Expanded S.F. Arts Commission Gallery showcases diverse local artists

Local artists with different cultural histories and creative methods address the complex issue of identity, and use the body to make their work deeply personal, in an inaugural exhibition at the San Francisco Arts Commission’s new main gallery.

One of three three exhibitions in the newly expanded, 3,000-square-foot gallery space (which opened last week), “Bring It Home: (Re)Locating Cultural Legacy Through the Body” is curated by SFAC galleries director Meg Shiffler and Kevin B. Chen. It includes contributions from 10 artists working in media from painting to video to textiles and representing the Bay Area’s cultural makeup and artistic sensibilities.

The artists consider their own roots and their own reactions to today’s sometimes incompatible contemporary and digitally sophisticated society. They explore issues of assimilation, nationalism, memory, religion, family and the need to develop a sense of home and belonging.

To enhance the personal aspects of their work, the artists have used the body (sometimes their own) as what the curators call a “site of inscription and fractured performances.”

The highly varied show is a stimulating social project and a showcase for interesting local artists.

In “54 Views of Wisdom and Compassion” (acrylic and ink on canvas), Tsherin Sherpa considers how geographical fragmentation has affected Tibetan culture. The artist was trained in traditional thangka painting and combines that form’s subjects, which include Buddhist deities, with 21st-century elements. He uses himself as a model.

In “Home and the World” (hybrid film), Ranu Mukherjee explores conditions in a changing India. Her film contains a female protagonist, a scene of women protesting against rape, and a theme of women emerging.

Ramekon O’Arwisters has described his two rag-rug towers — “Celia-Woman of the Cloth” and “Tim-Man of the Cloth” — as a tribute to his quilt-making grandmother. When he was growing up black and gay in North Carolina, she treated him with love and acceptance. The shorter tower is the height of his grandmother; the taller one is his own height.

Zeina Barakeh’s animated video “Homeland Insecurity” is inspired by the experience of civil war in the artist’s native Beirut. Featuring anthropomorphic horses (Barakeh uses her own body), the story involves invasion, war, annexation, refugees and cotton-growing.

Recent works by Jeremiah Barber (“Half Mass,” rice paper, ink, pedestal), Vic De La Rosa (“Verbal Serape Project,” mixed fiber), Dana Harel (“Around My Head,” clay, graphite, paper, mixed media), Summer Mei Ling Lee (“Into the Nearness of Distance III, cheesecloth, cyanotype, lights, fan, Chinese black tea), and Carolyn Janssen (“In any case you are always there,” archival pigment prints), along with words from the 2003 essay “In Defense of Performance Art,” by Guillermo Gomez-Pena, round out the show.

Bring It Home: (Re)Locating Cultural Legacy Through the Body
Where: S.F. Arts Commission Gallery, War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes May 7
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 252-2244, www.sfartscommission.org

Anita Katz

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