SFMOMA presents a series of commissions by local artists that consider the COVID-19 pandemic and unfolding crises of 2020. Displayed across three floors of the museum, these artworks reveal the far-reaching impact of these events on Bay Area communities.
Muzae Sesay: Cut Trees features two new paintings that continue the artist’s investigations into history, community, personal experience, and built environments. Built on an underlying geometric structure informed by David Hammons’s African American Flag (1990), Sesay’s paintings incorporate images of walls, fences, and harshly cut trees found near his Oakland studio as symbols of social and political upheaval as well as perseverance and optimism. (Floor 7)
In Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams, Elaine Chu and Marina Perez-Wong, together known as Twin Walls Mural Company, depict themes of healing and resilience amid imbalances stemming from COVID-19, generational trauma, pollution, and inequality. The work imagines a brighter future, featuring portraits of students from Oakland School for the Arts and members of the Radical Monarchs triumphantly dancing to advance new possibilities. (Floor 5)
Artist and researcher Erina Alejo, born and raised in San Francisco, works across time and place to construct archives on labor, displacement, family, and communal history. They are a third-generation renter with family in San Francisco, documented through their long-term project, A Hxstory of Renting (2015–ongoing). Alejo’s SFMOMA commission, My Ancestors Followed Me Here, explores the textures, cultural landmarks, objects, and people before and during the COVID-19 pandemic along San Francisco’s vibrant Mission Street. (Floor 3, opening December 2020)
Born and raised in Oakland, Adrian L. Burrell is a storyteller who uses photography, film, and site-specific installation to examine issues of race, class, gender, and intergenerational dynamics. His SFMOMA commission, It’s After the End of the World, Don’t You Know That Yet?, is a collective self-portrait that examines the normalized violence inflicted on Black lives in American society. (Floor 3, opening December 2020)
Liz Hernández works with topics related to her upbringing in Mexico City, creating imagery from memories of buildings covered in handmade signs, chaotic trips to markets, and her grandmother’s house. For Conjuro para la sanación de nuestro futuro (A spell for the healing of our future), Hernández brings forth symbols and icons from milagros, or miracle charms, to summon a higher power for our community’s health and future and remind us that we are all connected. (Floor 3, opening December 2020)
We Need an Anti-Racist, Transfeminist and Intersectional Museum (2020) was created by Marcela Pardo Ariza and Juan Carlos Rodríguez Rivera in conversation with other local artists, cultural workers, educators, and activists dedicated to implementing systemic change within art and cultural institutions in the Bay Area and beyond. The provocative and aspirational messages on these posters express the necessary work that the artists feel SFMOMA must undergo to address the needs and desires of the community it serves. (June 13, 2020 – July 28, 2020)
Major support for Bay Area Walls is provided by the SFMOMA Roberta and Steve Denning Commissioning Endowed Fund.
Generous support is provided by the Mary Jane Elmore West Coast Exhibition Fund, Randi and Bob Fisher, the Patricia W. Fitzpatrick Commissioning Endowed Fund, Katie Hall and Tom Knutsen, the Elaine McKeon Endowed Exhibition Fund, the Diana Nelson and John Atwater Commissioning Fund, and the Denise Littlefield Sobel Commissioning Endowed Fund.
Additional support is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, Oya and Bulent Eczacibasi, and Linda and Jon Gruber in memory of Gretchen Berggruen.
Header image: Twin Walls Mural Company, Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams, 2020 (in process); photo: Katherine Du Tiel