No one’s summer style is exactly the same -- some people can’t wait to break out the flip-flops, while for others, the sight of bare toes is anxiety-inducing. Which is exactly why there’s no one-size-fits-all summer exhibition guide. Maybe you want to get some Vitamin D with your art viewing. Maybe you want to see the one thing everyone will be talking about for years to come. And maybe, just maybe, you want to escape the crowded museum for a small-scale viewing experience.
Like your favorite shoe store, the Bay Area has something for everyone. So slip on whatever footwear you prefer (I’m a sandal gal myself) and add some visual art to your scenic summer plans.
If you only go to one thing
Revelations: Art from the African American South
de Young Museum, San Francisco
June 3, 2017–April 1, 2018
Okay, so I know I said there’s no one-size-fits-all guide, but Revelations should be on everyone’s summer viewing list. In February 2017, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announced the acquisition of 62 pieces of art from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting the work of contemporary African-American artists from the American South. (Remember the Quilts of Gee’s Bend, exhibited at the de Young in 2006? Courtesy of Souls Grown Deep.) A short four months after the announcement, Revelations showcases the entirety of the acquisition, with the museum’s first floor galleries filled with paintings, root and branch sculptures, metal sculptures from “yard shows,” and even more beautiful quilts. As curator Timothy Anglin Burgard notes, this acquisition fills a gaping hole in the museum’s American art collection -- and the work doesn’t shy away from addressing the roots of that institutional oversight: from slavery and segregation to the civil rights movement. Revelations is the perfect title for this show.
If you’re a global citizen
New Urban Legend: Resistance of Space
41 Ross, San Francisco
May 17–July 16, 2017
The Chinese Culture Center’s current exhibition is actually three mini-exhibitions linking artwork from three very different locations: San Francisco, China’s Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong. Exploring everything from public transportation and grassroots organizing to the effect of Kafka-esque bureaucracy on ordinary citizens, the pieces from abroad open windows to different ways of seeing. On the local front, newly commissioned and exciting works by artists Weston Teruya and Laura Boles Faw reflect on just who and what is memorialized in San Francisco. In his video Ground, Teruya embodies the history of resistance and loss tied to the I-Hotel, slamming paper sculptures (a sledgehammer and a building crane) against the sidewalk in acts of ritualistic destruction. Boles Faw’s installation draws from the ancient Egyptian tradition of wearing false beards as a symbol of power. Through a pleasing arrangement of sculpture, video and virtual reality she plays with representations of gender and authority in the many public sculptures of Golden Gate Park.
If you’d rather be playing baseball
Mike Mandel: Good 70s
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
May 20–Aug. 20, 2017
Mike Mandel might agree with you that there’s no better sounds on a warm summer day than the crack of a bat and the cheer of a crowd -- so long as it’s a Giants crowd. Mandel’s love of good straightforward fun makes for laugh-out-loud moments in this mini retrospective of work from the 1970s. Among the collected treasures is a full set of Mandel’s Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards, which present photographers like the legendary Imogen Cunningham as baseball stars complete with stats, quotes and hilarious poses. From a staged mall performance to timed self-portraits, Mandel manages to convey his own excitement about the expanding field of photography throughout all of his work -- and that excitement is contagious.
If you’re feeling all the feels
Sophie Calle: Missing
Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco
June 29–Aug. 20, 2017
Not gonna make it to this year’s trifecta of European art exhibitions? (The Venice Biennale, documenta and Skulptur Projekte Münster, like planetary bodies, are in rare alignment.) Sad about missing out? Let a little bit of Europe come to you. Ars Citizen brings five of Sophie Calle’s installations to locations across the Fort Mason campus for an unprecedented survey of Paris-based conceptual artist’s work. Calle’s intimate observations on absence, loss and love are autobiographical, but deeply relatable, and perhaps even more so for Bay Area audiences. Calle has a special relationship to the Bay Area -- her artistic career began in a Bolinas cemetery almost 40 years ago. Intrigued? Book your free reservation now.
If you have a wallet
The Museum of Capitalism
55 Harrison St, Suite 201, Oakland
June 17–Aug. 20, 2017
This one’s mysterious, which makes it all the more enticing. The experimental, temporary Museum of Capitalism opens in Jack London Square with (at last count) over 60 artists and collaborations addressing the ideology, history and legacy of capitalism through their work. The museum’s website seems to position the project in some moment at which we have achieved a post-capitalist economy. “Much of the evidence of capitalism is either eroding over time or simply not known or easily accessible to the public,” it states. “Our ambition is to connect and integrate these many efforts before the evidence is erased forever.” Whether aspirational or apocryphal, the Museum of Capitalism promises to deliver an impressive amount of work from artists who routinely challenge the social, political and economic status quo.