Remember when fall meant a fresh wardrobe, new pens, and an empty Trapper-Keeper? It was showcase time, when all the pent-up energy of summer school (or all the pent-up stories of summer camp) manifested themselves as a reset button -- new teachers, new school, new social order -- accompanied by a newly awkward class photo.
That same nervous excitement accompanies the fall season of exhibition programming. September marks the end of summer lulls, August vacations, and slapdash group shows. This fall, in particular, has been worth the wait: SFMOMA is on the go, alternative spaces are asserting their long-term influence, and solo shows to watch include ground-breaking mid-career surveys alongside thrilling solo shows from emerging artists. The magnitude of programming in the months to come can be daunting. And so: the list. Due to the constraints of this forum and in the interests of concision, I've selected just 12 items out of a jam-packed schedule. Treat yourself to a new pair of shoes in honor of the good old days and start making your way out into a Bay Area full of exciting art.
This is the Sound of Someone Losing the Plot
Sept. 7 - Oct. 26
Catharine Clark Gallery (248 Utah St., SF)
Catharine Clark is just one of five galleries reopening in the Potrero Hill neighborhood this fall, joining a small community of arts institutions in the area and launching a brand new art walk on September 7, 4-7pm. Picking up on the back-to-school theme, gallery artist Anthony Discenza curates a group show of nine artists with ties to nearby California College of the Arts, bringing alumni and faculty together to present "works that play with non-agreements of subject and object, incomplete utterances and thwarted expectations." The match-up of familiar Bay Area names with fresh talents inaugurates the new space with refreshing relevance.
For more information, visit cclarkgallery.com.
SECA Art Award
Sept. 14 - Nov. 17
Various Bay Area locations
Instead of a white-walls gallery show, this year's SECA Art Award presents work in "unexpected places." The four 2012 SECA Art Award winners, Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, and David Wilson will present work in locations ranging from downtown Oakland to San Francisco's Neptune Society Columbarium to sfmoma.org to the neighborhood surrounding the now-empty Third Street building. This is the first site-specific SECA Art Award show, and possibly the most interesting as a result. Not only will it get visitors to explore unfamiliar parts of the Bay Area, it marks the institution's recognition of site-specificity as a crucial element of contemporary artmaking. Here's hoping it sets a positive tone for future museum-funded Bay Area-wide projects.
For more information, visit sfmoma.org.
The Illuminated Library
Sept. 21 - Oct. 17
SF State University (1600 Holloway Ave., SF)
Consider this exhibition the back-to-school reading list you always wished for but never had. Highlighting the longstanding relationship between artists and books, this exhibition includes illuminated musical scores, children's books by local painters Clare Rojas and Jason Jägel, Nina Katchadourian's book spine photo-poems, sculptures made from books, pop-ups, and more. Wonderfully diverse in terms of materials, artist representation, and time period (covering the 1400s to the present day), The Illuminated Library is sure to be a joyous exploration of art in and inspired by all things bookish.
For more information, visit gallery.sfsu.edu.
39 Forever Birthday Block Party & Opening Reception for The Long Conversation
Southern Exposure (3030 20th St., SF)
To celebrate 39 years of fantastic programming and support of Bay Area artists, students, and ambitious Alternative Exposure schemes, Southern Exposure (full disclosure: I work there) is throwing one heck of a party on September 21. Coinciding with the fall exhibition, a cross-generational group show of events, performances, installations, videos and sculptures, the 39th Birthday Block Party promises food trucks, live action painting, and the opportunity to have artist Pawel Kruk sing you an intimate serenade.
For more information, visit soex.org.
Walking Symposium: The Field Trip -- The Abstraction of Politics and The Politics of Abstraction
Angel Island State Park
Created by the Center for Tactical Magic and led by co-founder Aaron Gach, this day-long event includes a round trip ferry ride, lunch, and site-specific discussions with or presentations by everyone from SFMOMA curator Dominic Willsdon to a former military remote viewer. All for just $30. The day promises to be strange, fascinating, intellectually stimulating, and a good hike all rolled into one.
For more information, visit sfmoma.org.
Citydance: An Evening of Outdoor Screenings
Inspired by Anna Halprin's experimental choreography and 1977 piece Citydance, Kadist organizes an evening of outdoor screenings of nine video pieces on public buildings in San Francisco. International artists will project images of their own cities onto the walls of ours, linking San Francisco to a network of global urban spaces, contemporary art making, and politically-minded community. Further echoing the original performance, a poet will read at each of the nine venues. While details are still hazy, Citydance sounds like a remarkable way to view San Francisco anew -- with the lights of other places dancing over it.
For more information, visit kadist.org.
Work in Progress: Considering Utopia
Oct. 3 - Jan. 20
SF Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission St., SF)
The CJM presents new work by Oded Hirsch, Ohad Meromi, and Elisheva Biernoff exploring the concept of utopia in both a Jewish context and "from a contemporary perspective that emphasizes community and participation." Hirsch documents his own kibbutz in videos and photographs. Meromi constructs colorful abstract sculptures in reference to an architectural space. And Biernoff provides visitors with an interactive magnet painting. Construct your own utopia!
For more information, visit cjm.org.
Facundo Argañaraz: Tonight Tonight
Oct. 10 - Nov. 20
Highlight Gallery (17 Kearny St., SF)
Referencing Jorge Luis Borges referencing The Thousand and One Nights, emerging artist Facundo Argañaraz mounts his first solo exhibition at Highlight Gallery with new paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Adding to the layers of appropriation already customary to his work, the pieces in Tonight Tonight will contain images of each other, between layers of screenprint and spraypaint, in a loop of self-referentiality that will satisfy even those unfamiliar with his previous work.
For more information, visit highlightgallery.com.
Twisted Sisters: Reimaging Urban Portraiture
Oct. 16 - Jan. 17
SF City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Pl, SF)
In collaboration with the city of Zurich, the SFAC mounts this exhibition of commissioned new photographic work from San Francisco artists Tammy Rae Carland, Pablo Guardiola, John Chiara, Sanaz Mazinani, and Lindsey White alongside Zurich artists Bianca Brunner, Cat Tuong Nguyen, Georg Gatsas, Dominic Hodel, and Marianne Müller. Based on images from the show's first realization in Zurich, the exhibition promises to conceptually challenge the notion of "portraiture" and bring new international work into our city's contemporary art scene. I'm especially looking forward to seeing large-scale art images on downtown kiosks.
For more information, visit sfartscommission.org/gallery.
Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video
Oct. 16 - Jan. 5
Cantor Arts Center (328 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA)
This large-scale traveling exhibition -- the artist's first major museum retrospective -- gathers three decades of photography and video work centered on Weems' impressive documentation of what she considers "the human multitude," focusing on race, gender, and class across time and geography. If Palo Alto seems a bit far for art viewing, the exhibition's next stop is New York's Guggenheim, so be sure to visit while it's at least a drive away.
For more information, visit museum.stanford.edu.
Anoka Faruqee: Substance and Accident
Oct. 19 - Dec. 7
Hosfelt Gallery (260 Utah St., SF)
Faruqee paints mesmerizing abstract meditations on line and color, layering curving stripes to create handmade moire patterns. Balancing striking graphic qualities with material imperfections, the paintings vibrate with simultaneous contrast and grating colors. If you haven't been to Hosfelt's relatively new space in Potrero Hill, make the journey for this show, which is sure to bound off the luminous white walls.
For more information, visit hosfeltgallery.com.
Bay Motion: Capturing San Francisco Bay on Film & A Cinematic Study of Fog in San Francisco
Nov. 9 - Jun. 29
Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., Oakland, CA)
Two film programs at the Oakland Museum capture the essence of the Bay Area, past and present. Film and video from the Prelinger Archives explores how the area appeared on film. With clips from Hollywood camera people, travelers, industrial studios and home moviemakers, the exhibition democratizes the documentation process, in classic Prelinger style. Filmmaker Sam Green and cinematographer Andy Black narrow their focus to our constant elemental companion: fog. Contemplating the many feelings fog evokes, this film captures its endlessly varied shapes and textures. Make it a double feature!
For more information, visit museumca.org.