Fall Arts Highlights: Judy Chicago, Leonard Cohen, the IRL returns of Litquake, SF Symphony + more
(Gary Sexton)

Fall Arts Highlights: Judy Chicago, Leonard Cohen, the IRL returns of Litquake, SF Symphony + more


Here comes the sun! Or is that just a landscape painting? The San Francisco art scene has endured something of a long winter for the last 18 months. But this fall, we're in for a cultural springtime, as art returns to the Bay Area in full force.

Below is a sampling of the most exciting in-person exhibitions and events from now to December, as well as plenty of online experiences for those who aren't ready to venture out.

Artists on Artists: Stanley Whitney on Joan Mitchell's Fearless Career and the Drama of Paintingwww.youtube.com

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA's fall slate includes the breathtaking retrospective of abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell (through January 17, 2022), who was recognized as a prominent female artist in the male-dominated New York art world of the 1950s. The exhibition features dozens of colossal paintings, each demanding the viewer's reverent introspection. In the photography department, Diana Markosian's family saga Santa Barbara (through December 12) is a must-see. The artist uses video and still photography to recreate the story of her mother's emigration to the United States as a Russian mail order bride in the 1990s.

// SFMOMA is open Thursday through Monday and is free to Bay Area residents the first Thursday of each month; 151 Third St. (SoMa), sfmoma.org

Judy Chicago at the de Young Museum

Another seminal feminist painter gets a retrospective this season. The de Young Museum is hosting a sweeping retrospective of the life and work of Judy Chicago, one of the most formidable figures in contemporary art with a legacy reaching back to the 1960s. The retrospective (through January 9, 2022) will also include Chicago's more recent works, which delve into themes of mortality and environmentalism.

// The de Young Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and is free to Bay Area residents every Saturday and to all visitors the first Tuesday of each month; 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. (Golden Gate Park), deyoung.famsf.org.

The late Leonard Cohen inspires four contemporary artists in a new exhibition at the CJM.(Courtesy of Contemporary Jewish Museum)

Experience Leonard Cohen at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

The late Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) was an unstoppable force in music and literature right up to the end of his life—he even recorded some of the vocals for his final album, You Want it Darker, while he was hospitalized. Cohen's influence extends to visual art with this exhibition (through February 13, 2022) at CJM, where a series of four solo shows—by contemporary artists George Fok, Judy Chicago, Candice Breitz, and Marshall Trammell—pay homage to the poet and folk singer's life and work. With Cohen laid to rest, it's our turn to sing Hallelujah in praise of one of the last century's great depressives.

// Contemporary Jewish Museum is open Thursday through Sunday and offers free admission the first Tuesday of each month; 736 Mission St. (SoMa), thecjm.org.

TeamLab: Continuity at the Asian Art Museum

International art collective TeamLab turns the brand-new Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion at the Asian Art Museum into a futuristic funhouse with their immersive and interactive exhibition TeamLab: Continuity. Visitors are encouraged to touch the walls and watch as the motion-sensing animations of blossoming flowers and soaring birds respond to their movements. The experience is heightened by a swelling soundtrack and floral fragrances.

// Asian Art Museum is open Thursday through Monday; 200 Larkin St. (Civic Center), asianart.org

(Courtesy of Museum of Craft and Design)

Mode Brut at Museum of Craft and Design

For its fall exhibition, Mode Brut(through January 23, 2022), MCD has partnered with Creativity Explored to showcase fashions that challenge notions of what and who is stylish, created by more than 50 local developmentally disabled artists. Expect to see garments made with unusual materials and recycled fabrics, and pieces that consider gender identity and body types.

// Museum of Craft and Design is open Wednesday through Sunday; Third St. (Dogpatch), sfmcd.org.

Play/Prey at Telematic and Minnesota Street Project

Oakland superstar artist Leila Weefur is enjoying an epic double feature staged by Telematic, an up-and-coming media arts gallery in SoMa, and Dogpatch's Minnesota Street Project. The two video pieces, "The Old Testament" and "A Gospel," explore the experience of queer Black children in the Christian church, interrogating the restrictions that are placed on pleasure by organized religion. The two-part film is somewhat autobiographical: It was filmed at Havenscourt Community Church in Oakland, where Weefur was baptized. "The Old Testament" opens at Telematic on October 9th (through December 11th); "A Gospel" opens at Minnesota Street Project on October 16th (through December 4th). We also recommend seeing Beyond the Sky (through February 27, 2022), a series of shorts by African filmmakers curated by Weefur in conjunction with Play/Prey, atMuseum of African Diaspora.

// Telematic is open Tuesday through Saturday; 323 10th St. (SoMa), tttelematiccc.com. Minnesota Street Project is open Tuesday through Saturday; 1275 Minnesota St. (Dogpatch), minnesotastreetproject.com.

Billie Zangewa, "Heart of the Home," raw silk.

Museum of the African Diaspora

MoAD's fall show (Oct. 20 through Feb. 27, 2022) is comprised of five exhibitions, including Beyond the Sky (see above); among them, Soul of Black FolksandThread for a Web Begunareparticularly exciting examinations of daily life. The first is the debut museum show for Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo and it riffs on the W.E.B. Du Bois essay thatexamined how Black people see themselves. The latter is another first-time U.S. showing, featuring retrospective and new works by Billie Zangewa, who delivers a feminist narrative through breathtakingly skilled silk tapestries that picture autobiographical scenes.

// Museum of the African Diaspora is open Wednesday through Sunday; 685 Mission St. (SoMa), moadsf.org.

Litquake founders Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware.(Chris Hardy)


San Francisco's illustrious literary festival kicks off with a masked ball at St. Joseph's Arts Society on Thursday October 7th, then runs through the 23rd with offerings for everyone and every Covid comfort level. About half of the author events will take place virtually this year, with a lineup that includes luminaries Isabel Allende, Paul Auster, and Dave Eggers. Looking to experience the written word in person? On the evening of October 9th, local legend D.A. Powell hosts Grace Notes: Poetry at Grace Cathedral, featuring a national lineup of poets at the famous church. On the afternoons of October 16th and 17th, the Yerba Buena Garden Esplanade will come alive with poetry readings and an appearance from San Francisco's poet laureate, Tongo Eisen-Martin. Litquake will go out with a bang as usual with the Litcrawl, a night of readings at bookshops and bars throughout the Mission. All Litquake events are free with a suggested donation. Pre-registration is required for virtual events, and some in-person events.

// For the full schedule of events, go to litquake.org

San Francisco Symphony

Live music has returned to Davies Symphony Hall. Throughout October, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the San Francisco Symphony and a host of star soloists through renditions of Beethoven and Debussy, among others. In November, Gustavo Gimeno and Michael Tilson Thomas will move through Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. Simone Young conducts Tchaikovsky in early December before holiday festivities kick off, set to include evenings of soul and mariachi music as well as film screenings of the Christmas classics Love Actually and Home Alone with live orchestral accompaniment.

// Tickets are available at sfsymphony.org.

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