The M.H. de Young has long-standing tradition of engaging the talent of artists in the Bay Area, and in celebration of its 125th year in 2020, the museum presents “The de Young Open,” a juried exhibition of 762 artists with a total of 877 artworks on view through Jan. 3, 2021. The works will also be for sale, and the artists will retain 100 percent of the proceeds. The public can access the museum’s online gallery to explore the artworks in the exhibition.
The exhibition title, “On the Edge,” was originally derived from the Bay Area’s cultural landscape — both its geographic location on the Pacific Rim combined with the region’s historical reputation for cutting-edge culture and creativity. As time passed, this motif came to include the overall disruption and unease that has become a hallmark of life in 2020.
PROTEST AND ISOLATION
The exhibition includes artists responding to the Black Lives Matter movement as a point of departure to discuss injustice and police brutality. Orin Carpenter’s Sick and Tired 2020 gives voice to the zeitgeist of unrest. A face screaming into a megaphone hovers above scenes of street demonstrations and symbols of racial struggle throughout history. Many artists have used their medium of choice as a form of protest to address issues relating to politics, patriarchy, feminism, and LGBTQ rights.
Work influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact on the daily lives of citizens across the globe is also a theme. These new realities — sheltering in place, mortality, online meetings, and face coverings — serve as ongoing themes. Samira Akbari Hozmahi’s Quarantine Diary on tea bag paper, 2020 depicts a collection of rectangular images that mark out the days in a grid collection of introspective moments. One of these panels, “Day 49 My Universe,” shows a painting of bare feet crossed in front of a pastel wash background. Monica Tiulescu’s Zoom 2020, is a montage of brightly painted faces suggesting a computer screen, faces that appear both together and alone, some blank, others smiling and some with contorted facial distortions.
THE CITY MANY CALL HOME
The city’s iconic landmarks are depicted in some artworks while highlighting the issues that continue to challenge the daily lives of San Franciscans including homelessness, gentrification, income disparities, and the shrinking diversity of the population.
Various forms of abstraction including color field images, geometric work, surreal imagery and works inspired by cartoons and graffiti are also included. American Homes 6, 2019 by Francis Baker reveals a tent city rendered in a blue wash overlaid with a ghostly white outline — suggestive of an architect’s blueprint — of a home in planning. Rehabilitation of the Abandoned Metropolis 2020 by R.L. Butterfield hearkens back to painting of the early 20th century with vibrant blocks of color mapping out a futurism-inspired vision of the San Francisco cityscape.
Video artists represented in the exhibition have used animation, documentary, computer-generated imagery, montage, and narration to communicate themes relating to identity, community, climate change, and ideas about the nature and meaning of art.
The de Young welcomed submissions by artists from nine Bay Area counties to curate this exhibition. Amid great uncertainty, this showcase is, as Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco states, “… a celebratory sign of our community’s strength and resilience.”
The de Young Open: On the Edge: 415-750-3600, famsf.org.
Sharon Anderson is an artist and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at mindtheimage.com.