COURTESY SFMOMA/CAMPARI USA/MICKALENE THOMAS/ ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY/KATHERINE DU TIELMickalene Thomas’ “Sista Sista Lady Blue” is among the works on view in “Portraits and Other Likenesses From SFMOMA” at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Disapora.

COURTESY SFMOMA/CAMPARI USA/MICKALENE THOMAS/ ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY/KATHERINE DU TIELMickalene Thomas’ “Sista Sista Lady Blue” is among the works on view in “Portraits and Other Likenesses From SFMOMA” at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Disapora.

SFMOMA, MoAD showcase 20th century portraits

A new show at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora of art works from the African diaspora and Latin America reveals how portraiture – the age-old form of depicting individual identity – has greatly broadened in scope in the past century.

More than 50 works from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collection are on view through October in “Portraits and Other Likenesses From SFMOMA,” an exhibit of paintings, sculptures, photographs and multimedia works dating from the 1920s to the present organized by curators of SFMOMA and MoAD.

Portraiture always has meant more than a pretty face, but, traditionally, it was largely limited to representational depictions of an individual’s physical aspects and underlying character and mood. This exhibition examines how, in recent decades, portraiture has expanded to include fictional, political, subversive and conceptual art.

The exhibit also provides an opportunity to see fine work by significant artists addressing black experiences. More than half of these pieces are on display for the first time as part of SFMOMA’s collection.

Highlights include “Three Men” (1966-67), a “montage painting” by Romare Bearden, known for his portraits of 20th-century African American life. Containing printed and painted papers, watercolor and graphite on canvas, the civil-rights-era work features a trio of figures whose collage-style composition suggests a textured, complex existence.

Also noteworthy is “Forever Free” (1933), figurative artist Sargent Johnson’s wood and paint sculpture of an African American mother. Johnson was among the first African American artists in California to achieve national recognition.

Photographers include James Van Der Zee, the sought-after and sometimes experimental Harlem Renaissance artist who took pictures of black New Yorkers. In “Future Expectations (Wedding Day)” (1926), he combines a traditional wedding portrait with an image of a girl he has envisioned as the couple’s future daughter.

Glenn Ligon’s “Narratives” (1993) is a portrait composed of text. Using the format of 19th-century slave narratives, Ligon explores his experiences as a gay black man in the 1990s. Contemporary selections include “Sapphires Under Cotton” (2013), an oil painting by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, whose realistically presented subjects come completely from her imagination.</p>

The exhibition also includes “Between Ourselves Together” (2015), a recently commissioned installation by Mickalene Thomas. The work combines “Sista Lady Blue” (Thomas’ large-scale photograph from SFMOMA’s collection) with related photographs and a film. The setting resembles a 1970s living room.

Additional featured artists include Consuelo Kanaga, Wifredo Lam, Nicole Miller, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and others.

“Portraits and Other Likenesses” is part of “SFMOMA on the Go,” an off-site project of SFMOMA, which is currently closed while undergoing expansion.


Portraits and Other Likenesses From SFMOMA

Where: Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., S.F.

When: Wednesdays-Sundays; closes Oct. 11

Admission: $5 to $10, free for ages 12 and under

Contact: (415) 358-7200,

Art & MuseumsartsMuseum of the African DiasporaPortraits and Other Likenesses From SFMOMASan Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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

Just Posted

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

San Jose Sharks (pictured Feb. 15, 2020 vs. Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center) open the season on Monday against the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis. (Tribune News Service archive)
This week in Bay Area sports

A look at the upcoming major Bay Area sports events (schedules subject… Continue reading

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

Most Read