Must-See Bay Area Visual Art Exhibits This Fall

Some of the most ambitious local programming derailed by the pandemic was originally planned in conjunction with the Feminist Art Coalition. The brainchild of BAMPFA curator Apsara DiQuinzio, this consortium grew out of the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 Women’s March, ultimately involving more than 100 arts organizations across the United States, to organize exhibitions and events focused on feminist thought and practice. DiQuinzio recently announced his departure from BAMPFA after nine years at the museum, and new time is his epic send-off. The survey of feminist art from the past two decades contains over 70 artists working in a range of media, spanning the BAMPFA outdoor screen to Political landscapes (photographs of steps taken by Catherine Opie), and a new fresco commissioned by Luchita Hurtado, among the last works produced by the artist before his death in 2020.

Joan Mitchell, “Weeds”, 1976; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (© Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo by Ian Lefebvre, Art Gallery of Ontario)

Sept. 4, 2021–Jan. 17, 2022
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

If you (like me) have longed for color, texture, and scale in your small, screen-filled life, this Joan Mitchell retrospective offers temporary satisfaction. Organized by both SFMOMA and the Baltimore Museum of Art, the exhibition features some 80 works spanning the artist’s four-decade career. Mitchell’s athletic abstractions are alternately dense and loose, filled with gestures large and small. The show pays particular attention to the landscapes Mitchell absorbed during her time in Chicago, New York, Paris, and eventually the French village of Vétheuil where she lived and worked for her final 25 years.

Two red-tinted images of enslaved people with superimposed text.
Carrie Mae Weems, “You became Mammie, Mom, Mother, then, yes, confidante-ha/Descendant of the throne, you became an infantryman and a cook”, 1995-1996; Chromogenic print with sandblasted text. (© Carrie Mae Weems; Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Sept. 9–Nov. 12, 2021
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

A look back at four decades of work by Carrie Mae Weems, Witness marks the photographer’s first exhibition at Fraenkel and a welcome bonus for Bay Area art lovers. The exhibition includes documentary-style photography, scenes of black domesticity, staged accounts with power structures, lyrical video work, and powerful combinations of image and text. It’s especially appropriate to revisit this work (or see it for the first time) in the Bay Area, where Weems lived occasionally during the 70s and 80s, attending the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop of Anna Halprin and studying folklore at UC Berkeley. .

A naked woman is lying in a fetal position on a bed.
Gina Contreras, “La Solitaire”, 2021; Acrylic and gouache on canvas. (Courtesy of the artist)

Sept. 10–Oct. ten
Park Life, San Francisco

San Francisco Artist Gina M. Contreras‘The delicately rendered paintings of nude women (mostly solo) on their beds, in their homes, surrounded by personal objects that provide comfort, are a delight to behold. Whether you view his characters as downcast or simply contemplative, they are never truly isolated; Contreras’ scenes are rich in detail, color and pattern. Look for painted notebook pages, photographs, magazine pages and countless flowers. His work is so inviting that you might find yourself closer to his surfaces than other humans over the past 18 months.

A screen mounted on a floating barge shows the portrait of a woman.
Shimon Attie, ‘Night Watch (Norris with Liberty)’, 2018; Originally produced by in New York. (Courtesy of the artist)

September 17 to 19, 6:15 p.m. to 9 p.m.
San Francisco Bay and Oakland Estuary

If being indoors isn’t your thing these days, BOXBLUR (a performance program launched by the Catharine Clark Gallery) and the Immersive Arts Alliance have hosted three nights of waterfront viewing for the Shimon Attie’s floating video project: a slow-moving barge with a 20-foot-wide LED screen. night watch presents silent video portraits of 12 refugees who have been granted political asylum in the United States, images that make tangible what it means to leave one’s homeland in the face of violence and discrimination. The project will be accompanied by music and dance performances on the waterfronts along the night barge routes, events at more than 40 Bay Area partner organizations and a personal exhibition of Attie’s work at Catharine Clark (September 18 to October 30).

Collage of photographs of female performers on a yellow background.
Lindsey White, “Ladies’ Night”, 2021; Digital fiber printing, paper, collage. (Courtesy of the artist)

Sept. 17–Oct. 30
Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, San Francisco

Lindsey White has long collaborated with the curious (and island) worlds of professional and amateur magicians, comedians and other performing personalities. In his hands, jokes and gestures, props and scripts become targeted object lessons on the value of humor and gender dynamics within different artistic circles. In this exhibition of all-new photographs and sculptures, White reimagines existing archival photographs, focusing more on how the stories of these scenes are preserved or constructed.

A square painting of predominantly gold and brown circles, stripes and rays.
Eamon Ore-Giron, “Infinite Regression CLXXXI”, 2021; Mineral and flash paint on linen. (Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York; photo by Charles White/

Anderson Collection, Stanford University
Sept. 23, 2021–Feb. 20, 2022

Eamon Ore-Giron is based in Los Angeles, but his work regularly goes back to the Bay Area (he earned his BFA at SFAI in 1996), and we’re doing better. The artist is the 2020-22 recipient of Stanford’s Presidential Residency on the Future of the Arts, a program launched in 2018 to bring “world-renowned artists to the Stanford campus.” His precise geometric abstractions draw on both ancient and 20th-century influences, connecting indigenous and artisanal traditions with avant-garde art movements. His compositions – which often remind me of swinging clock pendulums – allude to layers of cultural knowledge and vast periods of time.

A painted scene of several seated figures.
Conrad Egyir, “A Chapter of Love” (detail), 2021; vinyl painting reproduction. (Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman)

Oct. 1, 2021–Feb. 2, 2022 (gallery); Oct. 1, 2021–Sept. 2022 (facade)
ICA San Jose

After refreshing the ICA galleries and transforming the facade of the art center into a remarkable public art venue, the Detroit-based Ghanaian artist Conrad Egyir seizes the interior as well as the exterior of this month of October with its figurative paintings. Inside, Chapters of light will present for the first time a series of monochrome portraits – Egyir usually depicts close friends or himself – which blur the boundaries between subject, environment and background. Out, A chapter of love returns to Egyir’s brightly colored palette to illustrate the idea that “it takes a whole village” to raise children. This sense of community and participation is further captured by an interactive portrait room and sidewalk installation meant to spark hopscotch-like games.

The setting for Trevor Paglen’s “Beta Space” sound installation: the 19th century clock tower of the San Jose Museum of Art. (Richard J. Karson)

Nov. 5, 2021–Nov. 6, 2022
San Jose Art Museum

Although this show is technically inside the SJMA, those looking for it need only be within earshot of the museum’s clock tower. A new sound piece commissioned by the artist Trevor Paglen— his first — will issue regular verbal announcements in a synthesized male voice similar to that heard on the US Naval Observatory’s phone line (i.e. 202-762-1401, for future reference). A mix of local facts (time, weather) and global information (data pulled from satellite navigation systems, a list of endangered species, updates from Cal Fire, to name a few- uns) will interrupt business as usual for 45 seconds at a time, reframing everyday life in relation to events occurring on a geological scale.

Two vertical arrays of red and green leaves.
Ryan Mrozowski, ‘Untitled (Pair)’ 2021; Acrylic on linen. (Courtesy of the artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco)

Nov. 5–Dec. 17
Report 3, San Francisco

There’s something hypnotic about the Brooklyn-based company Ryan Mrozowskithe paintings. Close-up views of lush vegetation, often displayed in diptychs, trigger a sort of “find the difference” compulsion as your eyes darken between two images. Some of his paintings use an all-over pattern punctuated with circles (the centers of black-eyed Susans or oddly evenly distributed oranges). Others depict impossible hedge mazes seen from above. This exhibition will include all new paintings, likely sources of plenty of exercise for visitors’ optic nerves.

Fair-skinned hands use a tool on a dark clay teacup.
‘Untitled (Finish of an edited teacup),’ c. 1970; photographic print from the Edith and Brian Heath Collection in the Environmental Design Archive, UC Berkeley. (Oakland Museum of California)

From November 13, 2021 to June 26, 2022
Oakland Museum of California