Bay Area artists jam-pack vivid ‘de Young Open’

Huge exhibition — with works for sale — showcases diversity, supports community

Local artists, more than 700, display works inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, and address pressing Bay Area-specific realities as well, in a major exhibition at the reopened de Young Museum.

Marking the de Young’s 125th anniversary, “The de Young Open” is a well-thought-out whopper of a show consisting of 877 juried works by 762 artists from the nine Bay Area counties. The judges — Bay Area artists Enrique Chagoya, Hung Liu and Mildred Howard and four Fine Arts Museums curators — have selected the paintings, drawings, photographs and other pieces from 11,514 submitted artworks via a blind process (to prevent bias, they weren’t given the names of the contending artists).

The selected artists are a culturally diverse group who reflect the general sensibilities of the region. There’s plenty of protest and political art on the walls, along with provocative, cutting-edge and sometimes wacky, pieces.

The 800-plus works hang 19th-century salon style — basically, floor to ceiling — in the de Young’s Herbst Exhibition Galleries. They have been organized thematically.

This arrangement has its frustrations. The floor-to-ceiling presentation may cause viewers to wish they were giraffes at times, and the lack of posted information about each piece (each work is identified by only a number) necessitates the use of a cellphone to obtain specifics.

But the exhibition presents a feast of quality art. It also is an opportunity to support local artists — a community hit hard by the pandemic — by purchasing their work. The artists receive 100 percent of the proceeds. (To see the show, and/or make a purchase, visit

The first two galleries feature particularly timely art that addresses urgent and compelling issues.

One contains art relating to Black Lives Matter and other social and political subjects. Many of the featured artists use their work to protest against police violence and racial injustice.

The second consists of works addressing various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional galleries are devoted to San Francisco, abstraction, nature and the human figure.

“Rest in Power George Floyd,” an expressive acrylic portrait of Floyd painted by Jun Yang, honors Floyd’s life and denounces the racism ingrained in the law-enforcement system.

Ron Moultrie Saunders Jr. considers issues of identity and visibility, and the disappearance of black people from San Francisco, in “Perhaps because of the near darkness you can see me,” a three-panel photographic work Moultrie created with his photogram (camera-less) technique.

Evri Kwong illustrates uneven distributions of fortune in “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is MY Land.” At the center of the grid-like layout, a privileged family eats dinner — a picture Kwon contrasts with images of darker subjects, including war.

“Apples and Honey,” Amy Nelder’s COVID-19-themed still life, looks at the observation of Jewish New Year holiday traditions amid the pandemic. The seriocomic composition contains the two foods featured in the title along with a container of Lysol.

Talavera Ballon’s quietly effective “Los indispensables” recognizes the contributions of farmworkers, many of them undocumented, who, during the pandemic, have continued to grow and harvest the food we buy. Ballon’s subjects and painting style suggest works by Millet and van Gogh.

Monica Tiulescu’s “Zoom” examines how technology has increased communication during the pandemic. (Courtesy Monica Tiulescu)

Monica Tiulescu’s “Zoom” examines how technology has increased communication during the pandemic. (Courtesy Monica Tiulescu)

Monica Tiulescu’s “Zoom” and Liz Scott’s “Zoom Meeting” depict how technology is helping us connect during isolation, while reminding us of its frustrating limitations.

San Francisco-related themes range from homelessness to gentrification to The City’s distinctive topography.

In Leyla Margolis-Brooks’ moving “Across the Lines,” a San Francisco native reflectively looks out a window at a bulldozed lot, where his high school once stood, in the Mission District.

Jocelyn Lee addresses income disparities in “Playground for the Rich,” a work inspired by the board game Monopoly. San Francisco neighborhoods are listed on title-deed cards that contain their property values and other vital statistics.

Wes Wellner’s “Tent City” and Francis Baker’s “American Homes 6” feature tents occupied by homeless people. Both artists consider the vast gaps in income levels in the region.

Local landscapes feature the Sunset and Richmond districts, Potrero Hill and the Bay Bridge, to name a few.

Paul Jermann’s “Lionheart” is among the many intriguing abstracts on view in “The de Young Open.” (Courtesy Paul Jermann)

Paul Jermann’s “Lionheart” is among the many intriguing abstracts on view in “The de Young Open.” (Courtesy Paul Jermann)

Paul Jermann’s “Lionheart,” which features floral and cell-like circular forms, rendered in complementary but engagingly compatible green-blues and pink-oranges, is a highlight in the abstraction galleries.

Lastly, films and videos made by 18 artists, whose themes include identity, medicine, climate, and new technologies, are screening in the nearby Media Room.


The de Young Open

Where: de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, S.F.

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closes Jan. 3

Admission: $6 to $15; free for ages 17 and younger

Contact: (888) 901-5545,

Note: To view the exhibition, visit

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