ceramics and textiles and glass is an ancient one, he says.
“Artisans, the craftsman, can make fantastic pieces. They have the skill to make wonderful pieces. But to be an artist, it is necessary to invent. It is necessary to look into the past and to know the past, and then to push that material to the future,” he wrote.
“You must first be able to do it (this is the craft) but you also must be able to think of how to do it, you must be able to imagine the creation (this is the art). There is a historic discussion of what it means to be an artist—this is an old conversation.”
LINO TAGLIAPIETRA, RADIANCE Montague Gallery The show has been extended to October 10 More information here
FALL ARTS PREVIEW Let’s keep this short because there’s a lot to do and see, obviously! Proclamations of the SF arts scene’s demise—despite the continued hounding of artists and supporters out of housing and livelihoods—have been premature.
9/6-1/26 ART THE BODY ELECTRIC “In an age dominated by digital technology, The Body Electric explores themes of the real and virtual, the organic and artificial, moving from the physical world to the screen and back again. Crucially, The Body Electric highlights historically overlooked women and artists of color who comprise a family tree for a younger generation of artists working with new technologies.” Of course you don’t want to miss the opening party, either! YBCA, SF. More info here.
9/7 FESTIVAL OAKLAND QUEER PRIDE You’ve been to the hullaballoo of SF Pride, now celebrate with soul on the other side (of summer and the Bay). Fierce, diverse, and family-style, this celebration is packed with entertainment and art, but maybe not so many rainbow tutu’d out-of-towners? In any case, love is all. More info here.
9/7 NIGHTLIFE CLUB LEISURE 15TH ANNIVERSARY This ace club started celebrating Britpop almost right after the ’90s wave had ended—but also takes in all things UK as well, from mod to Madchester, all under the auspices of DJ Omar and a double decker bus-load of talented friends. It is a very good party indeed. Cat Club, SF. More info here.
9/12 MUSIC 20TH ANNUAL SF ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL Such a great annual event that celebrates our local musical heritage (founded in 1999 by a committee of eight Bay Area electro-acoustic music and sound art practitioners) while showing a path to the sonic future. This year’s lineup is stellar, and includes an evening at the Envelop venue, so surely you’ll be sensurrounded. More info here.
9/13-9/15 FILM SF INDIESHORTS FESTIVAL 12 themed programs showcase a panoply of directorial visions. “The short film—what a perfect genre. Like the perfect snack. Or the very best poem: intensity and imagination distilled down to the most crucial and poignant of words. Short films are the quintessential starting point, and for some filmmakers, the definitive end goal.” New People Cinema, SF. More info here.
9/15 NIGHTLIFE BODY & SOUL I used to save my pennies to fly out to this incredible NYC soulful house party in the very early 2000s. Absolute DJ legends Danny Krivit, Joe Clausell, and Francois Kevorkian—they’ve produced some of the most major disco and dance records you know by heart—came together to provide the scene with some spirit. Now, they’re touring again and hitting up the new SVN West (cannot wait to check this space out) for a Sunday day party sure to please generations of dancers. SVN West, SF. More info here.
9/15 COMEDY COMEDY DAY 2019 1 stage, 5 hours, 50 comedians! “Now more than ever we need laughter in our lives, and the comedians who headline this annual late-summer treat come from far and wide to bring a good dose of lighthearted free fun. Comic veterans like Diane Amos (aka the Pine Sol Lady) and Will Durst are joined by a host of others in the meadow that will now and forever be named after one of the Bay Area’s best loved and greatest ever.” Robin Williams Meadow, SF. More info here.
9/19 STAGE TOP GIRLS We’re going to have a a very good theater season in the Bay Area, and this contemporary classic from Caryl Churchill at ACT helps blaze the way. “In Thatcher’s Britain of the ’80s, Marlene celebrates a promotion with a dinner party full of legendary, historical, and mythical women, from Pope Joan to one of Chaucer’s pilgrims to an imperial Japanese courtesan. As the wine starts to flow, each of these iconic women shares her own stories of sacrifice and success—but where’s the sisterhood?” ACT Geary Theater, SF. More info here.
9/19 TALK COCKETTES 50TH ANNIVERSARY Oh hey, I’m moderating a panel of original members of the iconic “gender-bending, acid freak-out, satirical, hysterical theater troupe.” We’re turning the Balboa Theater into a Cockettes shrine, with movies, performance, and memorabilia galore. It’s all thanks to the newly minted San Francisco Cultural History Museum. Balboa Theatre, SF. More info here.
9/20 NIGHTLIFE PUBLIC WORKS NINTH ANNIVERSARY A 36-hour party with dozens of insanely talented above- and underground talents—Questlove, Crazy P, noncompliant, Holographic, Minx, Mike Huckaby, etc etc—to celebrate almost a decade of great times in one of SF’s best clubs. Public Works, SF. More info here.
9/20-9/29 FILM SF LATINO FILM FESTIVAL The 11th edition of this always-enlightening fest brings films from near and far in a celebration of Latino creativity and vision. Particularly interesting program: “Environmental Change Maker Shorts—From communities facing climate change and doing something about it to thought-provoking stories about the environment told in both narrative and documentary formats.” More info here.
9/20-9/21 STAGE2 INFINITE 2 WRENCH Lightning-quick improv wonder-troupe the San Francisco Neo-Futurists always drops my jaw—but I’m clenching extra hard for this: “A once-in-a-lifetime, one-weekend-only rollercoaster ride of a specialty show where we’ll perform 60 even-shorter-than-usual plays in 60 standard minutes. Will we succeed? Will we fail? Is this even possible?” Let’s go find out! Exit Theater, SF. More info here.
9/20 NIGHTLIFE DARK ENTRIES 10TH ANNIVERSARY Do you like dark and minimal synth music and dance floor gems from obscure ’80s underground bands (and the contemporary acts who adore them) Then you can’t miss this celebration of local powerhouse label Dark Entries, run by encyclopedic mastermind Josh Cheon. Throw on something dark and slippery and dance all night. The Stud, SF. More info here.
9/21 EVENT PROJECT NUNWAY X The 10th installment of this eye-popping fashion extravaganza from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence promises to be the biggest yet. RuPaul’s Drag Race star Trixie Mattel helps ring in the Sisters’ 40th anniversary(!) at a runway event combining art, design, drag, performance, and creativity. All for charity, of course. It is the Sisters’ way. SOMArts, SF. More info here.
9/22 FESTIVAL ROADWORKS STEAMROLLER PRINTING FESTIVAL The SF Center for the Book is seriously a treasure trove of fantastical things—check out this month’s exhibition of “Drop Dead Gorgeous” fine bindings—but this annual festival, now in its 16th year, is a spine-tingling thrill. Basically: a day-long public printmaking and book arts extravaganza that includes free hands-on printmaking and book arts activities, demonstrations, 50 arts and crafts vendors, art gallery and studio tours, and more. HOWEVER there is also a seven-ton 1924 Buffalo Springfield steamroller that creates giant prints by rolling ink over linocuts on Rhode Island street. Neatest thing ever? OK. SF Center for the Book, SF. More info here.
9/26-12/10 STAGE WHITE NOISE The theatrical force of nature the is Suzan Lori-Parks brings her latest to the stage—this time exploring the contemporary relationships of two millennial, cosmopolitan couples, with a truly breathtaking twist. As always, Lori-Parks calls racial expectations and stereotypes into question in ways only she can. Berkeley Rep. More info here.
9/28 STAGE TRIPTYCH (EYES OF ONE ON ANOTHER) A perfect lead-in to Folsom Street Fair weekend, this is a fascinating look at Robert Mapplethorpe’s still-controversial photographs through song and projection. Featuring the words of poet Essex Hemphill and Patti Smith—fashioned into a libretto by korde arrington tuttle—and the music of renowned composer Bryce Dessner (you may know him from rock band The National), the piece pairs huge versions of Mapplethorpe’s photos with the diverse voices of the Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble. CalPerformances, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. More info here.
10/3 TALK REMEMBERING A POLICE RIOT: THE CASTRO SWEEP OF 1989 Sure to be a lively talk at the GLBT History Museum, featuring a fine panel of those who were there: “On Friday, Oct. 6, 1989, San Francisco police responded violently to a small, peaceful ACT UP march protesting government neglect of people with AIDS. Nearly 200 San Francisco Police Department officers — half of all those on duty — invaded the Castro district for more than three hours, beating activists and passersby, systematically sweeping all pedestrians from seven city blocks and placing thousands in businesses and homes under virtual house arrest.” GLBT History Museum, SF. More info here.
10/3 DANCE JESS CURTIS/GRAVITY: (in)VISIBLEHow do you experience a performance if it’s not possible to see it? This fascinating work “dislocates vision from the center of your experience. Developed in collaboration with—and particularly focusing on access to culture for—blind and visually impaired audiences, (in)Visible is created and performed by an international cast of six blind, visually impaired and sighted body-based dancer/performers who dance, sing, whisper and feel their way into your consciousness, bringing experimental dance/performance and sensory accessibility practices into a rich and moving interaction.” CounterPulse, SF. More info here.
10/3-11/2 STAGEPUPPETS & POE Theatre of Yugen presents this journey into the macabre via marionette: “Start with Edgar Allan Poe – the beloved master of poetry, short stories, and tales of mystery and the macabre. Dissect and remix. With a departure from Japanese Noh drama and Kyogen satire, mix with Theatre of Yugen’s signature physicality, voices, words, ideas, bodies, and PUPPETS. Stir in a splash of contemporary relevance, with good old-fashioned irreverence. Bake at a macabre 666 degree heat for an hour and a half. Devised Defiance is a dish best served cold.” Theatre of Eugene, SF. More info here.
10/4-10/6 MUSIC HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS Don’t lug that cooler with you this year (new rules) but this must-attend musical blowout still attracts tens of thousands with a stellar lineup including Tanya Tucker, Judy Collins, Michael Nesmith, Robert Plant, Beth Orton, Mercury Rev, and the New Pornographers. Golden Gate Park, SF. More info here.
10/4-10/5 DANCE SINTONÍA: TATTOOED Sintonía, a new Oakland-based flamenco dance troupe, presents its inaugural production, which “consists of a series of theatrical vignettes that utilize each dancer and musician as a player in the narrative, gives voice to survivors marked by abuse. Tattooed illustrates stories that have scarred yet shaped their lives. Ultimately, Tattooed is a proclamation of strength, resilience, and seeks to challenge people’s perspectives on flamenco and survivors.” Featuring local flamenco great Yaelisa. Presidio Theatre, SF. More info here.
10/5 EVENT BBQ WITHOUT BORDERS “A benefit event that will celebrate immigrants through food, drink, music, dance, art and more” featuring Indonesian, Northern Iranian, and Mexican barbecue from Bay Area chefs, music from Diana Gameros, Rahill Jamalifard, and DJ Cherry Moon, and dance from Gamelan Sekar Jaya, the Cal Bhangra team and Meli Cruz. Proceeds go to the National Immigrant Justice Center & Pangea Legal Services providing direct legal aid and advocacy for immigrants. Impact Hub, Oakland. More info here.
10/10-11/10 SCARY TERROR VAULT From the maniacal mind of drag horror Peaches Christ comes this bonanza of boo—at the Old Mint, so you get extra ghosties! All new script, storyline, and scares from last year’s overwhelming success, with all the twisted only-in-SF freakiness that Peaches and her team can muster. (Also in the same space, check out “Apocalypse: A Zombie Survival Game”—perfect for those bored with corporate escape rooms). San Francisco Mint. More info here.
10/10-10/19 LIT LITQUAKE Hang on to your shelves, SF’s about to get Lit. The 20th installation of this enormous literary festival comes with some big names—Ann Patchett, Tobias Wolff, Mike Isaac, Jane Hirschfield, Michelle Tea—and some fun and quirky programming. Plus there’s the can’t-miss Litcrawl, where literature spills out of venues ll down Valencia. More info here.
10/11 TALK AN EVENING WITH DR. JANE GOODALL “Esteemed ethologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, will start off Wildlife Conservation Expo weekend with a special Friday evening talk. Jane will share fascinating stories about her studies on wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park beginning in 1960, which continue through the work of the Jane Goodall Institute.” Total hero. The Masonic, SF. More info here.
10/18 MUSIC Z.E.N. TRIO How about some electrifying classical from a fabulous trio of young Brits? Schubert, Brahms, and Shostakovich are all on the program. “While the trio’s name, Z.E.N., is an acronym for the three artists’ initials, it also represents the philosophy with which they approach chamber music making—the forgoing of the self for total togetherness.” San Francisco Performances, Herbst Theatre, SF. More info here.
10/20 MUSIC 7TH ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL BOOGIE WOOGIE FESTIVAL An “international gathering of top boogie woogie artists with two pianos on stage, and always surprises.” With boogie woogie ivory-ticklers from USA, France, Hungary, Switzerland, and Germany, I bet those flying fingers get some frequent flier miles. SFJAZZ. More info here.
10/23—POSSIBLY FOREVER STAGE HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD Look, even if you ran a book store in the ’90s and rolled your eyes slightly while the Harry Potter fans and dough rolled in (and flipped through your much-preferred copies of the Golden Compass Trilogy)—that, yes, would be me—you’d still want to hit up the lavishly praised production, full of astounding special effects and narrative goodies. The hype is just too strong, and honestly I could sit through anything at the lovingly restored Curran. Curran Theatre, SF. More info here.
10/25 MUSIC SUNSET ROLLERCOASTER A six-piece Taiwaniese soul-psych outfit at Slim’s? (Say that six times fast.) Sign me up, especially after sampling their Bossa Nova-tinged sci-fi suite Vanilla Villa. Slim’s, SF. More info here.
10/25-12/1 STAGETHE CAKE A sly piece of relevant theater, served bittersweet: “Things are on the rise for Della. She’s been accepted as a contestant on the Great American Baking Show, her faith is as solid as ever, and her goddaughter, Jen, is back in town and wants Della to bake her wedding cake. But cracks start to appear in Della’s idyllic life when she learns Jen is marrying a woman – something that goes against everything Della believes.” New Conservatory Theater, SF. More info here.
10/27 MUSIC THE WAILERS Reggae royalty return to celebrate the 40th anniversary of seminal Revival album and perform more classics. “Led by renowned bassist and founder Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, and joined by original Wailers guitarist Donald Kinsey, The Wailers give audiences around the globe the opportunity to experience their unique and innovative sound. From 1972 to 1980, Bob Marley & The Wailers recorded, toured, and performed before countless millions worldwide. Since 1981, Familyman has carried on the mission to ‘keep The Wailers together’—just as Bob requested.” The Chapel, SF. More info here.
10/31-11/16 DANCE SOLEDAD BARRIO & NOCHE FLAMENCO: ENTRE TÚ Y YOIt may become obvious from this list that I adore flamenco, and Soledad Barrio is one of the absolute best. After the national triumph of ‘Antigona,’ Barrio and Noche Flamenco return with this program duets, solos, and ensemble works, featuring Barrio’s signature, “Soleá,” which “exemplifies the catharsis at the heart of flamenco.” Z Space, SF. More info here.
11/1-11/2 FILM COCO WITH THE SF SYMPHONY Seeing this Pixar triumph around Day of the Dead, on a big screen, with live accompaniment by the SF Symphony is a perfect city activity for families—and those of us quietly weeping with joy in the corner. Davies Symphony Hall, SF. More info here.
11/2 MUSIC EGYPTIAN LOVER The king of body-rock electro and a marvelous musicologist to boot, Los Angeles’ Greg Broussard will have you chanting “Egypt, Egypt” and “Computer Love” while throwing back (and possibly your back out) to ’80s dance floor gems. Starline Social Club, Oakland. More info here.
11/10 MUSIC LACHANZE: “FEELIN’ GOOD” I freaking love this Tony and Emmy-winning sensation, and seeing her in an intimate cabaret context will be beyond! “On November 10th, the singer/actress will make her long-awaited Bay Area concert debut with her powerful autobiographical show, which originated at Joe’s Pub and was a hit at venues like The Cabaret in Indianapolis and New York’s Highline Ballroom.” Venetian Room, SF. More info here.
11/22-11/24 DANCE SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL HIP-HOP DANCE FESTIVAL Holy headspins, hip-hop hero Micaya is celebrating 21 years of presenting the latest and greatest in hip-hop dance. Crews from all over the world astonish and amaze with kinetic moves—it’s a true rush of diversity and expression in a city that’s seen its hip-hop scene quashed, alas. Palace of Fine Arts, SF. More info here.
12/15 MUSIC CATTLE DECAPITATION Just in time for the holiday season! “Compromise is not a concept Cattle Decapitation are willing to entertain. Ever. Over the course of nineteen years and six full-lengths the San Diego quartet have more than proven this, defining themselves as one of the most vital, brutal, and relentless forces in extreme music, and with new album The Anthropocene Extinction they have delivered a volatile, apocalyptic beast that is as hideous as it is compelling.” UC Theatre, Berkeley. More info here.
FALL ARTS PREVIEW Gallery season leaps into fall affect this week: Check out arts writer Matt Sussman’s picks for enlightening, expanding experiences.
Africa State of Mind + Rashaad Newsome at MOAD (Both Sept 4 – Nov 15) The Museum of the African Diaspora has been delivering some of the best local institutional programming over the past few years—and these two exhibitions continue the trend. This is the only US stop for Africa State of Mind, a rich and enriching survey of contemporary art from across the African continent. Category is: galactic glamour! Creative polymath Rashaad Newsome’s new video work, inspired by the opulence and life-giving performances of the gay ballroom scene, is simply out of this world. See it all come to fruition in 3-D on October 19, as the museum hosts an Afropolitan Ball, with specially created projection mapping by Newsome. More info here.
Dale Hoyt: Farm and Friends—in 3D! at Telematic (Sept 7 – October 12)
From pastoral poetry to The Simple Life, farming has often been held up as a paradisiac alternative to urban malaise. Shot on an actual farm in SF, Dale Hoyt’s experimental narrative exposes the rot at the heart of its central father-daughter dyad (the pair are as interested in true crime trivia as they are in agriculture), a toxicity that seems to seep from the soil as it does fall from the rapidly gentrifying air. The accompanying exhibition features art by supporting cast members, which picks up on the film’s themes of alienation and environmental collapse. More info here.
Katherine Vetne: Whatever I See I Swallow at Catharine Clark Gallery (Sept 7 – October 26) Jumping off from Barbara Kruger’s ironic, iconic maxim “I Shop Therefore I Am,” Katherine Vetne solo debut at Catharine Clark investigates the deeper drives that subtend gendered forms of consumption and luxury retail. In drawings, hands swarm the folds of Hermes scarves like hungry locusts or lovers. Elsewhere, assemblages of melted candelabras coated in silver nitrate look like relics from the Blitz. That the pieces themselves are so covetable, so polished, adds another turn of the screw. More info here.
Dana Hemenway: Differently Structured Possibilities at Eleanor Harwood (Sept 7 – October 26) Approaching materials commonly found at the hardware store (extension cords, ropes, light bulbs) with a fiber artist’s hand, Dana Hemenway creates woven sculptures that are both a part of and hang apart from their built surroundings. At once abstract and oddly tender, Hemenway’s work creates visual poetry out of the frequently hidden circuitry that surrounds us. More info here.
4Waves: 40 Performances for the Hole @ SOMARTS (Sept 11)
It’s back! A who’s who of Bay Area creative royalty will each have only five minutes total to do their thing – set-up to clean up— in a 100 year-old pit in the floor of SOMArts. Guest curator Justin Hoover’s reprise of his now legendary marathon night of performance is time-based art at its most democratic, gonzo, and gloriously San Franciscan. “There are no rehearsals.” More info here.
Assume Vivid Astro Focus @ Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture (Sep 13 – Oct 6)
Queer psychedelic art collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus has landed their space ship at Fort Mason and created a mural you can skate on. That’s right: the main gallery floor has been transformed into a multi-colored and clashing-patterned circular roller rink, complete with a fully kitted-out DJ booth at its center. BYO wheels (or rent a pair) and roll-bounce along with your fellow machine elves to jams by some of the Bay’s funkiest selectors. More info here.
Nicki Green: Splitting/Unifying at Et Al Etc (Sep 13 – Oct 26) Nicki Green creates ceramics that are not merely beautiful in their own right but which are meant to function as queer ritual objects. Vessels, in all senses of the word, Green’s pieces are both reverential and playful, at times honoring queer elders via a kind of adapted Jewish mysticism that also allows for moments of cheeky eroticism.More info here.
Terry Fox: Resonance @ Various locations (October 1 – December 14)
Berkeley Aart Museum alumnae Dena Beard and Constance Lewallan have curated an ambitious two-month long tribute to formative Bay Area conceptual artist Terry Fox. Something of a weathervane for the currents of his time, Fox brought back both his firsthand account of the May ’68 protests in Paris and the experience of working with Joseph Beuys in 1971 to the Bay, influencing a generation of fellow artists in turn. Spread out over venues across the Bay, Resonance will highlight various components of Fox’s practice, including his hermetic performance pieces, giving this mercurial, exacting artist an overdue homecoming.More info here.
The Continuous Thread at SFAC (Oct 4 – December 14)
After the removal of Early Days, the settler colonialism-glorifying component of SF’s Pioneer Monument in Civic Center plaza, over 150 members of Bay Area’s indigenous communities stood upon the now-bare neoclassical plinth on April 5 and 6 and had their pictures taken by three different photographers. Those photographs comprise The Continuous Thread, a commemoration of a wrong righted, a corrective to popular representation, and a collective portrait of American Indians now. More info here.
Sylvia Fein: Matrix 275 at BAM (November 13 – March 1)
Sylvia Fein’s delicate, highly detailed paintings of landscapes and subjects, both mundane and fantastic, are remarkable contributions within the generation of American artists who took up Surrealism’s mantle in the 1940s. (Her skilled use of egg tempera, a notoriously temperamental medium, makes them positively glow). But add in the fact that the longtime East Bay artist is celebrating her centenary this year makes Fein a cause for even more celebration. Don’t miss her artist’s talk on November 13, and be sure to check out the concurrent survey show Strange which should provide additional context for Fein’s work along with that of her contemporaries. More info here.
ONSTAGE Out New York-based comedian Matteo Lane didn’t dream of a career in comedy, growing up.
In fact, the “Moving On” (2015), “Crashing” (2018), and “The Comedy Lineup” (2018) star told 48 Hills that stand-up wasn’t even a draw for him, initially. That is until he discovered more inclusive, gay-friendly comedians like Kathy Griffin.
“I didn’t watch stand-up as a kid, because it didn’t feel like it was speaking to me,” Lane said.
“So I didn’t become interested in it till I saw Kathy Griffin, because she was the first comedian I saw who didn’t make fun of gay people like we were the butt of the joke. We were in on the joke. I was lucky to have women like Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, and Joan Rivers lead me to comedy.”
As part of this weekend’s Clusterfest, Lane will be paying tribute to comedy queens Lisa Kudrow, Mira Sorvino, and Alan Cumming with the Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion Live Read alongside RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova.
“I’m playing Alan Cumming’s part where they do the interpretive dance at the high school reunion where I think Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ is playing,” he said. “So I have to learn the dance.”
At the annual comedy and music festival, now in its third year and featuring Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Neal Brennan, Issa Rae, John Mulaney, Leslie Jones, The Roots, Chelsea Peretti, Courtney Barnett, and My Favorite Murder, among many others, Lane will also appear in Todd Barry’s Crowd Work Show, Saturday’s Chi Guys, and Sunday’s Patton Oswalt show.
I spoke to Matteo Lane about coming out with humor, relating to Alladin’s Jafar, and why he refuses to make Trump jokes.
48 HILLSMatteo, you went from being an opera singer and oil painter in Italy to a stand-up comedian. Do you ever imagine what your life would have been like had you pursued those other talents?
MATTEO LANE I just don’t think about it that way. Your life just happens as it happens and stand-up has allowed me to do all sorts of things including drawing because I have my comic book with Bob the Drag Queen called “Kickass Drag Queen” that we’re going to hopefully get made into a cartoon, and I’ve been able to do my own singing show, which I tour the country with.
I feel like none of those would have been possible had I not done stand-up, so in a way I don’t look at it as separate. I look at it as other ways to explore my creativity, so if anything it’s helped me be more of a singer or artist than I ever was.
48 HILLSYou have a bit called “Every Disney Character is Gay.” Do you really think so, or are you just trying to piss off conservatives?
MATTEO LANE I’m just trying to write material that makes people laugh. If we wanted to have an existential conversation about those types of characters, I’d say, “Yeah, usually the villain in a Disney movie doesn’t bend to the male or female roles, like the prince or princess. They’re somewhere on the outside, look different and feel different. They’re some sort of an other.
I think that gay people growing up often fall into that experience of being the other, at least in my experience. So I feel like I’ve always latched on to the villain, as most young queer kids do. I don’t relate to Princess Jasmine and Aladdin. I relate to Jafar.
But I don’t write my material to say, “Who am I going to get?” Or to do a bigger conversation about something. I’m doing it, at the end of the day, to make people laugh.
48 HILLSYou also talk about growing up on the same block as your 22 cousins in your act. When you came out, was your family supportive?
MATTEO LANE I am very lucky because my brother’s gay and my cousin’s also gay, so we’re all gay. [Laughs] I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family.
My mom had a very difficult childhood and my grandfather grew up in an immigrant family, went blind at the age of five, put himself through law school, and became a judge. So my family was able to see that there are bigger things out there than just being gay. So being gay was like, “OK, cool, pass the butter.”
My family communicates through humor, so I used humor to make it not this taboo subject we couldn’t talk about, and, as a result, I feel just like the rest of my cousins.
48 HILLS You’ve said before that while you don’t discuss Trump directly in your act, your “material in itself is a stand against Trump.” What did you mean by that?
MATTEO LANE What I mean by that is a technical thing. I’m not the kind of comedian who writes topical jokes about what happened or what I saw on MSNBC yesterday because the news cycle is going so quickly that even if I do a joke that’s funny about what Trump said yesterday, it’s forgotten the next week. So it doesn’t serve me or an audience in any way, because they’ve forgotten because he’s done something else that’s stupid since.
So I have some jokes that are political but I’m not a comedian who’s only interested in talking about Trump. So yeah, if I’m onstage in Ohio and I’m gay and talking to voters who may have voted for Trump, by me not living my life apologetically or editing or censoring myself to hundreds of people I’m performing for daily, that’s something. It’s better than me just sitting at home and tweeting about it.
48 HILLSGay material makes up a lot of your act. Do you feel like you’re a comedian or a gay comedian?
MATTEO LANE I don’t think about it as being a gay comedian. I think about it as doing good work and being as funny as possible.
But I probably am in the last generation who grew up not having the Internet and not having the easy access to a gay community. So now that it’s so prevalent, the only thing I think about is that it’s cool that young kids can look at the TV and see me or other gay comedians and it’s just normal.
48 HILLSCan you envision a day when your sexual identity won’t matter to audiences?
MATTEO LANE When I started stand-up, I would have thought, “I just want to be a stand-up and not have my sexuality determine who I am.” But now that I’m doing it and onstage and talking around the country, I’m proud of it.
I don’t care how anyone reads me — that’s a gay comic or that’s just a comic — because it doesn’t matter what someone else says. I know who I am and I’m proud of being gay and proud of being a comic.
I think where we start to go wrong is when we start labeling everything. So however you want to describe me, I don’t care. I think as we have more diversity onstage we can start having the idea of stand-up not being just for straight men. But I think it’s happening right now.
Editor’s Note: Word came Saturday from his wife and fellow writer Dodie Bellamy that essential SF queer writer Kevin Killian—poet, teacher, playwright, gossip, Kylie Minogue super-fan, heart of the New Narrative literary scene that electrified SF in the ’80s, and Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer—had passed away. Here, Alvin Orloff of Dog-Eared Books remembers the prolific writer. (Read a short, vital essay Kevin wrote for the Bay Guardian’s “SF Stories” issue in 2012 here.)
I met Kevin Killian by taking writing workshops with his wife, Dodie Bellamy, some 20-plus years ago. Climbing the stairs to their third floor South of Market apartment, I always felt anticipatory tingles for the fun and stimulation ahead. Dodie and Kevin’s small living room, cluttered with cats and books, felt like a refuge from the dull, mercenary forces that were (even then) erasing the old bohemian San Francisco, and the writers I met there were uniformly clever and charmingly offbeat. Many are still friends today. Within that enchanted bubble, wit, good manners, and the tough-minded analysis necessary to inculcate literary talent reigned supreme.
At the time, Kevin was workshopping a novel in progress that became Spreadeagle, a wryly twisted and rather noirish tale of literary celebrity, criminality, and perversion. I loved it so much I immediately read his earlier novels, Arctic Summer, Shy, and Bedrooms Have Windows, as well as his short story collection, Little Men. All terrific! (He published a lot of poetry too, which I’m told is also great.) It confused some people that Kevin was considered a queer author because he’d left his louche, homosex-y youth behind him and married a woman, but he and Dodie had transcended the constraints of such mundane, petty classifications.
Once I’d befriended Dodie and Kevin, I discovered a cultural milieu I hadn’t known existed. They and their friends were constantly rushing around between book release parties, poetry readings, and art openings. At such events one could always count on Kevin for a friendly smile, spicy gossip, or some delicious tidbit of information about Australian pop phenomenon, Kylie Minogue, with whom he was obsessed. Just the sight of Kevin, always ever so slightly disheveled with bangs falling boyishly over his forehead, was enough to raise my spirits.
Kevin was also prone to writing and producing hilariously wacky and absurdist plays for the Poets Theater using literary and musical celebrities as characters that he and his friends would play. I wasn’t alone in being mystified as to how Kevin, who worked a full-time office job, managed to regularly stage plays, attend seemingly all of his numerous his friends’ events, and still find time write.
More amazing yet, Kevin also found time to be a tireless promoter. He was forever introducing one to new authors, talking up someone’s latest work, and booking out-of-towners to read at some bookstore or gallery. As if that weren’t enough, he co-edited My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer and, along with Dodie, Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977 – 1997. He gave me a lovely blurb for my third novel and spoke of my writing in terms flattering enough I not only felt embarrassed, but tempted to question his sincerity. Kevin’s tireless championing of LGBTQ writers is justifiably the stuff of legend, and he (along with Dodie) acted like a social glue, bonding San Francisco’s more adventurous, if less commercially successful, writers into a community.
For all his myriad virtues, what I enjoyed most about Kevin was his mischievous sense of humor. For example, when he was recovering from a heart attack and too doped up to write, Kevin (at Dodie’s rather brilliant suggestion) tried to get back in the swing of it by penning Amazon reviews. These quickly progressed from a few words about books, music or movies to amusingly off-kilter mini-essays about random items like plaster pineapples or Lycra thongs. The reviews were eventually collected into a pair of zines that (who knows?) may well end up becoming the foundational texts of a new literary genre.
As the years rolled by, Kevin gradually began to get the recognition he’d always deserved. City Lights put out his hilarious collection of erotic short stories,Impossible Princess, which won a Lambda award, and Semiotext(e) reissued his out of print early works as an anthology titled “Fascination.” He got to quit his office job, began teaching creative writing, and started jetting off to attend panel discussions and symposia in distant cities.
Everyone was glad for him. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, came word came that Kevin, a mere 66 years old, had died. My Facebook feed instantly filled with more heartfelt tributes than I’ve ever seen, all of them extolling his talent, generosity, kindness, and good cheer. Kevin was, and I am being quite literal here, universally beloved.
In the days ahead, I see three duties for Kevin’s friends and fans. First, we must offer whatever support we can to Dodie. Let her know that the massive outpouring of love for Kevin belongs to her as well. Second, we simply must work to see that Kevin’s books are given their rightful place of honor in the queer literary canon. And third, we must try and be more like Kevin, allowing our lives to be guided by the love of writing and writers. None of these things will make up for the lack of Kevin in our lives, but they’re the least we can do to honor his memory.
Alvin Orloff’s memoir Disasterama: Adventure in the Queer Underground 1979-1997 comes out in October from Three Rooms Press. Learn more at www.alvinorloff.com
Michael’s white and Ben’s biracial. Michael’s older and Ben’s younger. Michael’s HIV positive and Ben’s negative. Michael’s a survivor of the AIDS era and Ben’s only heard about it. Michael’s stuck in the past and Ben’s looking forward.
At no point are this couple’s differences more apparent in “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City” than when Michael “Mouse” Tolliver (Murray Bartlett) takes his partner Ben Marshall (Charlie Barnett) to a dinner party, hosted by his more established ex-boyfriend and A-gay friends.
When Ben speaks out against one of the others’ transphobia, he gets piled on by the rest, all of whom survived the AIDS era, fought for gay liberation, and helped make it safer for gay men to walk the streets of San Francisco without being bashed, live longer lives (if they are HIV-positive), and bareback (if they’re on PrEP). His partner, Michael, sits by silently, afraid to get involved.
It’s tensions like these that make the latest “Tales”—inspired by Maupin’s classic novels set in San Francisco and picking up where the original 1993 PBS series “Tales of the City” and subsequent Showtime sequels “More Tales of the City” and “Further Tales of the City” left off—so provocative.
In advance of the 10-episode series’ Netflix premiere on June 7, I spoke to actors Murray Bartlett (“Looking”) and Charlie Barnett (“Chicago Fire”) about their excitement around the “Tales of the City” reboot, which also features Laura Linney, Ellen Page, Paul Gross, and Olympia Dukakis, reexamining their own socio-political biases, and their tension-inducing sex scenes.
48 HILLSWhat excited you most about joining the cast of “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City”?
CHARLIE BARNETT I was really excited to get to play a gay role. I haven’t had that opportunity too much in my career, so I was really excited, especially with a group of writers whom I knew were going to demand more than just the surface-level character exploration.
MURRAY BARTLETT It was a dream project for me. I came to San Francisco for the first time in the early to mid-‘90s from Australia, and the guy I was staying with had “Tales of the City” on VHS. After watching it, it really became intermingled with my first impressions of San Francisco. So I completely fell in love with the city and the show. It had a huge impact on me.
48 HILLSI think I can guess, but what about it appealed to you so much?
MURRAY BARTLETT It was one of the first things I’d seen, especially television, where these characters that were part of the LGBTQ community were living happily and freely and just being true to themselves. It was ahead of its time, so I became a fan and watched it many times over the years.
48 HILLSYou play an intergenerational couple on the new series, confronting and reevaluating your own biases about the LGBTQ+ community, particularly during the A-gay dinner party scene. What did you learn about yourself or your community in the process?
CHARLIE BARNETT I did a whole bunch of research about Stonewall and the riots and what the trans movement has been within the community as a whole, not just specifically the gay community. It opened my eyes incredibly. I hadn’t known how much of an impact they had on giving gay and lesbian people an opportunity, specifically the trans fight within that small quarter of history. Going on to watch the Marsha P. Johnson documentary, I could bawl just thinking about that…
I’ve learned and grown a lot just from having worked on that [dinner party] scene. I could tell you that walking into it, though, I wholeheartedly related to Ben’s position on that. As much as I understand and hear and can have compassion, in a certain sense, for what the older generation of gay men are talking about, I have a big problem with how gay men have pushed the trans community out.
Of course, I’m incredibly thankful to all of them for the struggles, the fights, their journeys, and what they’ve done for me. I couldn’t be in my position having this conversation with you without other gay men making those leaps and bounds.
MURRAY BARTLETT We had an incredible team of writers and that [dinner party] episode particularly stands out to me as such a beautifully written episode.
It presents two different views from different generations and I kind of agree and disagree with both of them in various ways. That’s what makes it so brilliant—that you see both points of view but no one’s completely wrong or right. They’re just different perspectives on the same issues.
I think then what we start to see with Michael and Ben afterward is that what’s really important is to bridge those perspectives. In a larger sense, in Michael and Ben’s relationship, what they’re dealing with is different perspectives of the world from different generations and I think it’s a universal theme.
It’s very important right now when there’s so much division in the US and the world, in general, to get beyond those heated conversations that happen at that dinner party and bridge and understand each other. We may not agree on everything, but let’s learn from each other and move forward richer for it.
48 HILLS Murray, on “Looking” and “Tales of the City,” you play the “daddy” role, but I first saw you on “Sex and the City,” playing the twink who temporarily lures Carrie Bradshaw away from her older friend, Stanford, in one of my favorite episodes. How are you embracing this new stage in your life?
MURRAY BARTLETT You know, my back’s a little sorer than it used to be, but apart from that, I like the wisdom and the perspective that come from aging.
I think we’re such a youth-focused culture and we’re in danger of missing all the jewels of what it means to grow older and wiser, so yeah, I definitely feel fortunate that I am older.
One of the perspectives that Michael has and it’s one of the things that makes him such a beautiful person is that he went through the whole AIDS epidemic and thought he was going to die and he came through it happy and lucky to be alive when a lot of his friends aren’t. I think he has his neurosis, but he really embraces every moment as moments that he might not have had.
If we can go into old age with that in mind, just loving every moment, what a wonderful way to live that is. That’s what I’m trying to do.
48 HILLSSo you both filmed some pretty racy sex scenes for the new series. I am confident that I literally saw-spit swapping in one extreme closeup. What can you tell me about shooting those scenes?
CHARLIE BARNETT I’ve had a lot of fun. Murray, of course, is incredibly handsome and it’s fun to roll around the bed with him. However, I am happily in a committed relationship and I love my partner.
When we were filming the scenes, we did have a deep desire to make the scenes more than passion and sex. We wanted people to see the passion beyond a physical nature, more of a relationship passion and a love for each other. For me, they were really incredible because they solidified our characters’ relationship.
Man Haters: SF Edition—June 5 Be grateful that this award-winning comedy show featuring all women and queer comics has traded its usual locale – the White Horse Saloon – for the Brava’s roomier digs. More people should have the chance to catch rising talents Dominique Gelin, Nori Reed and Irene Tu in-person before they show up in your Roku watchlist. More info here.
Precarious Lives—Opening June 6, runs through June 27 One of the highlights of NQAF for the last two years have been the Creative Labor visual art exhibitions at SOMArts, which put in dialogue work by emerging and canonical queer artists. This year’s exhibition— which is packed with work by Marlon Riggs, Barbara Hammer, Lordes Portillo, Rhodessa Jones, René Yanez, Michelle Tea, Tina Takemoto, Marcela Pardo Ariza and many more—focuses on the fundamental vulnerability of queer lives, highlighting the creative survival strategies, political demands, and coalitional ethics that emerge in the face of such precariousness.More info here.
How to Have a Body—June 12 Imagine living your life in a queer disabled body. That is the fundamental thought experiment at the heart of Gina Stella dell’Assunta’s multi-media solo theatrical show, which invites you to take up her position as a proud femme crip. Based on her forthcoming book, Stella dell’Assunta’s show tours the urban spaces, both private and public, that comprise her experience of a city undergoing deleterious development while still offering strongholds of resilience. More info here.
Mother the Verb—June 19
Ivan “Ivy” Monteiro and Javier Stell-Frésquez aren’t here to be your mamas but the duo’s inventive, impassioned choreographic exploration of the necessity of matriarchy and mothering to post-colonial survival will likely give you life. Dazié Rustin Grego-Sykes, of The Deep Dickollective fame, starts off the evening with a reflection on his own mother’s passing. Bring offerings; bring Kleenex. More info here.
Tomorrow We Inherit the Earth: The Queer Intifada—June 20 – 22 The next global battle to overthrow Western imperialism will be decidedly queer, fought by glittering aliens and glamour zombies and lead by drag generals. That is the vision laid out in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s multimedia performance. Bhutto, who has hit various stages as Faluda Islam, pulls equally from their drag bag and archival research to deliver a spectacle of speculative futurity that you didn’t know you needed. More info here.
The Manifesto Project—June 21 San Francisco Mime Troupe and Beach Blanket Babylon veteran Rotimi Agbabiaka is one of the Bay’s most spellbinding storytellers, combining raw charisma, whip-smart writing and unexpected directional choices. His latest solo work doubles as a group therapy seminar and tent revival: Agbabiaka—donning multiple guises – leads the audience in developing a manifesto for 21st century theater of liberation.More info here.
Those with the chance to visit “Forever, A Moment,” the SOMArts exhibition curated by Yetunde J. Olagbaju and Kevin Bernard Moultrie Daye that opens Thu/14 will not be experiencing the sterile white walls we’ve come to expect of the art world. Instead, the pair present a series of works and ritual spaces created by Black artists with strong ties to the Bay Area, a meditation on the ways that Blackness translates from the past to the future, with an essential stopover in the present.
Enriched by Moultrie Daye’s background as an architectural designer, Umar Rashid a.k.a. Frohawk Two Feathers constructs a tent inviting entry, bedecked with signifiers of indigenous culture that speak to the artist’s work reimagining and reassessing colonial history. Oakland creative and art educator Lukaza Brandman Verissimo’s “As Bright As Yellow” explores the bounds of color therapy, objects arranged on a sunny background that opens up to the possibilities of rite.
Though such real-life spacial reimagining may be the immediate energy grab, “Forever, A Moment” is not without its more traditional, wall-hung works. Exhibition previews highlight the mixed-media collage of Kasmir Jones a.k.a. POETIC, expands the Black body, quite literally altering perspective with unexpected physical ratios.
Such an undertaking required deep investigation from its participating creatives. But it also asks for an amount of reflection on the part of attendees to absorb the implications of a Black futurity presented free of whiteness’ accompanying yard stick.
We connected with Olagbaju and Moultrie Daye to find out the past, present, and coming implications of the show.
48 HILLSWhat did you know in advance of this project about the other curator’s work that made you eager to collaborate with them?
YETUNDE J. OLAGBAJU The thing that excited me the most about Kevin’s previous experience was more so surrounding his ability as an architect and creator of spaces. I was interested in collaborating for this very reason. What Kevin brings to the table is his expertise on how to truly make a space nonlinear and a dedication to investigating how deeply physical space can affect our sense of possibility and memory.
The sensibility is crucial when thinking about how art inhabits a space and how it also might alter it.
KEVIN BERNARD MOULTRIE DAYE When I met Yetunde, I didn’t know about her art practice! The more I learned however, the clearer it became that although our approaches and attitudes are different, we are interested in the same things: How we, as human beings, orient ourselves in space and through time. How memory and possibility is embedded in our landscapes and specifically, how black people can leverage the spaces we occupy and the time we are given to heal and thrive.
48 HILLS The artists in the exhibition all have ties to the Bay Area. What are some of the overlying truths/impressions about Blackness in the Bay being expressed by “Forever, a Moment”?
YETUNDE J. OLAGBAJU One obvious truth is that we are a dwindling and dissolving group of people. Those of us who are able to stay are often doing so by the skin of our teeth and are having to balance our need to survive with our desire to to create/heal. I believe we would be hard pressed to find a Black artist in the Bay who is not consistently worried about their bills or stable housing opportunities.
The other truth that I feel “Forever, A Moment” truly addresses is the pressure that is placed on Black artists in the Bay to talk about specific topics through their work. I believe that many Black artists experience this phenomenon of walking into the gallery and have their work be digested in ways that puts Black relationship to White Supremacy at the forefront of the viewers experience. Blackness, Black art, and Black memory should not be defined only in its approximation to Whiteness. This, in itself, is racism and forces artists to place limitations on their artistic expression.
For me, those were some of my main intentions when considering artists and work to included in “Forever, A Moment”. I wanted artists whose work expands upon Blackness in a way that challenges our established art historical narratives, allows us to reimagine our place within that timeline, and that ultimately distorts this timeline in new and exciting ways.
KEVIN BERNARD MOULTRIE DAYE Standing in the gallery it think there is an overwhelming sensation of ownership of this place, the Bay Area. A feeling that this is somewhere where the history and legacy of Blackness is so established, it does not need to prove itself or position itself in relation to Whiteness or anything else. And so, the work is given the freedom to dive even deeper and covers quite a broad spectrum of questions: from the relationship between Greek myth, Renaissance ideals and the modern-day athlete, to the connection between cannabis culture and what it takes to survive in the world today.
48 HILLSWhat kind of/are there questions attendees to the exhibition should ponder BEFORE they arrive at SOMArts?
YETUNDE J. OLAGBAJU If you’re a Black artist, I would love for you to come questioning what your Blackness means to you within your art practice. Do you see work that resonates with how you orient yourself within memory, legacy, and time? Is there such a thing as “Black collective memory”? If so, what lives in those archives? And finally, what can those endless possibilities provide for you in terms of your own healing?
If you’re not a Black artist, I then ask how you are creating opportunities and resources to Black artists and elders in the Bay? Do you feel a responsibility to do so? Could “Forever, A Moment” be a revelatory moment for you? I surely hope so.
KEVIN BERNARD MOULTRIE DAYE Have I ever been in a space that was completely designed for Black people? How many ways have I allowed Blackness to express itself? Have I treated Blackness as a monolith? If nobody told me that this show was 100 percent Black artists and curators, what would I have expected to see? What do I expect to see now?
FOREVER, A MOMENT: BLACK MEDITATIONS ON TIME AND SPACE Opening reception: Thu/14 6-9pm, free Exhibit runs through April 6 SOMArts Cultural Center, SF More info here.