Suzanne Lacy

We Are Here
April 20–August 4, 2019
YBCA First Floor Galleries and
SFMOMA Floor 7 and Haas Jr. Atrium

Suzanne Lacy is a pioneer of socially engaged art and public practice, promoting dialogue and collaborations with communities — artists, activists, organizations, schools — throughout her prolific career. Since the 1970s, she has used community organizing strategies and media interventions to galvanize discussions about pressing social issues including feminism, violence against women, racism, and labor rights. These projects often culminate in large-scale, highly choreographed performances that bring together diverse groups of participants to share their stories.

Co-organized by SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), Suzanne Lacy: We Are Here is the first full retrospective of the Los Angeles–based artist. At SFMOMA, visitors can explore Lacy’s entire career, from her earliest feminist work to her latest immersive video installations. Several projects on view honor the voices and contributions of women to public life. The YBCA presentation offers a new, experimental approach to authorship and participation, revisiting key collaborative projects through the lens of today. This includes an in-depth focus on The Oakland Projects (1991–2001), a series on youth empowerment, media education, and policy. Visitors can also engage with works by contemporary Bay Area artists, and youth arts and activist organizations. Both venues will host live activations in the galleries and a vibrant range of public programs.

Exhibition Preview

Suzanne Lacy, Inevitable Associations 1976
a semblance of human body and organs in swimming pool
Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz, In Mourning and in Rage
original selection of Whisper, the Wave, the Wind
Suzanne Lacy, The Crystal Quilt (detail),
Suzanne Lacy, Susanne Cockrell, and Britta Kathmeyer, Alterations, 1994–95; 2019 installation view at SFMOMA; © Suzanne Lacy
Suzanne Lacy with Meg Parnell, Cleaning Conditions,
De tu Puño y Letra (By Your Own Hand), 2015 (production still); performance
The Circle and The Square, 2017; multi-channel video installation

Suzanne Lacy, Inevitable Associations, 1976; performance, August 8, 1976, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles; © Suzanne Lacy; photo: Raúl Vega

Suzanne Lacy, Anatomy Lesson #4: Swimming, 1977 (detail); © Suzanne Lacy; photo: Rob Blalack

Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz, In Mourning and in Rage, 1977; performance, December 13, 1977, Los Angeles City Hall; photo: Maria Karras, courtesy the artists

Suzanne Lacy and Sharon Allen, Whisper, the Waves, the Wind, 1983–84; performance, May 19, 1984, La Jolla; © Suzanne Lacy; photo: Edith Kodmur

Suzanne Lacy, The Crystal Quilt , 1985–87 (installation view 2012, Tate Modern); quilt design by Miriam Shapiro; lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2012; photo: Tate Photography

Suzanne Lacy, Susanne Cockrell, and Britta Kathmeyer, Alterations, 1994; installation view of performance as part of Old Glory, New Story: Re-flagging the 21st Century (1994–95) at Capp Street Project, San Francisco; © Suzanne Lacy; photo: Gary Nakamoto

Suzanne Lacy with Meg Parnell, Cleaning Conditions, 2013, performances, Manchester Art Gallery as part of do it 2013, Manchester International Festival 2013 at Manchester Art Gallery; © Suzanne Lacy; photo: Alan Seabright

De tu Puño y Letra (By Your Own Hand), 2015 (production still); performance, November 25, 2015, Plaza De Toros, Belmonte, Quito, Ecuador; photo: Christoph Hirtz, courtesy the artist

Suzanne Lacy, The Circle and the Square, 2017 (production still); filmed performance, Brierfield Mill, Brierfield, Lancashire, United Kingdom; © Suzanne Lacy; photo: Chris Payne


Social practice artist Suzanne Lacy discusses the origins of feminist performance art in the 1970s. Through collaboration and community organizing, Lacy and her contemporaries aimed to raise widespread awareness about women’s personal and political issues such as rape, domestic violence, aging, and media representation.

Related ideas:
Feminist icon Judy Chicago: https://youtu.be/_rX-23tHIuw
Feminist art playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rX-23tHIuw&list=PL6LAgXLAqTH_HeLLbW2wSL_ZC5jjTRh7F
Ant Farm hacks the media: https://youtu.be/FW3xwtnps70

Exhibition Catalogue

This generously illustrated book sheds light on the groundbreaking career of Suzanne Lacy, an artist, writer, and educator whose participatory, socially engaged performances helped define social practice art.
Read More

Suzanne Lacy: We Are Here is co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA).

The exhibition is co-curated by Rudolf Frieling (Curator of Media Arts, SFMOMA), Lucía Sanromán (Director, Laboratorio Arte Alameda, Mexico City, and Curator at Large, YBCA), and Dominic Willsdon (former Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Practice, SFMOMA; now Director, Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond), with the assistance of Christa Cesario (Community Organizing Manager, YBCA) and Tanya Zimbardo (Assistant Curator of Media Arts, SFMOMA).

At SFMOMA, major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Generous support is provided by Lionel F. Conacher and Joan T. Dea and Susan Swig.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The YBCA presentation is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Circle of Advisors for Changing the Ratio: Female Artists at YBCA.

Header image: Suzanne Lacy, Filming The Circle and the Square, 2017 (excerpt); courtesy the artist; © Suzanne Lacy