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Upcoming Exhibition

New Work: Mary Lovelace O’Neal

March 16–October 20, 2024
Floor 4
Tickets
Entry to this exhibition is included with general admission.

Over her sixty-year practice, Mary Lovelace O’Neal has experimented with materials, color, and the discursive relationship between abstraction and figuration. Her paintings allude to a vast mythology of personal and shared narratives, from her beloved dachshund Tillie to her involvement in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Her early works from the 1960s utilized lampblack pigment — powdered soot created from burning oil, which she rubbed and pushed into her canvases — enabling her to address “surface flatness, black as a color, and blackness as an existential, racial experience.” Lovelace O’Neal would then go in with materials including paint, gasoline, and glitter, introducing imagination and play to the velvety black expanses. In time, representational elements emerged from her abstractions, offering new narrative possibilities within a constellation of references across music, literature, and social movements.

In 1979, she was hired at the University of California, Berkeley, where she became the first African American professor awarded tenure in the Department of Art Practice in 1985, chair of the department in 1999, and professor emerita in 2006. Lovelace O’Neal now splits her time between Oakland and Mérida, Mexico, where these works were made. Lovelace O’Neal’s recent paintings begin with a black ground, but color remains foundational to her practice. As she has explained, “Painting with color was always a surprise. [It was] like dancing with the paint.”

Exhibition Preview

Mary Lovelace O’Neal, LA PIETA, 2021–23; © Mary Lovelace O’Neal, courtesy the artist and Karen Jenkins-Johnson; photo: Michael Covián
Mary Lovelace O’Neal, FRANCIS, 2021–23; © Mary Lovelace O’Neal, courtesy the artist and Karen Jenkins-Johnson; photo: Michael Covián
Mary Lovelace O'Neal, WHAT A WONDER* aka Untitled, No Title, Last Lay Up, 1977–78; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchased with aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts; © Mary Lovelace O'Neal; photo: Katherine Du Tiel
Mary Lovelace O’Neal, MARDI GRAS UMBRELLAS & FIREFLIES, 2021–23; © Mary Lovelace O’Neal, courtesy the artist and Karen Jenkins-Johnson; photo: Michael Covián

Significant support for New Work: Mary Lovelace O’Neal is provided by Mary Jane Elmore, Deborah and Kenneth Novack, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.

Meaningful support is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, Jessica and Matt Farron, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz, and Gary Steele and Steven Rice.

Header image: Mary Lovelace O’Neal, LA PIETA, 2021–23; © Mary Lovelace O’Neal, courtesy the artist and Karen Jenkins-Johnson; photo: Michael Covián