Richard Kamler, the San Francisco artist has been creating provocative, socially engaged art. A retrospective at the University of San Francisco’s Thacher Gallery highlighting his most iconic works opens Friday.
What was the turning point that made you want to create socially conscious work? My time as an artist-in-residence at San Quentin State Prison changed everything. I made art with prisoners daily. It changed how I look at art, what I wanted to do with it, and made me think about the placement of art.
What is one of your favorite works that is on display? I’m very proud of “Table of Voices.” I interviewed parents of murdered children and the perpetrators, and recorded their voices, and used those side by side in an installation. It prompted a victim/reconciliation program at the San Francisco County Jail.
What made you choose art as a career? My mother took me to museums and taught me a lot. I apprenticed with Frederick Kiesler, and he said, “Art can change the laws of the world,” and that stayed with me. Art is not supposed to hang above a green sofa. It should be actively engaged in the world.