Half-Century
Issue

5.1 / Half-Century

September 11 2013

Introduction

 A History of Bay Area Contemporary Art Through Eleven Exhibitions

I saw an ad the other day for a history of America traced through the introduction of ten iconic guns. I thought, “Oh my, I’m either onto something very much of the times, or I’m terribly banal,” seeing the local art history through an extremely individual lens. This issue of Art Practical, "Half-Century," is intended to be a highly personal selection of eleven exhibitions that cumulatively form a history of contemporary art in the Bay Area over the past half-century. It features commissioned essays by writers who themelves form a portrait of the increasingly rigorous, local critical community, as of 2013, and reexamines these shows with the benefit of hindsight.

In her wonderful contribution to this project, Leigh Markopoulos calls for a rigorous consideration of the nature of the Bay Area’s role in American contemporary art. This is at the heart of my interest in organizing this project. A couple of years ago, my first published post for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space blog generated a great deal of discussion about why some artists stay in the Bay Area over a lifetime and why others leave. Markopoulos poses a better question. She asks (to put words in her mouth) if the Bay Area is a wolf in sheep’s clothing—if being somewhat marginalized has allowed us to absorb the state of the art world, or art in general, and to develop a slightly hidden regional style that is much more influential than is usually acknowledged. What have we done here, over the decades, to nurture acclaimed art world figures like Bruce Nauman, Jock Reynolds, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Barry McGee, Natalie Jeremijenko, Margaret Kilgallen, and many others? We offer these eleven exhibitions as case studies to address such questions, with the hunch that there is an unnamed, unidentified aesthetic treasure in Northern California that is anything but trendy or trivial.

Features

The Linoleum Symbol of a New and Coming Faith

The Linoleum Symbol of a New and Coming Faith

By Jessica Brier
A small wooden object resembling a footstool or tiny chair, with a straight back and a riser on a 45-degree angle, covered with green linoleum, the slant step was a tacky object without an obvious purpose.
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The Eighties in 1970

The Eighties in 1970

By Constance Lewallen

Even though the idea exchanges were thrilling, we were also such a bunch of individualists that in the end we responded to the idea of an unknown future in our own ways.

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The San Francisco Art Institute Annual 1975–76

The San Francisco Art Institute Annual 1975–76

By Renny Pritikin

The San Francisco Art Institute Annual, a much-ballyhooed event that had been staged by that institution in one form or another—annual, biennial, with schedule gaps and changes in format—since 1871, continued until 2006. 

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In Out of the Cold

In Out of the Cold

By Bill Berkson, René de Guzman, Arnold Kemp, Ari Salomon

I was hired to be the visual arts director about eighteen months before the opening of In Out of the Cold, which was on view from October 12 through December 5, 1993.

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A Rose Has Bite

A Rose Has Bite

By Leigh Markopoulos

Working at the perceived periphery was evidently not an impediment to Nauman’s success. It could, however, be lonely.

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