The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) combine their collections for the first time in Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California, an unprecedented exhibition that illuminates local histories and social forces that changed the face of art in—and beyond—the state of California.
Weaving together the museums’ unsurpassed holdings of California art and ephemera, the exhibition tells the stories of four creative communities active in the northern part of the state between the 1930s and the early 2000s. In each case, the exhibition shines a spotlight on artists who had their finger on the pulse of their time, and the grassroots conditions that allowed their ideas to flourish. The exhibition runs September 20, 2014 through April 12, 2015 in OMCA’s Great Hall and features an astounding mix of artworks and historical documents, from monumental paintings to handwritten letters, relating to four key moments in the history of California art:
Murals, Public Art, and Diego Rivera’s Allegory of California (1930s)
Post-War at the California School of Fine Arts (1940s–50s)
UC Davis Founding Art Faculty and Students (1960s–70s)
The Mission Scene (1990s–2000s)
Curated jointly by Drew Johnson, OMCA Curator of Photography and Visual Culture, and a team from SFMOMA including Janet Bishop, Caitlin Haskell, and Peter Samis, Fertile Ground interweaves the histories and friendships of artists, collectors, curators, and other individual and institutional collaborators against a backdrop of transformative social change. Viewed together, the materials assembled present a rare opportunity to consider what catalyzed these four remarkable outpourings of creativity, social awareness, and arts patronage.
The exhibition will include works by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko, Edward Weston, Peter Stackpole, Maynard Dixon, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, David Park, Clyfford Still, Jay DeFeo, Joan Brown, Richard Diebenkorn, James Weeks, Robert Arneson, William T. Wiley, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud, Bruce Nauman, Manuel Neri, Deborah Butterfield, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Rigo 23, and many others. The texture of time and place will be evoked through historical film footage, media stations containing interviews with artists, and “community lounges” where visitors can browse books, ephemera, and other resources. Artifacts, media, and interactive experiences will be placed in dialogue with artworks to situate these objects within larger historical and cultural moments and trends such as the Great Depression, World War II, and the sixties counterculture. A visitor-activated “Family Tree” will convey the interconnected relationships among artists, patrons, museums, teachers, curators, and other personalities during each era.
Top Image Credit: David Park, Portrait of Richard Diebenkorn, circa 1953. Oil on canvas, 21 x 15.25 in. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Mrs. Roy Moore