David Wilson

David Wilson, Arrivals (detail of Searching Notes at 151 Third Street), 2013; Site-specific installations of drawings, trailhead from reclaimed redwoods, six takeaway maps, six site compositions in San Francisco with six accompanying audio recordings commissioned by SFMOMA, courtesy the artist; photo: courtesy SFMOMA

David Wilson: Arrivals

David Wilson's works on paper and performance-based pieces explore what he describes as "the many lost corners and in-between stretches of natural and developed space" in Northern California. He has organized events at such locations as Angel Island, Wildcat Canyon, and the Marin Headlands. Whether he is working in large groups or in one-on-one exchanges, Wilson's ephemeral projects often involve collaboration with a rich community of musicians, filmmakers, and other artists. He frequently announces his participatory gatherings and site-specific installations through invitations that include folded maps with directions and sketches meant to guide attendees to carefully composed situations. The performative and social aspect of his work stems from repeated, solitary visits to an area, which are reflected in the plein air studies he creates in drawing and watercolor on found paper.

David Wilson's Arrivals (2013), a series of six self-guided journeys to outdoor sites throughout San Francisco, begins at a reclaimed redwood trailhead in front of the closed SFMOMA museum building at 151 Third Street. Approximately every two weeks, the artist will leave new takeaway maps there. Each map will provide instructions for the experience and lead visitors to sites where Wilson and his collaborators have recorded songs, music, and sound-based performances. Participants are invited to listen to these recordings upon locating a tape player at each of the sites. The performances draw in part from In Song Sing On (2012-ongoing), a publication project for sing-alongs Wilson is producing in collaboration with artist Colter Jacobsen. Creating a sense of shared intimacy despite distance, Arrivals facilitates a private listening experience that connects each individual with both the performers and with fellow future audience members.

The first map leads visitors to a eucalyptus grove in the Presidio, where the artist has installed an elaborate, sixteen-foot-high ink drawing that will be on view throughout the exhibition. Spread over twenty-four sheets of paper, it depicts Frog Woman Rock, a landmark rock formation in the Russian River Canyon in Northern California that the artist associates with expectation and arrival. Over the course of the exhibition, Wilson will regularly develop new sites and drawings in different corners of the city, from freeways to alleys. "I've tried to find areas with a sense of autonomy and privacy, that have a beautiful, forgotten quality," he says. "They are often places whose jurisdiction is in a gray zone, and maybe you can feel like it's yours for a minute."

Specific walking and public transportation instructions are indicated on the takeaway maps.

Performers: Ben Belknap, Andy Cabic, Tony Cross, Barbara Diener, Sara Gambin, Danny Paul Grody, Jeremy Harris, Holly Herndon, Colter Jacobsen, Frank Lyon, Meara O’Reilly, Sarah Simon, Sonny Smith, Kate Sweeney, Daren Wilson, and the Song Book crew

Technical assistance: Tomo Yasuda and David Washburn

Documentation: Terri Loewenthal

Commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, courtesy the artist; with special thanks to the Presidio Trust; the Chinese Cemetery Association; and the Balloon Lady.


Download a PDF of the exhibition catalogue essay and conversation with the artist. The full publication is available for purchase at the SFMOMA MuseumStore.

Visit Information

151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
View map

Visitors can pick up maps at the trailhead in front of the closed SFMOMA building. New maps will be available as follows:

September 14 - November 17
Arrivals - Map 1: Presidio

September 23 - October 7
Arrivals - Map 2: Chinatown

October 7 - October 28
Arrivals - Map 3: Warm Water Cove via The Balloon Lady

October 28 - November 17
Arrivals - Map 4: Bernal Hill

November 4 - November 17
Arrivals - Map 5: Potrero Hill

November 17, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Arrivals - Map 6: South of Market
The event at the final location is presented as part of Live Projects 2: SECA Art Award.




Map 1: The Cemetery Connector Trail, which leads to the first site, located east of the Presidio National Cemetery Overlook, is not wheelchair accessible.


Was "AC - testplayer copy"

Audio Recordings

Presidio Site Soundtrack - Side A, composed and performed by Andy Cabic, Tony Cross, and Danny Paul Grody: analogue tape loops, 12 string guitar, violin, wine glasses, harmonium, environmental sounds. Recorded by David Washburn during the Opening Gathering, site 1 from David Wilson’s Arrivals, September 14, 2013, the Presidio, San Francisco. Mixed by Danny Paul Grody. Courtesy the artists. Photo: Terri Loewenthal, © Terri Loewenthal

Presidio Site Soundtrack - Side B, round of songs performed Meara O'Reilly, Jeremy Harris, David Wilson, Colter Jacobsen, Sarah Simon, Ben Belknap, and Sara Gambin. Recorded by David Washburn and mastered by Jeremy Harris during the Opening Gathering, site 1 from David Wilson's Arrivals, September 14, 2013, the Presidio, San Francisco. Photo: Terri Loewenthal, © Terri Loewenthal

Chinatown Site Soundtrack - "How Great Thou Art"  sung by Immaculate Conception Church Choir of Boscobel, Wisconsin. Recorded by Barbara Diener. Site 2 from David Wilson's Arrivals, Jason Court, Chinatown; Photo: David Wilson, © David Wilson

Bernal Site Soundtrack - Private Address, a sound mixture created by Frank Gilbert Lyon. Site 4 from David Wilson’s Arrivals, Bernal Hill, San Francisco; Photo: David Wilson, © David Wilson

Potrero Site Soundtrack – Holly Herndon, Two Tape Loops (for sitting by the highway), 2013; Site 5 from David Wilson's Arrivals, Potrero Hill, San Francisco; Photo: David Wilson, © David Wilson


Major support for the 2012 SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, David Wilson is provided by SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art), an SFMOMA art interest group. Generous support is provided by Carlie Wilmans. Additional support is provided by the SECA Circle of Friends.