Anthony Hernandez offers an arresting image of Southern California car culture in “Automotive Landscapes #35, 1978.” (Courtesy Anthony Hernandez)

Photographer Anthony Hernandez gets his due at SFMOMA

Anthony Hernandez, who brought the landscape of Los Angeles, especially its poor and working-class areas, to street photography, has long merited a retrospective.

It’s a reality at last. “Anthony Hernandez” is the inaugural special exhibition at the Pritzker Center for Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It covers the artist’s more than 45 years of taking pictures and reflects numerous stylistic changes as well as the enduring social concerns that have characterized his work.

Described by curator Erin O’Toole as a prolific and constantly evolving artist who “hasn’t received the attention he deserves,” the largely self-taught Hernandez launched his career around 1970.

Over the decades, he has shifted between black-and-white and color photography and 35mm and large-format cameras.

His work has included street portraiture, urban landscapes and abstraction.

While he has photographed other cities, his primary “studio” is his native Los Angeles, whose concrete sprawl, auto graveyards, beaches, and other particulars he renders with striking compositions, visual poetry and an efficient combination of surface allure and underlying human current.

In early-career black-and-white street portraits, subjects appear unsettled or overwhelmed as Hernandez’s camera captures their faces. We see a signature style emerging.

Beach pictures, also from the early 1970s, are inspired by Edward Weston’s artfully posed nudes but instead, with subtle humor, feature contorted figures, again illustrating Hernandez’s uniqueness.

Landscape images include selections from the artist’s “Public Transit Areas,” “Public Fishing Areas,” and “Automotive Landscapes” series. In a scene that elegantly captures one of L.A. car culture’s unglamorous aspects, a photogenic broken-down vendor truck dominates the foreground of a site containing discarded tires and vehicle carcasses.

Images from Hernandez’s “Landscapes for the Homeless” series, dating from 1988 to 1991, are highlight.

These pictures of encampments near freeways often feature no human figures, but by documenting the possessions that former inhabitants have left behind — cardboard, food containers, a razor — Hernandez makes a human presence, and the lives of L.A.’s homeless residents, felt.

His interest in class divides also reveals itself in portraits of upscale shoppers from the artist’s “Rodeo Drive” series, which marks one of the artist’s early triumphs in color.

Abandoned and incomplete buildings, another signature subject, are on view in pictures shot in L.A., Oakland and Rome and in the artist’s recent and relevant “Discarded” series. The “Discarded” project contains somber images of vacated homes — human consequences of the foreclosure crisis.

The wide-ranging show also includes selections from the artist’s “Everything” series, which explores the state of the Los Angeles River, and a 25-foot-long abstract mural, inspired by L.A.’s South Central area and created by Hernandez for the retrospective.

IF YOU GO
Anthony Hernandez
Where: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, third floor, 151 Third St., S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except closed Wednesdays and until 9 p.m. Thursdays); closes Jan. 1
Admission: $19 to $25; free for ages 18 and younger
Contact: (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org


Anthony HernandezErin O’TooleMuseums and GalleriesphotographerPritzker Center for PhotographySan Francisco Museum of Modern ArtVisual Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Anti-eviction demonstrators rally outside San Francisco Superior Court. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Report: Unpaid rent due to COVID-19 could be up to $32.7M per month

A new city report that attempts to quantify how much rent has… Continue reading

Music venues around The City have largely been unable to reopen due to ongoing pandemic health orders. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to cut $2.5M in fees to help 300 nightlife venues

San Francisco will cut $2.5 million in fees for hundreds of entertainment… Continue reading

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett departs the U.S. Capitol on October 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after Ginsburg’s death. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
GOP senators confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court in partisan vote

By Jennifer Haberkorn Los Angeles Times The Senate on Monday confirmed Judge… Continue reading

Curator Tim Burgard looks over a section of the galleries comprising “The de Young Open,” a huge, varied collection of work by Bay Area artists. (Photo courtesy Gary Sexton/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)
Bay Area artists jam-pack vivid ‘de Young Open’

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

SF Board of Education vice president Gabriela Lopez and commissioner Alison Collins listen at a news conference condemning recent racist and social media attacks targeted at them and the two student representatives on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Online attacks on school board members denounced by city officials

City officials on Monday condemned the targeting of school board members, both… Continue reading

Most Read