Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Strips of Stripes

September 16, 2023–Ongoing
Floor 2, Helen and Charles Schwab Hall
The public can access Strips of Stripes for free on Floor 2.

In this large-scale commission for SFMOMA’s lobby, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon (b. 1928) connects the striped motif of the museum’s 1996 Mario Botta–designed building with the open space of the 2016 expansion designed by Snøhetta. Strips of Stripes is the newest of her signature “supergraphics,” first developed in the 1960s for the Northern California coastal development The Sea Ranch. Here, bold environmental stripes and the letters “OK” span walls and ceilings in response to the surrounding architecture.

After studying “international style” graphic design at the Institut Kunst in Basel, Switzerland, Stauffacher Solomon opened a design office in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in the 1960s, bringing with her the crisp Swiss typeface Helvetica and a fluency in the formal rules of her training (along with a penchant to break them). Between 1962 and 1972, she designed SFMOMA’s monthly program guides with bright letters and graphics that stretch to the edges of the page. This commission builds on Stauffacher Solomon’s long relationship with SFMOMA, boldly activating our public space and welcoming visitors in.

Exhibition Preview

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Strips of Stripes, 2023 (installation view); photo: Don Ross
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Strips of Stripes, 2023; courtesy the artist
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Moonraker Athletic Center interior supergraphics, 2018; photo: ©️ Leslie Williamson
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, San Francisco Museum of Art program guide, November 1966; collection SFMOMA; © San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; photo: Don Ross

Portrait of Barbara Stauffacher Solomon; photo: Nellie King Solomon, courtesy the artist and von Bartha

“To design is to see, as in foresee; to draw visions not previously seen.”

— Barbara Stauffacher Solomon

In 1966, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon (b. 1928, San Francisco) made design history when she created “supergraphics,” large-scale forms that stretch across walls and ceilings in response to a building’s architecture. Fusing hard-edged Swiss design with California Abstract Expressionism, her influential practice has touched everything from graphic and landscape design to architecture, painting, and bookmaking.

Read Barbara Stauffacher Solomon’s full biography.

Major support for Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Strips of Stripes is provided by the Roberta and Steve Denning Commissioning Endowed Fund.

Generous support is provided by the Patricia W. Fitzpatrick Commissioning Endowed Fund, Diana Nelson and John Atwater Commissioning Fund, and the Denise Littlefield Sobel Commissioning Endowed Fund.

Community support is provided by Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle and The Agnes Cowles Bourne Bay Area Contemporary Arts Exhibition Fund.

Header image: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Strips of Stripes, (installation view) 2023; photo: Don Ross