Past Commission

Erina Alejo

My Ancestors Followed Me Here, 2020

July 2021

Bay Area Walls commission
March 7–September 6, 2021
Floor 3

Erina Alejo, Tess of JT Restaurant preparing daily servings of home-style Filipino cuisine, 953 Mission Street, South of Market district, from the series My Ancestors Followed Me Here, 2020; inkjet print; courtesy the artist; © Erina Alejo
Erina Alejo, Former site of Arik Surplus Co., known for carrying Ben Davis work clothes, 2650 Mission Street, Mission district, from the series My Ancestors Followed Me Here, 2020; inkjet print; courtesy the artist; © Erina Alejo
Alejo organizes materials for the vitrines, which feature mementos and archival material. Photo: SFMOMA
Erina Alejo, My Ancestors Followed Me Here, 2020 (installation view); ©️ Erina Alejo


Erina Alejo’s photo-based project responds to the storefront murals and signage that appeared in San Francisco during the pandemic. Exploring themes of legacy and family, Alejo tells personal, incisive stories of Bay Area life that provoke larger conversations about the simmering tensions and injustices profoundly felt in these urban spaces.

For My Ancestors Followed Me Here, Alejo traversed the 7.2-mile span of San Francisco’s Mission Street on foot to understand changes taking place in the neighborhoods where they grew up. Their process of photographing and genuinely connecting with different cross sections of people and places informs their ongoing research into the complex dynamics of gentrification and displacement.

By documenting these murals and people, Alejo preserves the visual conversation taking place within our local communities. Constantly evolving, these living walls reflect collective activism and resistance. A metaphor for their practice, the murals bear witness to an intergenerational layering of histories and make way for new narratives.

—Linde B. Lehtinen, Assistant Curator of Photography


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.