Past Commission

Muzae Sesay

Muzae Sesay: Cut Trees, 2020

July 2021

Bay Area Walls commission
October 3, 2020–July 18, 2021
Floor 7


Muzae Sesay’s richly chromatic, geometrically structured works deftly allude to history, community, personal experience, and the world around us. Much of his work explores the formation and fragmentation of memory, identity, and human connection in relation to environments and architectural spaces real and imagined.

Muzae Sesay: Cut Trees consists of two paintings, each eight by six feet, bearing lush surfaces of oil, acrylic, oil pastel and other mediums. Titled With Resilience, Far Too Long and With Roots, Far Too Deep, the canvases are installed on black painted squares on either side of an aperture blocked by a chain-link fence that evokes the urban landscape.

The underlying structure of each canvas is informed by artist David Hammons’s iconic red, green, and black African-American Flag (1990). Sesay’s paintings build on the geometry and symbolism of the flag with images referencing the trees chopped down in his neighborhood that have captured his attention and informed his practice during shelter-in-place. With both gravitas and optimism, the new growth emerging from their stumps offers symbols of hope and resilience during a time period that has only become more fraught as the artist developed his commission in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the related social upheaval and heightened attention to racial injustice throughout the Bay Area and world. “Depictions of new leaves sprout vitality into the composition, persevering, and emerging from hostility,” noted Sesay. “Hope surfaces as the subtle, central subject.”


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.