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Mon October 30, 2023 - Sun January 28, 2024

Pacita Abad

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"I have always believed that an artist has a special obligation to remind society of its social responsibility." - Pacita Abad

Featuring over 40 major works, including many never before seen by the public, this exhibition is the most significant U.S. presentation of the artist's multifaceted and mesmerizing art practice. Throughout her 32-year career from the 1970s to the early 2000s, Abad centered the triumphs and adversities of people on the periphery of power, as seen in her series Social Realist, Immigrant Experience and Masks and Spirits. This exhibition celebrates an artist whose vibrant and inventive work encompassed thousands of dazzling artworks--from intricately constructed underwater scenes to abstract compositions--and whose themes are as urgent today as they were three decades ago.

Though Pacita Abad (born 1946, Batanes, Philippines; died 2004, Singapore) became a U.S. citizen in 1994, the artist lived for several years in other countries, including Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sudan and Yemen. In particular, San Francisco was a place of creative origin for Abad, as she lived in the city at the start of her artistic career in the early 1970s.

Abad interacted with myriad communities through her travels, incorporating a diversity of artistic traditions--from Korean ink brush painting to Indonesian batik--into her expansive practice. Her global, peripatetic existence is reflected in the portability of her works and in her use of textiles, a medium often associated with female labor and historically marginalized as craft. The retrospective showcases the artist's experiments in different mediums, including painting, sculpture, textiles and works on paper. Abad's work embraced color, vibrancy and texture, integrating unconventional materials such as shells, sequins, ribbons, jewelry, glass and bones. The exhibition is anchored by Abad's large-scale "trapuntos," a form of quilted painting made by stitching and stuffing canvases, as opposed to stretching them over a wood frame.

"Building on SFMOMA's recent acquisition of Abad''s trapunto If My Friends Could See Me Now (1993), we look forward to foregrounding her singular artistry and spirit with this long-overdue retrospective," commented Christopher Bedford, the Helen and Charles Schwab Director at SFMOMA. "Abad's exuberant work, informed by a sense of humanity and social responsibility, gives visibility to communities and timely issues around the world."

"When curator Nancy Lim and I learned that this exhibition was being planned, we knew that it had to come to San Francisco--the city that inspired Pacita Abad to commit her life to artistic expression," said Eungie Joo, curator and head of contemporary art at SFMOMA. "While some of the works gathered here were shown locally during Abad's lifetime, this is the first exhibition to reveal the profundity of her prolific practice."


Image Credits:
* Pacita Abad, If My Friends Could See Me Now, 1991; collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase, by exchange, through a gift of Peggy Guggenheim, courtesy Pacita Abad Art Estate; photo: Don Ross.
* Pacita Abad, L.A. Liberty, 1992; collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2022, courtesy the Pacita Abad Art Estate; photo: Max McClure.
* Pacita Abad, European Mask, 1990; collection Tate Modern, purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee, 2019; courtesy the Pacita Abad Art Estate and Tate; photo: At Maculangan/Pioneer Studios.
"I have always believed that an artist has a special obligation to remind society of its social responsibility." - Pacita Abad

Featuring over 40 major works, including many never before seen by the public, this exhibition is the most significant U.S. presentation of the artist's multifaceted and mesmerizing art practice. Throughout her 32-year career from the 1970s to the early 2000s, Abad centered the triumphs and adversities of people on the periphery of power, as seen in her series Social Realist, Immigrant Experience and Masks and Spirits. This exhibition celebrates an artist whose vibrant and inventive work encompassed thousands of dazzling artworks--from intricately constructed underwater scenes to abstract compositions--and whose themes are as urgent today as they were three decades ago.

Though Pacita Abad (born 1946, Batanes, Philippines; died 2004, Singapore) became a U.S. citizen in 1994, the artist lived for several years in other countries, including Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sudan and Yemen. In particular, San Francisco was a place of creative origin for Abad, as she lived in the city at the start of her artistic career in the early 1970s.

Abad interacted with myriad communities through her travels, incorporating a diversity of artistic traditions--from Korean ink brush painting to Indonesian batik--into her expansive practice. Her global, peripatetic existence is reflected in the portability of her works and in her use of textiles, a medium often associated with female labor and historically marginalized as craft. The retrospective showcases the artist's experiments in different mediums, including painting, sculpture, textiles and works on paper. Abad's work embraced color, vibrancy and texture, integrating unconventional materials such as shells, sequins, ribbons, jewelry, glass and bones. The exhibition is anchored by Abad's large-scale "trapuntos," a form of quilted painting made by stitching and stuffing canvases, as opposed to stretching them over a wood frame.

"Building on SFMOMA's recent acquisition of Abad''s trapunto If My Friends Could See Me Now (1993), we look forward to foregrounding her singular artistry and spirit with this long-overdue retrospective," commented Christopher Bedford, the Helen and Charles Schwab Director at SFMOMA. "Abad's exuberant work, informed by a sense of humanity and social responsibility, gives visibility to communities and timely issues around the world."

"When curator Nancy Lim and I learned that this exhibition was being planned, we knew that it had to come to San Francisco--the city that inspired Pacita Abad to commit her life to artistic expression," said Eungie Joo, curator and head of contemporary art at SFMOMA. "While some of the works gathered here were shown locally during Abad's lifetime, this is the first exhibition to reveal the profundity of her prolific practice."


Image Credits:
* Pacita Abad, If My Friends Could See Me Now, 1991; collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase, by exchange, through a gift of Peggy Guggenheim, courtesy Pacita Abad Art Estate; photo: Don Ross.
* Pacita Abad, L.A. Liberty, 1992; collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2022, courtesy the Pacita Abad Art Estate; photo: Max McClure.
* Pacita Abad, European Mask, 1990; collection Tate Modern, purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee, 2019; courtesy the Pacita Abad Art Estate and Tate; photo: At Maculangan/Pioneer Studios.
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SFMOMA 467 Upcoming Events
151 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

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