Winter Arts Guide: Art

From Rodin to the Summer of Love to the Empresses of the Imperial Court — that's drag, not China — this winter is bursting with exhibits.

Auguste Rodin: The Centenary Installation

Situated in the entrance to the Legion of Honor, Rodin’s The Thinker may be San Francisco’s most iconic sculpture — a six-foot bronze testament to the artist’s ability to cast things in perfect proportion. But The Thinker is always an entry point, not an end point, into Rodin’s oeuvre. And this exhibit, timed to the 100th anniversary of his death, gives us the full Rodin — 50 objects, small and large, all of which are owned by the FineArts Museums, whose founders had a direct connection to Rodin’s French studio.
Jan. 28 – April 9, Legion of Honor, legionofhonor.famsf.org

The Golden Decade

Last year marked the publication of The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-55, which chronicled the years that photography’s heavyweights — Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, et al. — taught at a school that’s now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. “The Golden Decade” extends the book into an exhibit (and a Feb. 4 book signing) that fleshes out the work of students who graduated from the program.
Feb. 4 – March 4, Minnesota Street Project, minnesotastreetproject.com

Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia

The three arrows go round and round, and where they stop — well, Gary D. Anderson knew. In 1970, he designed the recycle symbol that has since become as recognizable as a “STOP” sign. Anderson’s work is included in an exhibit that organizers (the Walker Art Center and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) say is “the first comprehensive exploration of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s and its impact on global art, architecture, and design.” Berkeley, which helped birth that counterculture, is an appropriate place to review its longstanding impact.
Feb. 8 – May 21, BAMPFA, bampfa.berkeley.edu

Tomb Treasures: New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty

During the last centuries of Egypt’s Pharaonic dynasties, when the country’s rulers were still burying their dead in elaborate rituals designed to carry the bodies into the afterlife, Chinese rulers were doing the same thing — something this exhibit of recent excavations unfolds in elaborate detail. Among the finds: a royal coffin from the second century BCE that’s festooned with all manner of beautiful jade, and a jade, armor-like suit that’s also layered with gold.
Feb. 17- May 28, asianart.org

Ralph Eugene Meatyard: American Mystic

The masks that Ralph Eugene Meatyard put on children made them look like outcasts, or kids who wandered in from a Lord of the Flies setting. But the youngsters were Meatyard’s offspring, whom he used to experiment with his odd vision of the world. Was Meatyard, an optician-turned-photographer from Kentucky who died in 1972, a mystic of sorts? This exhibit says “yes.”
March 9 – May 6, Fraenkel Gallery, fraenkelgallery.com

Matisse/Diebenkorn

Not by chance, the painting that Richard Diebenkorn made in 1962, Interior with Doorway, is similar in name and composition to Henri Matisse’s 1918 work, Interior with Violin. Throughout his life, Diebenkorn paid homage to the French master’s work — a synchronicity that SFMOMA explores with this exhibit, which showcases 60 paintings and drawings by Diebenkorn and 40 by Matisse. The two artists of different generations — one a Californian, one a Parisian — never met, and Diebenkorn is known more for his abstractions than the figurative work that Matisse is associated with. But “Matisse/Diebenkorn” connects the many dots between them.
March 11 – May 29, sfmoma.org

Over the Top: Math Bass and the Imperial Court SF

For more than 50 years, the Imperial Council of San Francisco has crowned Emperors, Empresses, and other title-holders (like Mr. Cowboy and Imperial Queen Mother) in events that have raised important monies for LGBT causes. For a few years, the Los Angeles artist Math Bass has created works that use visual clues to play with popular culture. The Oakland Museum of California puts their work side by side, in a way that should bring out the best of these playful, colorful creations.
April 1 – July 23, Oakland Museum of California, museumca.org

The Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll

Fifty years ago, not far from the de Young Museum, thousands of people frolicked in Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields at the “Human Be-In.” Timothy Leary famously told those assembled to, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” The subsequent summer months turned into what’s now called the Summer of Love — a period of unprecedented musical expression and artistic vision, including posters that advertised concerts and psychedelic dress styles that were “far out.” Like BAMPFA’s “Hippie Modernism,” “The Summer of Love” will reflect on a time that is still very much influential.
April 8 – Aug. 20, de Young Museum, deyoung.famsf.org

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