New Year, New Art: What to See in the Bay Area This Month

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Cathy Lu, ‘Peripheral Visions,’ 2021.  (Courtesy the artist)

There’s not much good to say about the transition from 2021 to 2022, but I’m always looking for a silver lining. So while this has been a fraught and stressful holiday season, the new year means galleries and museums are back to their regular hours, with many of them opening shows in the weeks to come.

Even better: After a 2021 hiatus, January sees the return of the FOG Design+Art Fair, and the Bay Area’s art spaces are putting out their best in anticipation of the out-of-towners’ arrival. Even if you’re not up for milling around Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion, there’s plenty to see and experience (including remotely). Stay safe and enjoy!

Yellow and black textile piece.
Josh Faught, ‘A Positive Light,’ 2019; Hand dyed, hand woven hemp and cotton; abstraction woven from a late 1980s AIDS vigil; textile paint and spray enamel on stretched linen, 92 x 64.5 x 2 inches. (Photo: Patrick Jameson)

Josh Faught, ‘Look Across the Water Into the Darkness, Look for the Fog’

Jan. 13–March 5
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco

San Francisco artist Josh Faught uses textiles to tell stories—about high and low culture, about queer communities, about the objects that come to represent larger political and social histories. (Fittingly, the exhibition title is a quote from John Carpenter’s 1980 horror movie The Fog, about a town haunted by the misdeeds of its past.) His assemblages, featuring hand-woven and hand-dyed textiles, often hold objects sourced from thrift stores or “queer identified internet sellers.” In this exhibition, references to the ’80s and ’90s connect the current environment to another era of illness and paranoia, creating a bridge between past coping mechanisms and present ones.

Textile piece against brick wall, light green, peach and white colors.
Julia Couzens, ‘Flip the Spin,’ 2020. (Diana Jahns Photography)

Julia Couzens

Jan. 14–March 2
Roll Up Project, Oakland


In 2017, artist Squeak Carnwath and community organizer Gary Knecht turned two windows on a Jack London Square warehouse into an alternative gallery space, exhibiting artists two slightly-above-street-level windows for about two months at a time. This low lift, heavy impact mode of exhibiting work was all the more important starting in March 2020, when opportunities for showing and seeing art became few and far between. There’s still time to catch paintings by Michael S. Moore through Jan. 12, then roll by two days later to see Julia Couzens’ textile-based constructions.

Two figures embrace, shirtless, heads turned away from camera
Marcel Pardo Ariza, ‘Les Hermanes,’ 2021. (Courtesy of the artist and Ochi Projects)

‘Image Gardeners’

Jan. 14–April 30
McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco

In this group show, “image gardeners” refers to artists who do not snap pictures and move on opportunistically, but cultivate relationships, preserve memories and collaborate with their subjects. Spanning eight decades of photographic work, the show includes portraits by Diane Arbus and Vivian Maier alongside newly commissioned work by locals like Marcel Pardo Ariza, Carolyn Drake and Chanell Stone. An accompanying short film program, curated by former SFMOMA film program manager Gina Basso, seen only, heard only through someone else’s description, features work by and about women and non-binary artists.

Two sculptures with spindly supports
Work by Sahar Khoury from ‘Orchard.’ (Courtesy the artist and Rebecca Camacho Presents)

Sahar Khoury, ‘Orchard’

Jan. 15–Feb. 18
Rebecca Camacho Presents, San Francisco

In Oakland sculptor Sahar Khoury’s second show in the Tenderloin gallery, the artist presents “landscapes” made of metal, ceramic, paper mâché and “wood pruned from the artists’ own walnut and apple trees.” Khoury’s richly textured multimedia works often incorporate surprising combinations of made and found materials, mingling various fasteners (hardware, belts) with glazed ceramic surfaces bearing satisfying traces of the artist’s hands.

Man eating in a diner, light on his face.
Janet Delaney, ‘Coffee and a Sandwich on Union Square,’ 1985; Archival pigment print, 20 x 20 inches. (Courtesy of the artist and EUQINOM Gallery)

Janet Delaney, ‘New York in the 80s’
Nick Lawrence, ‘Lower East Side Teenagers in the 1960s’

Jan. 15–Feb. 26
EUQINOM, San Francisco

While Janet Delaney is perhaps best known as a prescient documentarian of San Francisco’s changing South of Market neighborhood in the ’70s and ’80s, but around the same time she also turned her lens to the early morning streets of New York—a place she visited while couriering for a local photo lab. Wandering through Chinatown into SoHo and further north, Delaney captured street life, architecture and fashion in beautiful medium-format color film, images now gathered in the new book Red Eye to New York. Alongside her own work, Delaney curates a show of black-and-white images by Berkeley artist Nick Lawrence, who photographed his students—Lower East Side junior high schoolers—in the 1960s.

Headshots of three women
Ricky Weaver, Ashara Ekundayo and Erica Deeman. (Courtesy MoAD)

BLATANT: A Forum on Art, Joy and Rage

Jan. 18, 4–5:30pm
Museum of the African Diaspora via Zoom

This month, the “live zine series” hosted by curator Ashara Ekundayo features Bay Area artist Erica Deeman and Ypsilanti, Michigan-based artist Ricky Weaver in a conversation about their practices and experiences. At a moment when many Bay Area institutions have fully returned to in-person events, it’s great to see MoAD bringing a hybridized approach to their programming —and fully taking advantage of the virtual meeting space’s ability to bring disparately located people together for meaningful discussions.

Four ceramic sculptures.
Cathy Lu, ‘American Dream Pillows.’ (Photo: Cathy Lu)

Cathy Lu, ‘Interior Garden’

Jan. 20–Dec. 17
Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco

Richmond artist Cathy Lu presents a year-long exhibition of new, large-scale ceramics, referencing two creation myths: the Immortal Peach Garden and the Garden of Eden. The show promises to become a contemplative space—one where visitors can reflect on the promises versus the realities of life in the United States of immigrants and people of color. Given what Lu was able to accomplish in the very small space of Irving Street Projects for her steamy 2018 installation Peach Garden, the more expansive opportunities at the CCC won’t disappoint.

Black-and-white graphic images
Tattoo flash designed by Chris Martin. (Courtesy the artist and ICA SF)

Chris Martin, ‘Ancient as Time’

Jan. 22–April 16
ICA San Francisco

Before the new Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco officially opens in the fall of 2022, the space will play host to a series of temporary programs called “Meantime.” Up first: an installation by Oakland artist Chris Martin of soft sculptures and hand-sewn banners. Those banners, which measure four to 15 feet long, feature black-and-white graphics that reference traditional tattoo designs. (Martin is also a tattoo artist; pandemic permitting, his project will end with a pop-up parlor later this year.) Familiar nautical motifs shift in scale from skin to cotton banners— becoming monumental illustrations—and reclamations—of the African American experience.

Light-skinned hands use a tool on a dark clay teacup.
‘Untitled (Finishing a Teacup Edited),’ c. 1970; photographic print from the Edith and Brian Heath Collection in the Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley. (Oakland Museum of California)

‘Edith Heath: A Life in Clay’

Jan. 29–Oct. 30
Oakland Museum of California

OMCA was hit hard by the October 2021 rains, leading to weeks of closure and a further delay to their Edith Heath exhibition (a show that was originally supposed to open in 2020). I’ve recommended it before and I’m recommending it again, hoping that this time the forces of nature and the still pernicious pandemic won’t stand in the way of this well-deserved look back at Heath’s contributions to the field of ceramics.


This article has been updated to reflect changes in the ICA San Francisco’s programming.