Art in the San Francisco Bay Area

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The history of art in the San Francisco Bay Area includes major contributions to contemporary art, including Abstract Expressionism. The area is known for its cross-disciplinary artists like Bruce Conner, Bruce Nauman, and Peter Voulkos as well as a large number of non-profit alternative art spaces including New Langton Arts, Intersection for the Arts, and Southern Exposure. San Francisco Bay Area Visual Arts has undergone many permutations paralleling innovation and hybridity in literature and theater.

Artists 1950-present[edit]

Paralleling a new interest in eastern philosophy and Zen via Alan Watts and the literary and poetic irreverence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and others, visual artists such as Bruce Conner and Jay DeFeo diverged from the Abstract Expressionism of the east coast to make connections between sculpture and painting. Connor's found material assemblages, collages and experimental films make him an early cross-disciplinary pioneer.

Painter Wayne Thiebaud's paintings of commonplace products such as toys or gumball machines paralleled the pop influenced Funk style. Involving bright colors, humor and word-play, Funk is most often associated with the ceramic work of Robert Arneson, and the paintings of William T. Wiley. All three, along with Roy De Forest and Manuel Neri taught at UC Davis in the 60s and 70s. (Artist and educator Peter Voulkos set the stage for Funk by reengaging ceramics as part of contemporary studio practice.) Bruce Nauman, who is often credited with dissolving the medium specific practices of previous generations, went to UC Davis and studied under William Wiley. San Francisco Bay Area is the home of well known fine artist Anna Bayla Wilson.[1] Anna is the younger sister of former Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda (1996 film) star Mara Wilson.[2]

By the end of the 1960s Conceptual Art and Minimal Art were reforming the aesthetics and values of visual art. Bay Area artists responded to the dominance of the white cube, and transitioned from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented practice inspired by Marcel Duchamp.[3] In the Bay Area, starting in the 1970s, Artists such as Tom Marioni, Paul Kos, Howard Fried and Terry Fox, explored the intersection of performance and sculpture. Also picking up on conceptualism, with an added materialist strain, was David Ireland.

In 1967 The Experimental Television Project (later renamed the National Center for Experiments in Television), housed at KQED studios was one of the first programs in the nation to give artists access to television studios and equipment. Groups like Ant Farm, Video Free America, and T.R. Uthco working in the same moment were video recording "happening" performances, and experimenting with light sound and time.[4]

Art Spaces[edit]


See also[edit]


  2. ^ To Her, It's Kids' Stuff : Movies: Mara Wilson, 7, is earning praise from her co-stars in the upcoming 'Miracle on 34th Street,' but acting is just something she says she likes--for now.
  3. ^ "System Esthetics". Artforum. 7:1: 31. September 1968. 
  4. ^ Johnstone, Mark (2002). Epicenter: San Francisco Bay Area Art Now. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-3541-3. 

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