Compilations and unfurling sequences of contributions – some from our archive, some freshly assembled.
What makes sense to publish in these times? We wanted to avoid “this is the new reality” hot takes responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. And but also… there is this new reality to contend with (layered on all those old realities, of course). How are artists and writers in the Bay Area doing that contending? Here are a few local perspectives — including our own contribution, a resources page we compiled last month, with help from SFMOMA colleagues and Open Space community members.
Organized by Rachel Jans, assistant curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA, the Shifting Terrain exhibit (October 5, 2019–March 8, 2020) features work by artists who gained attention in the 1970s, including Helène Aylon, stanley brouwn, Terry Fox, Joan Jonas, Charles Gaines, Michelle Stuart, and Zarina. Dedicated to works on paper, the show highlights how artists investigate and unsettle the construction of the self, history, and place; some pieces consider how place is marked and made, while others accentuate the energy and physical process of making art. For this series, we invited three artists whose practices resonate with these themes to visit the galleries and create works inspired by their experiences of and reflections on the artists and work therein. A text by Rachel concludes the intergenerational and interdisciplinary conversation — for now.
Signals from the West: Bay Area Artists in Conversation with Merce Cunningham at 100 is a multi-disciplinary exchange produced by HMD’s The Bridge Project, SFMOMA’s Open Space, ODC Theater, and the Merce Cunningham Trust as part of an international celebration of the hundredth year since Cunningham’s birth. The project involves the creation of works by ten local artists in response to the choreographer’s legacy, presented in tandem with excerpts of Cunningham repertory. Signals also includes Inherited Bodies, an evening of lecture-demonstrations by four Bay Area dance artists.
Open Space is delighted to be part of a new SFMOMA series dedicated to arts and culture in the Bay Area. Almost every month from September through June, we’re getting together at the museum or at a collaborating organization to explore, debate, celebrate, and spend time. Each gathering includes food and drink of some sort; information about upcoming events can be found here, and commissioned responses to the live sessions reside in this series.
On June 15, 2019, the Bay Area suffered the tremendous loss of Kevin Killian, a renowned and deeply loved poet, playwright, novelist, critic, and teacher — among many other things. A central figure of the New Narrative literary movement and a longtime lynchpin of San Francisco arts and culture, Kevin inspired countless people near and far with his spirit, intellect, and generosity. Here, we gather remembrances and tributes in honor of this singular individual, and the legacy he leaves behind.
City as collection of memories. Garage as stage and page. Words as wayfinding tools. In collaboration with our colleagues in Design and Operations, Open Space asked seven writers to pick their personal Bay Area landmarks: not the usual suspects in travelers’ guides, but the buildings, corners, natural phenomena, and social spots — some of them now gone — that make this place home. You can find the full texts here, and excerpts on floors two through eight of 147 Minna, the museum’s parking garage.
The Library & Archives at SFMOMA house a dynamic collection of primary documents related to the history of modern and contemporary art. Our collections help trace the interconnected trajectories of the museum with those of artists and art spaces that have shaped the cultural life of the Bay Area and beyond for the last century. Using printed matter from the Library’s collections of artists’ books, exhibition publications, and our rich holdings of ephemera from local artists, galleries, and other non-profit art spaces, here we present episodes within the larger arts communities of the region — as well as moments in which collaborations with these communities yielded singular opportunities for experiencing art. Out of Print is dedicated to the informal, innovative, and evocative spaces that artists and designers have created through staging and circulating their works in print.
When is a workshop also an art event? How can a literal white space be used as a site for exploring decolonial practices? What conditions (internal, external, energetic) inspire composition? Each Tuesday this March, SFMOMA’s White Box is serving as a container for de(composition), a free four-week workshop led by artist and activist Keith Hennessy, and featuring special guests Stephanie Hewett, Randy Reyes, and Kanyon CoyoteWoman Sayers-Roods (Mutsun-Ohlone, California Native), who inaugurated the opening session. Here, we’ve collected responses to each session, as well as supplemental materials created by Hennessy and his guests.
On September 20, 2018, SFMOMA hosted “A Ballad for Etel Adnan,” an evening of poetry and music in conjunction with the exhibition New Work: Etel Adnan. Harpist and composer Zeena Parkins and percussionist William Winant performed, and David Buuck, Nick Hoff, and Denise Newman read their own poems along with some of Adnan’s writings. Born in Beiruit, Lebanon, in 1925, Adnan is a visual artist, poet, and essayist with deep ties to the Bay Area, where she lived for more than fifty years. New Work: Etel Adnan, which closed January 6, 2019, honored this relationship; the show, which included new paintings and tapestries, marked SFMOMA’s first presentation of the artist’s work, and coincided with the acquisition of two paintings by Adnan for the museum’s new Contemporary Art collection. Here, we offer three new and in-progress poems from “A Ballad for Etel Adnan.”
Over two weekends in May 2018, a group of artists, technologists, and accessibility experts convened at SFMOMA for Rethink: Web, a workshop exploring the ways the modern web could foster exploration, experiment, and connectivity. At the heart of the workshop was this provocation: in place of the walled gardens and rigid, cookie-cutter frameworks that too often stem from a medium geared toward commerce and marketing, how might we dream up alternatives that foreground inclusivity, playfulness, and community?
The experimental writing movement New Narrative has played a crucial role in Bay Area literary history since the late 1970s. Though the shape of its lineage and influence has become clearer, the history of its emergence is still rife with unexamined gaps and affiliations — both social and political. From untold stories by the movement's progenitors to intimate musings from key figures, these essays, interviews, and artworks recast a body of work that continues to challenge, move, and provoke.
An Open Space partnership with CounterPulse, The Lab, ODC Theater, Performance at SFMOMA, and Z Space, Limited Edition explores questions of legacy and lineage through performances, discussions, and gatherings at various locations throughout the city from January to March 2018, with commissioned texts appearing regularly here. The theme of this year’s Limited Edition is “Forward-Looking Lineages,” inspired in part by the SFMOMA show Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules. Contemporary performance is, among many things, a set of traditions, enriched and bedeviled by questions of ownership, of legacy, of the authentic and the appropriated. As sites for well-resourced arts writing continue to be imperiled, and as vital independent arts spaces struggle to stay afloat in the face of rapid gentrification and decreased arts funding, Limited Edition seeks to address a crucial need for smart context around contemporary culture. Information and ticketing links to the shows being presented by our partners can be found here.
The Stein family's Saturday salons in their Paris apartments were the crucible of avant-garde art and writing of the period. In keeping with the spirit of those informal gatherings, our guests — artists, writers, filmmakers, performers, and others — entertained us with their personal recollections of Bay Area avant-garde histories.
Presented in conjunction with The Steins Collect, and co-organized with Margaret Tedesco.
SFMOMA is the last venue for Larry Sultan: Here and Home (on view until July 23, 2017), a retrospective organized by Rebecca Morse, Associate Curator of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. To those of us who knew Sultan, the fact that the show closes in the Bay Area is appropriate, a sort of homecoming. A beloved artist and educator who passed away in 2009, he was long a pivotal member of the Bay Area arts community. Warm, funny, generous, and sparklingly intelligent, Sultan left behind a deeply personal body of work that continues to resonate in new and unexpected ways after his death. Here, we offer several takes on the meaning of this work, including three texts adapted from talks given at “Study Hall: 10x4 on Larry Sultan” on May 4th, 2017, at SFMOMA.
The small, the everyday, the routine. What you might walk past without noticing. What grows strange when you do.
New York is one epicenter of HIV/AIDS in America. The other is San Francisco. As a bicoastal collaboration with Danspace Project, whose Platform series Lost and Found: Dance, New York, HIV/AIDS, Then and Now ran October 13th through November 19th, Open Space is exploring various themes, questions, histories, and lineages as they relate, both directly and obliquely, to the impact HIV/AIDS continues to have on dance and performance in the Bay Area and beyond. A live event, Lost and Found: Bay Area Edition, will take place February 4th, 2017 at CounterPulse.
Bay Area musicians explore and respond to the onset of winter and the encroaching night that accompanies it. By turns veiled, ominous, haunted, or explosive, these combinations of image and audio feel around – or further conceal themselves – in the dark.
You may have heard that SFMOMA is reopening. In anticipation of this fast-approaching reality, Open Space has commissioned “Disembodied States” — a special nine-part Collection Rotation from artists, writers, and thinkers outside of California — as a celebration of the breadth and reach of the collection, and a nod to these last moments in which the museum exists as a hypothetical space, a space that can best be accessed through the virtual, and the imagination. We see these pieces as stand-alone works-of-art, rendered in a variety of media, and jostling in a larger, strange conversation with the collection. Welcome — please come in.
This five-part series — named after a section of composer Lou Harrison‘s (1917-2003) Rhymes With Silver — pairs an image of San Francisco from the SFMOMA Collection with a piece of music also created in or indebted to the Bay Area at large. Subjectively construed, open to intimacy and conflict, these selections are fleeting studies in aural-geographic-temporal synonymy and disjunction. They’re also intended for the weekend, toward whatever end/opening.
In 2013, SFMOMA announced its ambitious expansion project. As a means of reflecting on its then-impending closure, grupa o.k. asked several friends and colleagues to imagine their own proposals for a museum in San Francisco.
In conjunction with Fifty Years of Bay Area Art: The SECA Awards, Open Space hosted a series of in-gallery talks given by SECA Art Award winners. Participating artists selected and spoke on a single work on view.
Remember the end of Manhattan, when Woody Allen asks himself what makes life worth living? (“Groucho Marx, Willie Mays… Swedish movies…those incredible apples and pears by Cézanne…”) In celebration of SFMOMA’s 75th anniversary in January 2010, Dominic Willsdon & Suzanne Stein invited 75 people from the Bay Area creative community to give extremely short talks—7.5 minutes or less—on a single collection work they cared about. The talks took place during the museum’s three-day celebratory weekend: two at a time, every half hour, 25 a day (a single to close out each day.)
Inspired by The Steins Collect and organized by Samantha Giles of Small Press Traffic and Suzanne Stein, this series of readings honored poet Gertrude Stein and her relationships with the visual artists of her day. Each Thursday evening, a contemporary poet presented a reading, performance, or talk on a single artist or artwork on view.
Reticulum: “Latin rēticulum little net; (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the Net, a small constellation.” From 2015 to 2019, and originally under the “Listworthy” heading, we asked contributors to present a set of links to their most recent (digital) points of interest. These aggregations range from thematic groupings to spontaneous swirls. Like this series, some of the URLs are now defunct: we leave them as a record, however partial, of all that is beautiful, weird, and, yes, asinine about the internet.
From 2015 to 2019, we occasionally caught up with past Open Space contributors and talked to Bay Area arts organizations about the work they do and the challenges they face. These question-and-answer exchanges honor the multifaceted work individuals and institutions do and did on Open Space and beyond. One way to stay in touch; to acknowledge the past and look at what’s ahead.