January 06, 2010

20 Bay Area Artists & Videos

In collaboration with Happenstand, last summer I compiled a provisional list of some of the most important living artists in the SF Bay Area to share with curator friends abroad and those visiting. It includes artists who have realized exhibitions at museums, solo shows at galleries, and experience outside California and in most cases the US. In other words it’s an attempt at a quantitative rather than qualitative survey. We called it Stance both as a play on the name Happenstand and the idea of taking a stance. Using the Stance artists as a starting point I searched YouTube, Vimeo and Google for videos related to these artists. Here’s what I found:

Marcopoulos_tour Shows_YBCA


Kota Ezawa
Odessa Staircase Redux (start at 3:28)

Ari Marcopoulos

Trevor Paglen
Blank Spots on the Map

Leslie Shows
Display of Properties

Aaron Gach
Center for Tactical Magic

Discenza_DreamHome Greene_Consultation


Anthony Discenza
Dream Home

Chris Sollars
C Red Blue J

Packard Jennings
Mussolini Action Figure at Wal-mart

Josh Greene

Lubell_silent Murgida_(w)hole

previews / overviews

Sam Green
Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall

Kamau Patton
Glass House

Bernie Lubell

Stephanie Syjuco
COPYSTAND: An Autonomous Manufacturing Zone

Future Farmers
Free Soil Bus Tour

Jonn Herschend
Embrace of the Irrational

Lucas Murgida

Kuchar Blank_Herzog


Tom Marioni
Freehand drawing

George Kuchar
I, An Actress

Bruce Conner
Ten Second Film

Les Blank
Herzog Eats his Shoe

Comments (24)

  • IMHO that every curator works from such a subjective point of view (anyone read up on the bruhaha about Deitch and LAMOCA?!), often working with and promoting artists that are their contemporaries and colleagues, if not actual friends (Facebook friends don’t count, in my book). This is a given, and unfortunately, can cause frustration on the artists side, if they can’t maneuver into the curator’s social circle (or social radar, maybe better said). My point is: if Joseph is looking in one direction and the artists he finds in this activity are of a certain type, then yes, question his choice(s). I just hope that the critique of the choices is focused on the “direction”, and would not get personal (calling someone bratty & privileged is fighting words, or getting slapped can entice a return punch…just saying). Overall, I think these comments do challenge the direction.

    Still, what I find lacking is on Stance, how it reads: “A curator’s survey…”, and I’m left asking: who is the curator? If this is Joseph’s personal most important list, a reader can either support or dismiss the variety (or lack there of…) of artists based on the obvious subjectivity. And, since Happenstand is becoming a serious portal for art info in the Bay Area, the “weight” these choices carry becomes greater through association. What happens to the artists who also have solo shows, museum shows and have shown internationally who don’t make it on this list? Because, honestly, I qualify for the list, and the argument has been made that this is a quantitative list, not quality-based! ;->

    Usually, a “most important artists” list can do more to point out the lack of this or that person(s), than actually make any definitive statement. I’m surprised no one has commented on the first choices, and whether they had merit in and of the list itself. And, honestly, I find the Stance list is just an example of more or less established artists in the Bay Area scene.

    So yes, I agree, the presentation for this post on SFMOMA’s blog missed its mark, and it is nice to see Joseph stepping up with more suggestions that seem more representative of what the SF Bay has to offer.

    Oh, and BTW, what is so wrong with being white, male and an artist, anyway?

  • Timothy, thank you very much for your comments.

    I’ve admired your work, enthusiasm and passion for a while Joe, but the list you gave (and the way you prefaced it) really struck me (kind of like a slap in the face) and I hope you can understand what people are saying to you. I agree that they are all interesting artists, but calling them the “most important” just reminded me of how insular and narrow minded San Francisco’s art scene can be. And why I have been happier working outside of it rather than in it this past year.

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    I’ve been surprised to see how controversial this post has become. Initially I assumed the comments were directed at the Stance list which, again, is intended to be a provisional list and does include a range of excellent women artists and reflects some of the diversity of the Bay Area (admittedly there’s always room for improvement). Then I realized the comments were primarily about the blog post itself, the list of links. The list of links was intended as just that: a tool to find things you may not have seen (I certainly hadn’t seen all of these videos before seeking them out for the post). It wasn’t intended as a “best of” list or some other decisive act of an arbiter/curator. However I’ve come to realize that the phrasing at the end of my introduction may have implied this. I said “Here are the best 20 broken up loosely by type:” What I meant here was these were the best-quality videos I was able to find. Much of what I was able to find, and ultimately linked-to was uploaded by other people, not the artists themselves. There’s tons of low resolution fan video on YouTube, and I chose not to include that material. As a result of this, I’ve changed this line to “Here’s what I found:” I apologize for this misunderstanding.

  • Frank Lostaunau says:

    Ted Olson: http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/media/press-avail-2009-07-02/#formBuilderCSSIDSignup

    An excellent tape, thoughtful and informative! HOORAY!!!!!

  • The lack of women artists really stands out, very disappointing!

  • This is a great resource Joseph. Thanks for putting it together.

  • Thanks for the back-up Frank.

  • Frank Lostaunau says:

    It’s interesting to read statements by curators with a bias in favor of white artists. It can be painful to read and disturbing to know that you represent the future of curatorial practice.

    Once again, I’ve been reminded how complex it is to make the world a better place.

  • Joe,

    I’ve experienced the work of almost everybody on the list, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are mostly white. And male.

    Your response of welcoming suggestions comes off as bratty and privileged when the thrust of this thread is mainly that lists probably shouldn’t be titled with phrases like the “most important living artists.” That kind of wording ignores the cultural discussions and critiques and slight progress of the last 40 years.

    Here’s an example: Why is a filmmaker included on the list? What makes Les Blank’s work more important in your eye than Cheryl Dunye’s or Deborah Chasnoff’s? Is it because Blank makes quirky personal quasi-documentaries? But Dunye is prolly the first (maybe the second) African-American woman to pick up the camera and make personal quasi-documentarues. Or is it because more people see Blank’s work and are inspired by it? If that is the criteria that George Lucas would be the most important living artist on the list… I’m not opposed to the value of Blank’s work (as a matter of fact I’ve worked on a number of his projects), but you know what I’m saying.

    I think, a better label for your list might have be “important works from my Facebook friends” or “seminal works from some people you should know” — obviously these titles are stupid but you can get my drift from it.

  • yayyy. Aaron Gach.

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    I would suggest getting to know the people on the list a bit more, they are certainly not all white. But I didn’t make the list based on color of skin, ethnic background or gender. And as I’ve said before, it’s not exhaustive and I welcome your suggestions.

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    Thanks for the suggestions Adrienne.

  • And I would have to second what Frank said, this best video list of “some of the most important living artists” is almost entirely white. What gives? It reads like we are still living in the early 80s….

  • Adrienne Skye Roberts says:

    Although there are more female artists listed on Happenstance, it is still pretty imbalanced (14 out of 60). Off the top of my head how about Bonnie Sherk, Tammy Rae Carland, Alice Shaw, Janet Delaney, Cheryl Dunye, Ana Teresa Fernandez, Taraneh Hemami. If we only focus quantitatively on artists who have achieved a certain kind of success within museums and galleries we can’t take account of the work being done by artists outside those settings. Perhaps that constitutes a whole new list.

    Jessica Tully http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLl4jhmbW24

  • Frank Lostaunau says:

    seems way heavy with caucasoid artists…

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    I’ll also add “Strange Culture” by Lynn Hershman-Leeson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMPk9-1uifA

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    I’m not familiar with the work of David Simpson, Laurie Reid, nor John Zurier. Links? Stance is certainly ongoing and in-progress… suggestions welcome.

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    I opted not to include “Spill” by Bacher, although I like her work, because it seems more about the construction/installation of the show than the work itself (which does appear briefly at the end)…. but here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXXG88704aI

  • Frank Lostaunau says:

    Ari Marcopoulis made an excellent documentary re: Forrest Bess…one of my favorite artists: http://www.forrestbess.org/tributes.html

    as for the list…it’s a list…

  • …and while we are at it, why is almost everyone on the Stance list under 40? There are plenty of important living artists over 40, like David Simpson, Laurie Reid, John Zurier and so on.

    I mean, I guess the whole idea of a subjective list of important living Bay Area artists (btw Sultan died recently) is bound to cause people to scratch their heads at the inclusions vs exclusions. Kinda like the Grammys, right?

  • Also wondering why the list is so boy heavy (there are only two women out of 20 artists)? Desiree Holman has a swell short on youtube. There are some decent installation videos of Lutz Bacher. Etc.

  • Joseph del Pesco says:

    Thanks TB, anyone else have links to add?

  • kinda related: Marcopoulos made an amazing video of Philip Taafe (who is cetainly not in the Bay Area) at work – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxTafaPV29k

See all responses (24)
Leave a comment

Please tell us what you think. We really love conversation, and we’re happy to entertain dissenting opinions. Just no name-calling, personal attacks, slurs, threats, spam, and the like, please. Those ones we reserve the right to remove.

Sign Up

Join our newsletter for infrequent updates on new posts and Open Space events.
  • Required, will not be published

Dear Visitor,
We regret to inform you that Open Space is no longer active. It was retired at the end of 2021. We sincerely appreciate your support and engagement over the years.

For your reference, we encourage you to read past entries or search the site.

To stay informed about future ventures or updates, please follow us at

Thank you for being a part of our journey!