Northern California picks from Vanessa Perez Winder

Cliff Notes

Each week, our regional Cliff Notes columnists Mariah Green, Vanessa Perez Winder, Jas Keimig, and Sam Wrigglesworth pick the most exciting events and exhibitions on the West Coast.

Dude Where’s My School?
120710, Berkeley, CA
August 26 to September 23, 2023

Dude, Where’s My School?, curated by Josh Hash at the new artist run space 120710, brings together the work of 19 recent alumni of the San Francisco Art Institute. Once heralded as innovative and progressive, boasting a roster of several notable faculty and alumni throughout its existence, the school shuttered its doors in 2022 after over 150 years of operations due to a number of issues, namely with finances and leadership. 

SFAI’s closure is certainly a loss for the Bay Area’s art history and raises other questions about arts higher education, funding, and both public and private support in a billionaire city like San Francisco. But what the show makes abundantly clear is that flourishing art worlds are ultimately driven by the enduring relationships and networks of support forged between artists, their peers, and beloved communities, not institutional validation. Alongside this group of artists, we are invited to re-imagine alternative, more equitable, and accessible possibilities for how we might sustain this, today and in the future (perhaps ones that don’t involve debt). 

Reflection: What new approaches or models of artistic support can you envision?

Ana Jotta: Never the Less
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, CA
September 7 to November 11 

Ana Jotta is a particularly intriguing and peculiar artist, considering her body of work of the last few decades has, non-linearly, incorporated virtually every medium. Partially informed by years working as an theater actress and set designer, her practice has seamlessly drawn from elements of (art) history, the mundanities of everyday life (personal and collective), and the public sphere. 

In Never the Less, curators Anthony Hubermann and Miguel Wandschneider hone in specifically on this idea of drawing and the multiplicities of language. Drawing as a formal concept but not one merely limited to lines on paper.  Drawing as an act of extraction, an act of lengthening and expanding, or an act of enticement and invitation; “in, out, from,” as the curators suggest. In the process, Jotta employs a visual poetics that embraces fragmentation, recombination, and multi-layered perception. 

Walking through the gallery, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of liberation, at least in an artistic sense, amongst the small but focused collection of two-dimensional works, textiles, and sculptural installations (all made between the 1990s and the present). Jotta’s work not only challenges notions of “fine art” authorship by refusing to be ultra-legible and classifiable, but also nurtures a wonder and exuberance toward mark-making and interpreting the resonant images, materials, and senses she encounters.

Matrix 282 / Griselda Rosas: Yo Te Cuido
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA
August 30 to November 19, 2023

An exploration of the complex social histories and sensorial realities of those living in the borderlands between Tijuana and San Diego, Griselda Rosas’ Yo Te Cuido (Spanish for “I take care of you”) features new textile works and dynamic sculptural installations made from organic materials that seek to subvert patriarchal and colonial imagery, and are based in the artist’s extensive research based approach, as well as her ancestral history and lived experience as a woman and single mother. 

Navigating the realms between literal and abstract interpretation and playing with the audience’s sense of perception, Rosas’ sculptural iterations of symbols of war and violence take on a dual identity and form as objects of infantile play, such as a slingshot made from tree branches. Coming from a family of Mexican garment workers, the artist also speaks to themes of familial inheritance; notably, in some of her textile works, she traces over drawings of figures made by her son in layers of brightly colored thread, transforming and imbuing them with narrative elements inspired by pre-colonial Mesoamerican aesthetic traditions. 

Eliciting tension between conflict and innocence, beauty and violence, patriarchy and matriarchy, Rosas invites viewers to grapple with the interplay of opposing forces that define our worlds. 

Reflection: In what ways do you extend this notion of “care” toward preserving your own histories and communities?

Animal Style
Creative Growth Center, Oakland, CA
September 22 to ongoing

This show seems so fun and playful! Featuring over 100+ works from artists at Creative Growth in a variety of mediums, Animal Style, as its title suggests, is all about depictions of animals.

Animals are more than just subjects of spectatorship though, they often represent familial bonds, ecological and ethical causes, spiritual beliefs, our anthropomorphic tendencies, and so much more. We all have unique relationships and feelings relative to animals both wild and domestic that reveal much about our identities and connection to the natural world, so I’m interested to see how these diverse perspectives might be explored by the various artists in the show. 

Equal parts art show and art market, artwork sales will go to sustaining programs at Creative Growth Center, which “houses” the practice of over 140 artists with disabilities and provides them artistic, material, career, and mentorship support. I am hoping to find something either cow or weiner dog themed. 

Reflection: What has an animal taught you about yourself?

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