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.

/ , San Francisco, CA 
September 16 – December 16, 2023

Much like the official press release for this show, which reads like longform prose imbued with linguistic meditations, intertextual/intermedia references, and queer feelings, trầnsfiguration feels like a generous offering along a pathway toward care and collective healing. Curated by queer, disabled artist, writer, and educator Việt Lê, select works by six artists working within transnational contexts in the U.S. and Việt Nam converge in solidarity at / (slash)’s main gallery. 

Touching on themes of corporeality, untangling settler-colonial logics, embodied trauma, spiritual traditions from Southeast Asian shamanism to Black Atlantic religions, and tending to the archive, the intimate show is an invitation to recognize and affectively reconcile with personal and collective wounds reverberating across time and space. Throughout, the body is suggested as a site for divine psychic transformation in a way that made me think about my place within the deep cosmic expanse. The artists in the show also dually interrogate and play with figuration, form, and material, leading me to contemplate how objects, images, and narratives can be re-contextualized and re-articulated within our perceptual landscapes into vessels of resilience and renewal. 

Việt is my professor and department chair at California College of the Arts. In class, they have led me to similarly think more through the radical potential of the personal and autoethnographic.  

Reflection: How do you give form to the transcendent?

Marcel Pardo Arizas: Orquídeas
500 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA
October 19, 2023 – February 17, 2024

I really love Marcel Pardo Ariza’s photographic-sculptural installations and the way they work so closely in dialogue with friends and local community members, so I am eager to see them transform the historic David Ireland House into an “inviting and inclusive space” for queer and trans people in the Mission District, as the result of Pardo Ariza’s summer-long residency at 500 Capp Street Foundation.

Running throughout October and November, the project will include public programming such as drag workshops and performances, a food popup by artist-chef Salimatu Amabebe benefiting local sex workers, and more.  It will also feature a multimedia and multi-sensory site specific installation entitled Memoria Trans SF celebrating trans elders and ancestors in the Bay. Made in collaboration with artist Julián Delgado Lopera and El/La Para Translatinas, functioning as a generative space for “oral, archival, and visual stories of trans joy” where visitors will be invited to participate in the building of this archive.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to respond urgently, what it might mean to be an ancestor, what it means to memorialize and take care of your ancestors and elders, about navigating archival access and selection, and the role of artists and cultural workers in between, so this feels resonant. 

Reflection: How are you preserving your own queer history? What orients you toward “joy” and how do you make space for rage?

Bay Area Now 9
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
October 6, 2023-May 5, 2024

Unlike past iterations of YBCA’s signature triennial, Bay Area Now 9 is unique in its inclusion of a newly established Curatorial Counsel composed of community members from various creative fields that helped shape the nature of the exhibition and public programming, and advise the center’s lead curatorial team. The show features a diverse group of thirty carefully chosen artists living within the nine Bay Area counties, exploring an eclectic array of mediums, with both emerging and mid-career practices. 

Recent local exhibitions organized around shared geography feel like they’re trying hard to counter imposed “doom and gloom” narratives about the Bay and its art scene. BAN 9 seems to have to navigate this institutional urge to reframe and redirect, especially given that YBCA has been an anchoring presence right near downtown SF for thirty years now. However, its lack of an explicit, definitive theme and collaborative and community driven approach feels very tangible, embodying a distinct Bay Area ethos around human connection.

I was a bit overwhelmed walking through the multifloor triennial. To be surrounded by the work of many excellent and diverse artists who are working right now and forging unique methods of creative research, inquiry, and relationality, feels like a small act of witnessing and partaking in future world-building. The artists in the show demonstrate such intentional care and tenderness around personal and public histories, who they love, what they witness, and where they find home; notions I see so frequently mirrored in the way folks never fail to show up in support around here. 

Reflection: What does the Bay look/feel/sound/smell/taste like? How might these works influence how you interact with our natural, constructed, or social environments?

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