I made a visit to the Oakland Museum today. I was aware they were having a special exhibit where they had borrowed work from the SFMOMA while that museum is closed and under reconstruction and expansion. I assumed it was work I had seen before and was not expecting anything special – oh how silly of me. Once again, the Oakland Museum has done an amazing job. They have integrated their own work and included rarely seen work from both museums’ collection. Some of the work has never been exhibited before.
The exhibit, titled Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California is the big don’t miss museum show in the Bay Area right now. There are four components to the show. It begins with the 1930’s including WPA art, murals and political work influenced by the San Francisco General Strike of 1934. The SFMOMA’s Frida Kahlo portrait of her and Diego Rivera looks better than ever and is finally show in context. After the first section, you pass into the postwar years. You cross over from Telegraph Hill to North Beach and are immersed in the world of the California School of Fine Arts, Rothko, Diebenkorn, Cunningham et al. Next it’s up to UC Davis circa 1970 when that little agriculture state university became the epicenter of contemporary art in the Western U.S. The final component of the show takes viewers to the 1990’s and includes an emphasis on political activism. There is a series of videos of different demonstrations and political actions back then. The videos got me all excited when I realized I was at many of those demos. I have to go and watch them again and look for myself on the walls of the museums. I already spotted a few people I know.
The show runs through April 12, 2015 and I’ll be back to look a few more times before then.