Relics Revisited

Art lovers, history buffs, and science geeks get their fill this fall.

I Feel I Am Free But I Know I Am Not

Sept. 4–Nov. 20 at SF Camerawork, 657 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Call 512-2020 or visit www.sfcamerawork.org.
No passive gallery viewing here — every project in this photography show emphasizes participation. Visitors can interact with exhibits such as Tim Sullivan's rowboat, which is set in front of a video camera that merges the participants with scenes on a video. Roger Sayre's "Sitting" project allows visitors to have their portraits taken by a large pinhole camera similar to the ones used by 19th-century daguerreotypists. The challenge is to stay as still as possible (the headrest that's provided helps) for one hour, which is how long the exposure takes to develop. The resulting portrait, blurry or not, will be added to the exhibition. Performance artists Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Violeta Luna and their La Pocha Nostra collaborators create "radical performance karaoke" events, costuming participants and arranging them in poses that parody "colonial practices of representation" such as the freak show, the strip joint, and the Indian trading post.

The Hewitt Collection of African-American Art

Oct. 15–Jan. 11 at the Museum of the African Diaspora, St. Regis Hotel, 685 Mission (at Third St.), S.F. Call 358-7200 or visit www.moadsf.org.
By collecting judiciously from 1949 to 1998, John and Vivian Hewitt, a medical journalist and a librarian, managed to amass one of the largest surveys of contemporary African-American art in the world. The collection travels to San Francisco this fall, and features work from artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Ann Tanksley, as well as contemporary artists like Jonathan Green. Most of the 54 paintings, lithographs and collages are moderately scaled (Lawrence's paintings, for example, tend to be around 18 by 12 inches), and many are figurative; viewing the collection feels as intimate as walking through the Hewitts' home.

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

Oct. 24–Jan. 25 at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin (at McAllister), S.F. Call 581-3500 or visit www.asianart.org.
The story of the Bactrian gold reads like a fable. Soviet archaeologists discovered the 2,000-year-old cache buried in an ancient hill in Afghanistan in 1979, just before their country's tanks rolled in. During subsequent wars, the collection of some 20,000 gold ornaments went missing and was feared lost to the black market. In 2003, however, Afghan President Hamid Karzai found the gold squirreled away in the presidential palace bank vault in Kabul. Some of these remarkable pieces, which bear witness to the cultural ties Afghanistan had during the era with other countries along the Silk Road, will be shown this fall as part of this amazing touring exhibit. Finely filigreed pins, shimmering crowns, and limestone sculpture are some of the highlights, which, sadly, may never be seen in their home country.

Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes

Oct. 25–Jan. 18 at the de Young Art Center, 2501 Irving (at 26th Ave.), S.F. Call 750-3638 or visit www.famsf.org.
Lin, famous for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., has also created buildings, sculptures, and earthworks. "Systematic Landscapes" brings together her various interests in a gallery context. The installations, including "2x4 Landscape (2006)," a huge hill built out of 65,000 boards set on end, mimic natural earth formations while simultaneously hinting at large-scale architectural models. The show opens concurrently with the unveiling of "Where the Land Meets the Sea," a sprawling wire sculpture commissioned for the California Academy of Sciences. Small-scale models and sketches balance out the show.

The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now

Nov. 8–Feb. 8 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Call 357-4000 or visit www.sfmoma.org.
In Joseph Beuys' theory of creative collaboration, everyone is an artist. SFMOMA explores the increasing popularity of the participatory approach to art with an exciting survey that includes historic projects and installations by Beuys and John Cage (notably his silent composition, 4'33"), alongside more contemporary artists such as Erwin Wurm and his "one-minute sculptures" that use ordinary objects like buckets. The exhibit promises to explore the "social sculpture" aspects of Internet platforms such as MySpace and Second Life, and will also encourage visitors to contribute through public programs. There will be happenings, and they will be happening.

Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin

Nov. 15–Jan. 4 at the Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave. (at Clement), S.F. Call 863-3330 or visit www.thinker.org.
We hear so much about Leonardo da Vinci — really, he's been rammed down our throats since, like, second grade — that it's hard to get excited about yet another touring exhibit about him. Until we read the press release and gave it some thought. These are da Vinci's actual doodles — his brainstorming, his sketches, his fantasies — on paper. And some 550 years after they were made, they still exist (in precarious form; the exhibit is carefully designed to minimize stress), and we could be inches away from them. Forget about being blasé: This is exciting stuff. Also on display will be da Vinci's study of the movement of birds, which comes with his notations about how a human might replicate their ability to fly.


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