San Francisco Chronicle • January 30, 2020 • by Aidin Vaziri
/ SFMOMA • Twitter • January 29, 2020
Read More: Sperry’s beautiful new art book, “Helikon, The Muses of Chuck Sperry” (2017)
From The Pioneer: Protest Posters From 1960s to Present Exhibited at SFMOMA by Shoib Ahmadzai
Social justice political posters from the 1960s to present day, including those relating to the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter, are on display at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
“I really like the juxtaposition of the old and the new posters,” stated Yagna Madala, a Los Angeles resident and modern art fan who visited San Francisco for a vacation.
The exhibit comes at a time of growing political tension in the country which has promoted a deep divide between both political parties on issues such as the rescindment of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), social activist movements such as Black Lives Matter and increased hostilities with North Korea.
Various anti-war, Black Panthers rally, anti-Nazi and pro-free speech posters decorate the glass protected wall in this exhibit, titled “Get with the Action.” It started on Sept. 16 and is scheduled to continue until spring 2018.
The exhibit, located in a small room on the third floor, stands out from the regular photography art displays. According to Ian Wagner, a museum visitor experience assistant at the MOMA, it is one of the most popular exhibits on the floor.
I am very proud my poster “This Is Our City And We Can Shut It Down” is now being exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Get with the Action
Political Posters from the 1960s to Now
September 16, 2017–Spring 2018
Bursting into the public realm in the mid-1960s, the protest poster has been used all over the world to incite change and empower the voice of the people. This exhibition presents the political poster as a powerful tool for organizing and activating communities in response to some of the most pressing issues over the past 50 years, from the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements to social justice, immigration, environmental causes, and more.
Get with the Action, a title taken from a screenprint by the artist and progressive activist nun Corita Kent, explores the medium of the poster as a communication device — one intended to be publically displayed, produced en masse, and often ephemeral — to inform and energize a wide audience. The works on view, focused on the creative output of the Bay Area and beyond, highlight the power of applied graphic design and its utility in presenting information while rallying citizens around a cause.
Curated in three rotations over six months, each presentation of Get with the Action calls attention to SFMOMA’s commitment to graphic design and to the continually relevant, if not urgent, movements of our time.
Read more about Chuck Sperry & his newest art book here
Temporally Bound (Three Gorgons): An installation by Chris Shaw & Chuck Sperry
June 2011 to January 2012
SFMOMA Window Gallery, Natoma Street, SF
Acrylic on 3 sections of 6 articulated hard-panels.
Each section measures 6’8″ x 12′ installed. (6’8″ h x 18′ flat.)
Chris Shaw and Chuck Sperry have been close friends for many years, but have only worked in tandem creating art on a handful of occasions. Both artists have both incorporated and appropriated concepts and imagery from a myriad of sources in their designs for Rock Posters and paintings.
“Temporally Bound” marks this collaboration by the two artists not only as an event, but also in the form and subject of the artwork. The work’s form is derived from an asian “accordion” book, while the subject, “Three Gorgons” reflects the artists’ western influences. The free intertwining of Eastern and Western references is not only evocative of the modern technological world, but also of San Francisco, a cultural melting pot on the Pacific Rim.
The installation is composed of 3 sections of 6 articulated hard panels, painted in acrylic and hand-made paints. The articulated form allows the artwork to bend or compress, the which lets the artwork take almost any form, in 2 or 3 dimensional space. Sperry and Shaw’s design concept for the Natoma Street windows of the SFMOMA Window Gallery called for an 18 foot wide horizontal image to compress into a 12 foot wide area. The artists chose wooden hard-panels for the installation substrate which creates a sturdy self-supporting structure with 52º angles, a golden proportion harmonious to the installation space.
In their experiences in creating Rock Posters, Shaw and Sperry had both worked previously with multi-panel poster images. When composing the “Three Gorgons” the artists paid special attention to the way the images would fragment when the panels were in their compressed and folded state. Because many of the viewers passing the installation on the sidewalk would be approaching at very oblique angles, the artists created semi-symmetrical images that would appear to change and unfold as the viewer passed by. Viewing the art at oblique angles and close proximity creates a distinct sense of “false abstraction”, while viewing the pieces from afar (the opposite sidewalk) gives the viewer cohesive, representational images of the Three Gorgons.
The 3 Gorgon images were created to work individually or together as a unit. In tandem, the artists each created their own distinct versions of a Gorgon (Shaw,left / Sperry, right). While each artist created their compositions and selected color individually, certain decisions were made together to help enhance the overall artwork when viewed in a unit. Red and Gold were both chosen as main color components, which again references Eastern art. The overall bold colors and hard graphic blackline of the Gorgons additionally reflects the artists work as poster artists and printmakers. Sperry and Shaw then worked together to create the 3rd, center Gorgon, a “hybrid” of their styles that would further bridge and integrate their individually created Gorgon panels.
Sperry’s highly textured Gorgon (right panel) evokes the paintings of Vienna Secession, primarily the work of Gustav Klimt, who is an influence in Sperry’s use of metallic pigments and textured layerings of paint. Sperry’s Gorgon offers a dynamic manifest investigation in painting of the styles and themes of the poster tradition.
The center, “hybrid” Gorgon as a co-creation is a melding of the 2 artists ideas and styles. Shaw’s subtly rendered mother-of-pearl Gorgon’s face is accented with copper and black metal-flake paints. Sperry created the Gorgon’s prerequisite head of snakes, combining gold serpentine forms with linear rays of silver and copper. The two components of the image are seamlessly integrated with a bold blackline, characteristic of both artists’ work. This piece will also produce the optical illusion mentioned above as the viewer passes the artwork on the sidewalk.
Shaw’s Gorgon (left section) is a hard-line and sharp shadowed, woman’s face in pure yellow with pupil-less red metallic eyes. The Gorgon is accentuated by a headful of stylized gold snakes based on a pre-Inca Moche headdress. The symmetry in the face and forced perspective creates a distinct “Holbeinesque” optical illusion when viewed in the folded 52º state, as the face will appear to rotate as the viewer passes. Shaw’s work with large-scale stage art fostered an interest in the way large images can change when viewed at very oblique angles.