Holidays and Beyond: Art

From a retrospective on hip-hop style to an investigation into Hitchcock's Vertigo, the season's exhibits cover virtually everything.

There Is No Alas Where I Live
Dec. 14-Jan. 27, at Jenkins Johnson Gallery,
Curated by Ann Jastrab, the longtime gallery director at RayKo Photo Center, this exhibit features nine artists whose work embodies a sentiment that Jastrab finds so illuminating in Theodore Roethke’s poem called I Need, I Need, where the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet writes that there’s no room in life for pity or the idea of “alas.” Jastrab sees that sentiment in Wedding Party, Wesaam Al-Badry’s photo of celebration in the economically challenged Mississippi Delta; in Hombre con tuba y chuya, Paccarik Orue’s photo of a musician in Cerro de Pasco, a city in central Peru that’s been degraded through mining; and in other images that pinpoint people and moments that belie an easy interpretation. “You can’t be alive, truly alive,” Jastrab has said, “and use that word, ‘alas.’ ”

Lynn Hershman Leeson: VertiGhost
Dec. 16-March 25, at the Legion of Honor,
Hitchcock’s Vertigo centers around a detective (Jimmy Stewart) who follows a mysterious woman (Kim Novak) who takes him, in a crucial scene, to the Legion of Honor, where she’s enraptured by a painting, Portrait of Carlotta, that eerily resembles herself. Same hair bun. Same bouquet. The Fine Arts Museums commissioned artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson to make a movie about authenticity and identity that uses Vertigo as a jumping-off point, and Leeson incorporates an extant copy of Portrait of Carlotta; the museums’ Pierre-Edouard Baranowski, a painting by Modigliani whose provenance was questioned for many years; recreated scenes; and interviews with art experts and a psychologist. “VertiGhost” also includes a blurred version of Portrait of Carlotta with a camera that records Legion of Honor art-goers and adds them to Leeson’s film and to a hologram that will go out into the Legion, into the de Young near Pierre-Edouard Baranowski, and onto a website.

Way Bay
Jan. 17-May 6, at BAMPFA,
With “Way Bay,” BAMPFA is attempting something that has apparently never been done at a major Bay Area arts institution. The show surveys the region’s arts and culture by going back three centuries, so that Ohlone work has as much significance as pieces by well-known artists of the 20th century (like Joan Brown, Jay DeFeo, and Richard Diebenkorn), those of lesser-known modern artists, and work by people who straddle different categories and genres. It’s especially keen on people like Daniel Higgs and Kyle Ranson, the tattoo- and graffiti-influenced artists who collaborated for years on a collection of odd drawings. The exhibit, which puts many women and people of color at the center, “is not a conventional historical survey,” BAMPFA Director and Chief Curator Lawrence Rinder, who co-organized the exhibition, has said, “but rather an open-ended and provocative attempt to reveal hidden currents and connections among works from disparate times, cultures, and communities.”

The Train: RFK’s Last Journey
March 17-June 10 at SFMOMA,
The assassinations of John F. Kennedy (1963) and Robert F. Kennedy (1968) were seminal moments in American history — wretched events documented by a mass media in which photography and television were increasingly the medium of choice. Who can forget the photo of Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in aboard Air Force One? Or the photo of 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket? In this exhibit, SFMOMA devotes the space to three projects that revisit RFK’s last journey: the train trip that took his body from New York to Washington, D.C. for burial. Along with photojournalist Paul Fusco’s images of grieving people who greeted the train along its route, “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey” features newly revisited photos and home movies from mourners who recorded the train, and a new, seven-minute re-enactment of the wrenching trip.

Carolyn Drake: Wild Pigeon
March 17-Sept. 23 at SFMOMA,
The mountainous region of China that many Uyghur (WEE-GORE) people call Uyghuristan is a Muslim-majority area where they speak a Turkic language. Historically, it’s been a crossroads of cultures and wars — as it is today, with Beijing bringing in Han Chinese to de-populate Uyghuristan as a Uyghur-majority area. American photographer Carolyn Drake visited the region (which is also called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) on and off between 2007 and 2013, and her images became collaborations as she asked people to pencil, sketch, and otherwise reassemble them. She called her project “Wild Pigeon,” after a fable written by a Uyghur author, Nurmuhemmet Yasin, who Chinese authorities jailed for inciting separatism. Yasin reportedly died in prison. This exhibit promises to be full of the region’s life.

RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom
March 24-Aug. 12 at the Oakland Museum of California,
In Shea Serrano’s widely acclaimed The Rap Year Book, Ice-T writes that, “Rap’s gonna be around forever. I don’t know where it’s headed, though.” Instead of prognostication, it’s easier to look back and reflect on the moment — which this exhibit will do, not just on rap but the whole hip-hop movement, which is almost 50 years old. “RESPECT” shines a spotlight on Bay Area artists who contributed to hip-hop’s ongoing development and takes a big-picture look at the movement with photography, art, and artifacts from hip-hop’s early days. Art-goers can even practice hip-hop in a performance space with beat-making turntables that the museum is calling “Hip-Hop Dojo.” Demonstrations and workshops are also scheduled in what will be a “hands-on” and “feet-on” exhibit.  

Check out more from our Holidays and Beyond issue here:

At the Midway, Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Year
Breakfast of Champions rings in 2018 at the Dogpatch venue with increasingly big artistic ambitions.

Holidays and Beyond: Books
A new novel by Dave Eggers, essays by Zadie Smith, and Denis Johnson’s posthumous short-story collection.

Holidays and Beyond: Comedy
How bad do you want to see Bill Murray? He’s coming this Friday to the Masonic.

Holidays and Beyond: Film
Star Wars, Madeline L’Engle, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role. It’s so much more than Paddington 2.

Holidays and Beyond: Music
St. Vincent is coming! St. Vincent is coming!

Holidays and Beyond: Theater
From the Golden Girls (in drag) to Harold Pinter to Marga Gomez’s newest comic masterpiece, it’s a season of the highbrow and the lowbrow (but never the middlebrow).

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