Musician Lou Reed, who was also an accomplished art photographer, famously implored, "Take a walk on the wild side," an exultation that can be applied to this fall's visual art offerings. Here are 10 exhibits that demand to be seen in person:
"Hardly Strictly Warren Hellman"Anyone lucky enough to meet Warren Hellman, or see him perform at his signature cultural creation, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, witnessed the utter joy and humanity that emanated from his being (and his banjo). The Contemporary Jewish Museum assembles rarely-seen videos of Hellman's performances in Golden Gate Park, along with special personal possessions like a banjo signed by star performers and a jacket covered with rhinestones and a Star of David. The exhibit opens just in time for another edition of Hellman's festival — the third one since Hellman passed away in 2011.
Sept. 18-October 2016, Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F. Call 655-7800 or visit thecjm.org.
"@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz"
The Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei, who was imprisoned for almost three months in 2011 — and who still can't leave his country because China's government confiscated his passport — creates a large-scale art exhibit for a site that symbolizes the measures authorities will take to utterly confine prisoners. Alcatraz stopped being a working prison in 1963, but its buildings and bars still evoke the harsh realities of confinement — and Ai Weiwei echoes that atmosphere with sound installations, sculptures, and mixed-media works that promise to tackle issues of freedom and promise to be as thought-provoking as anything he's ever done.
Sept. 27-April 26, Alcatraz. Call 362-9330 or visit aiweiweialcatraz.org.
"Annie Kevans: Women and the History of Art"
In the late 1800s, Suzanne Valadon modeled for Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir (she's the focus of Renoir's celebrated Dance at Bougival) and became close to other acclaimed French artists. Although Valadon herself became a well-regarded painter, popular history has generally marginalized her artistic triumphs. British painter Annie Kevans has dug out a long line of female artists who've gotten short shrift, including American painters like Alma Thomas, and given them a reason to be rediscovered in a series that is also a thoughtful feminist critique of art history.
Oct. 2-Dec. 20, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 464 Sutter St., S.F. Call 677-0770 or visit jenkinsjohnsongallery.com.
"Tom Lieber: Zero Gravity"
Tom Lieber's paintings make your head spin. They're steeped in the traditions of abstract painting but not beholden to them, and his paintings' lines, swirls, blotches, and color schemes add up to something original. For Lieber's latest exhibit — his third solo show with Dolby Chadwick — the St. Louis native revisited some previous works to add new layers of what can rightfully be called "painterly intrigue." Lieber says he puts his "interior life" onto his canvases. Whatever it is, his paintings are worth contemplating.
Oct. 2-Nov. 1, Dolby Chadwick Gallery, 210 Post St., S.F. Call 956-3560 or visit dolbychadwickgallery.com.
With a history of doing graffiti and a formal education in communication design, the Italian artist called Moneyless (aka Teo Pirisi) has found his calling doing artwork that combines his passions. The result: Riveting geometrical works that border on psychedelia and are made for both galleries and for outdoor settings. At White Walls, Moneyless is arriving in late September for a residency that will produce the panel works on display. Moneyless will also do a site installation, and might — just might — do a work that ends up in a public park.
Oct. 11-Nov. 1, at White Walls Gallery, 886 Geary St., S.F. Call 931-1500 or visit whitewallsf.com.
"Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California"
In collaboration with SFMOMA, the Oakland Museum of California dissects four artistic epochs of the last 70 years: The 1930s and the circle around Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo; the 1940s and '50s and the painters and photographers connected to the California School of Fine Arts (Diebenkorn, David Park, et al.); the 1960s and '70s and the artists affiliated with UC Davis (Thiebaud, Robert Arneson, et al.); and the 1990s and current scene that's associated with the Mission District (Barry McGee, Ruby Neri, et al.). Each period is worth the attention. Getting all four is like winning a lottery.
Sept. 20-April 12, at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Call (510) 318-8400 or visit museumca.org.
"Keira Kotler: I Look for Light" & "Rex Yuasa: Nascent"
The spaciousness of Brian Gross Fine Art's gallery, and the light that pours into its Potrero Hill setting, make it the ideal venue to see the work of Keira Kotler and Rex Yuasa. Kotler's new acrylic paintings, like her previous work, purposefully play with light and the perception of light as they navigate different spectrums of a color scheme. Yuasa, meanwhile, creates paintings that explode with color. They're almost out of control, with palettes of blues and oranges and magentas and circles and shades all competing for attention, but the end result is altogether satisfying. In the light of day, Yuasa's and Kotler's work will be nicely complementary.
Nov. 1-Dec. 23 at Brian Gross Fine Art, 248 Utah St., S.F. Call 788-1050 or visit briangrossfineart.com.
"Binh Danh: Views of San Francisco"
The daguerreotype photos that Binh Danh took of San Francisco make the city seem post-historic — like something from the ending of the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes, when Charlton Heston discovers a symbol of New York that's frozen in time. But Danh's new work is mesmerizing, not depressing, and it elevates San Francisco anew into the pantheon of great American cities, and should elevate Danh's stature as a Bay Area artist of note.
Nov. 6-Dec. 20 at Haines Gallery, 49 Geary St., S.F. Call 397-8114 or visit hainesgallery.com.
"Keith Haring: The Political Line"
Keith Haring's artwork is instantly recognizable — it always has been — and this major exhibit promises to make Haring's artistic motivations more understandable. Haring's concerns were wide-ranging, touching on all aspects of social inequality and injustice. Haring's early career was devoted to upending the prevailing art system. As he noted in a journal entry, he tried "to expose the system and politics of the art world by breaking as many rules as possible while at the same time building a stronger and stronger position as an artist in in the world." That he accomplished many times over.
Nov. 8-Feb. 16 at the de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive (Golden Gate Park), S.F. Call 750-3600 or visit deyoung.famsf.org.