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11 Art Shows to See in the Bay Area this Fall

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Find more of KQED’s picks for the best fall 2023 events here.

Fall is a flashy time in the visual art world. So many of the region’s artists are also teachers that early September brings a refreshing “back-to-school” energy to the scene. After summer group shows and lazy August hours, the fall months are a time for impressive solo exhibitions, regional surveys and grand reopenings.

Concrete courtyard with tables bounded by gray containers, one with "120710" painted on the side in large white numbers
The exterior of 120710, a new not-for-profit exhibition space in Berkeley. (Courtesy 120710)

‘Dude, Where’s My School?’

Aug. 26–Sept. 23
127010, 1207 10th Street, Berkeley

Where does that back-to-school energy go when the school in question has slowly, painfully, run itself into the ground? A new not-for-profit space in Berkeley has organized a group show of alumni and faculty from the San Francisco Art Institute, which shuttered in the summer of 2022. So much changed during the pandemic, but those connected to SFAI learned — in a very hard way — about the importance of not relying on large institutions. With Dude, Where’s My School?, curator Josh Hash is interested in creating new supportive structures and artistic communities — ones bound by trust and generosity rather than a shared experience of staggering debt.

Painting of woman laying on red couch surrounded by birds and ferns
Morris Hirshfield, ‘Girl with Pigeons,’ 1942. (© 2023 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society, NY)

‘Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered’

Sept. 6, 2023–Jan. 21, 2024
Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University

Morris Hirshfield only began painting at the age of 65, after a career as a tailor and slipper manufacturer in Brooklyn. He would produce just 78 works in his lifetime, painstakingly layered pieces that conjured both adoration and mockery (Peggy Guggenheim collected him, but a contemporary art critic referred to him as the “Master of Two Left Feet”). Now, his highly patterned and vibrant paintings of women, cats and other animals are coming to the Cantor from the American Folk Art Museum, to be hung alongside work by other Surrealist and self-taught artists, cementing his weird and wonderful work into the art historical canon.

The top and inside of a candy box with miniature ceramic sculptures of various food inside paper trays
David Gilhooly, ’10 lb. Sampler,’ 1989; on view in ‘Nuts and Who’s: A Candy Store Sampler’ at the San José Museum of Art. (© Estate of David Gilhooly; Courtesy of San José Museum of Art)

Big Northern California Energy

‘To the Max!’
Sept. 8, 2023–Aug. 25, 2024
di Rosa, Napa

Two shows at Bay Area institutions honor the wonderful extra-ness that has long defined Northern California art-making. At the di Rosa, a permanent collection show called To the Max! gathers the work of 10 artists who ardently resisted 20th-century minimalism, instead luxuriating in the Pattern & Decoration movement, bold colors, inventive materials and a true sense of abundance.

‘Nuts and Who’s: A Candy Store Sampler’
Aug. 11, 2023–Feb. 25, 2024
San Jose Museum of Art

Pair that with a trip south to the San Jose Museum of Art for Nuts and Who’s, a sampling of work from Adeliza McHugh’s legendary Candy Store Gallery, which occupied a small house in Folsom from 1968 to 1985. The Candy Store was a meeting place — of Funk art, Nut art and Chicago’s Hairy Who scene — that brought artists like Maija Peeples-Bright, Robert Arneson, Clayton Bailey, Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt into each other’s orbit for lasting, irreverent and delightfully punny artistic conversations.

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A wooden chair with an IV rack next to it, wire and a car battery hanging from its metal arms
A work by Andrew Suntaek Ingersoll from his exhibition at Recology in May 2023. (Courtesy the artist)

Andrew Sungtaek Ingersoll, ‘Breathing House’

Sept. 10–Oct. 14
Et al., San Francisco

I’ve been looking forward to another solo show from Andrew Sungtaek Ingersoll ever since his assured debut, 38 North, opened at Delaplane in December 2021. Now, after a stunning crustacean-themed entry in the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby (made with Oliver Hawk Holden) and a Recology residency, he’s bringing his kinetic and sound installations to Et al.’s expanded Chinatown space. Upstairs, rice cookers repurposed as subwoofers will create a low ambient hum of sweeping bass frequencies; downstairs, wobbly wooden chairs will tap back and forth on uneven legs, propelled by specially calibrated spinning motors. With ingeniously repurposed materials, Ingersoll creates physical manifestations of sound with cultural, historical and material resonance.

Abstract composition with green bottom half, black top half and cross-like sections made with tight black lines on white
Brian D. Tripp, ‘Untitled,’ circa 1995. (Courtesy the Gorman Museum)

‘Contemporary California Native Art’

Sept. 22, 2023–Jan. 26, 2024
Gorman Museum of Native American Art, UC Davis

The Gorman Museum has been under construction for the past few years, getting an impressive upgrade to its storage, conservation and exhibition spaces. The goal: to make its collection of contemporary Native American, First Nations and Indigenous art even more transparent and accessible to visitors. Now, just in time for the museum’s 50th anniversary, it’s reopening with an exhibition of California Native American artists, featuring established names and emerging talents. The lineup is a truly exciting one, including photographer Dugan Aguilar (whose personal archive just entered the collection of the Oakland Museum of California), painter Harry Fonseca and photographer Cara Romero.

Wide work on paper with white handwriting, lines and circles drawn on a blue and green map of the earth
‘Routes/Roots,’ 2021 by Connie Zheng, one of the artists included in YBCA’s ‘Bay Area Now 9.’ (Courtesy the artist; photo by Jenna Garrett and the Minnesota Street Project)

Two Very Now Shows

‘The de Young Open 2023’
Sept. 30, 2023–Jan. 21, 2024
de Young Museum, San Francisco

After its 2020 inauguration, the de Young Open is becoming a juried triennial of recent work from the nine Bay Area counties. The last show included 877 pieces hung salon-style in the de Young’s galleries, an exuberant declaration of the many artistic scenes alive and well in this region. This year the selections are being made by local artists Clare Rojas, Stephanie Syjuco, Sunny A. Smith and Xiaoze Xie, and some of the artwork, like last time, will be acquired by the museum into its permanent collection.

‘Bay Area Now 9’
Oct. 6, 2023–May 5, 2024
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

To celebrate its 30th anniversary as a contemporary arts center, YBCA has selected 30 local artists for its “triennial,” a who’s who of local contemporary artists spanning both generations and media. The last Bay Area Now opened five years ago (2018!), in a vastly different time for both the region and the institution. Expect more work from less people than the de Young Open, but a similar sizzling energy.

Hanging textile with patchwork of images of bands and slogans like "boys don't cry" and "Custer had it coming"
Duane Linklater, ‘boys don’t cry,’ 2017; digital prints on hand-dyed linen; 122 13/16 x 172 13/16 in. (Photo by Dennis Ha; Courtesy Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver)

Duane Linklater, ‘mymothersside’

Oct. 7, 2023–Feb. 25, 2024
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

We got a taste of Duane Linklater’s work in the 2019 SFMOMA exhibition SOFT POWER, but this traveling show, which originated at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, marks the Omaskêko Ininiwak artist’s first major survey. Challenging the way museums exclude, exhibit and contextualize Indigenous people and their art, Linklater creates work across a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, video and digital versions of tribal objects. Public events like a live score for a silent film, dances in response to the exhibited work, and a free community day just before Indigenous People’s Day further demonstrate the expansive possibilities represented by Linklater’s work, which refuses reduction — of people, art or histories.

At left a silver monster sculpture on a low white pedestal, at right a mirrored room of multicolored circles and people reflected
Left: Takashi Murakami, ‘Invoking the Vitality of a Universe Beyond Imagination,’ 2014; Right: Yayoi Kusama, ‘Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love,’ 2023 at David Zwirner, New York. (Left: Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin, photograph by Joshua White; Right: Courtesy the artist, Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner)

The Blockbusters

Takashi Murakami, ‘Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego’
Sept. 15, 2023–Feb. 12, 2024
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Yayoi Kusama, ‘Infinite Love’
Oct. 14, 2023–Sept. 7, 2024
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

These shows don’t need any help with promotion, but I’m noting them here because getting tickets might require some advance planning and flexible timing. Japanese superstar artists Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama are bringing their work to two San Francisco museums in what are sure to be blockbuster exhibitions for the Asian Art Museum and SFMOMA, respectively. Murakami’s show promises to use monsters as a way of examining human behavior in “a complicated past, a chaotic present, and a virtually limitless digital future.” Meanwhile, Kusama’s Infinite Love includes an installation of her newest “room,” Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love, which spawned lines around the block when shown at David Zwirner earlier this year. Interestingly, SFMOMA just announced it will raise its ticket prices to coincide with this show’s opening, with standard adult tickets going from $25 to $30. (Infinite Love, since it’s an extra special exhibition, will cost an additional $10.)

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