Energy That is All Around

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© Courtesy of the Artist and San Francisco Art Institute - Walter and McBean Galleries
Energy That is All Around
Curated by: Natasha Boas

800 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
September 12th, 2013 - December 14th, 2013
Opening: September 12th, 2013 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Financial District/Wharf
Tue 11-7; Wed-Sat 11-6


ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND features early and formative work by five artists—Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri—who began their careers in the early 1990s in San Francisco’s Mission district and, by the early aughts, had been identified and celebrated as key members of the so-called Mission School.  

This exhibition takes a focused and unprecedented view of an art movement that has garnered cult-like status over the last two decades, by looking closely at shared formal concerns in the painting and studio practice of these five artists—friends and collaborators who attended or were associated with the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). The exhibition connects works and ephemera produced at the beginning of the artists’ careers, much of which has remained in their personal or peer collections, with vibrant new work created for this show.

ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND is not conceived as an inclusive survey of the San Francisco Mission School, a term coined by critic Glen Helfand in 2002, nor as a nostalgic snapshot of the past. The exhibition rather reveals the arc of a specific art movement through a continuum of works whose shared exuberance connects street- and studio-based practices, and aims to reveal (and challenge) how a “school” may form and evolve.  

These artists came together at a particular time and place in the early ’90s in the Mission neighborhood, at the San Francisco Art Institute, and in alternative art spaces such as Four Walls, The Luggage Store, Victoria Room, The LAB, New Langton Arts, and Adobe Books. They were each strongly influenced by Bay Area Figuration, the Beat movement, Funk art, and punk. The group has been defined by their celebration of social art-making, community, folk art, nostalgia for the obsolete, low-production values, and “street” aesthetics. These values are manifest in the use of found and reclaimed materials, decorative patterning, cartoons, a distinctive color palette, hand lettering and printmaking, cluster paintings, and a crafty immediacy of materials. 

By highlighting the early works of these five artists, this exhibition investigates how the “school” progressed internally, and reveals the deep impacts Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri continue to impart on younger generations of contemporary artists.

Join us to celebrate the opening of the exhibition with drinks, refreshments, and live musical performances by Sun Foot (Chris Johanson, Ron Burns, Brian Mumford), Virgil Shaw (Dieselhed), and special guests.

ENERGY THAT IS ALL AROUND will travel to Grey Art Gallery, New York University, April 15–July 12, 2014.

SFAI Alumni: Barry McGee (BFA Printmaking, 1991), Ruby Neri (BFA Painting, 1994), Alicia McCarthy (BFA Painting, 1994)