Gay liberationist Harry Hay in 1937. (Photo: LeRoy Robbins)
The big openings this week are the much-anticipated show on Cindy Sherman at SFMOMA and the show on Man Ray and Lee Miller at the Legion.
But don't be dismayed by the long lines that these exhibits will generate.
There are a number of other exhibits that are equally rewarding and well worth the visit. Two are at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library - free and open to the public seven days a week.
"Kalligraphia 13" at the San Francisco Public Library: The public will have a rare chance to view contemporary calligraphy during "Kalligraphia 13."
The exhibition's title, a transliterated Greek word meaning"beautiful writing," was adopted by the Friends of Calligraphy for its first exhibition in 1976. I remember seeing this show at the old UC Berkeley extension and falling in love with the craft. For thirty years, the Friends have been promoting the art of the written letter, the honorable tradition of the scribe, often overlooked in today's plethora of electronic devices.
This colorful, non-juried show highlights a wide range of calligraphic techniques from traditional methods dating back to the Middle Ages to contemporary pen and abstract brushwork. On view are original works including broadsides, manuscript books and three dimensional pieces.
To compliment the exhibition Kalligraphia 13, noted Bay Area scribes will share their expertise with demonstrations of the art and craft of calligraphy.
Open to the public. Free. Through August 26
For further details, check the website: http://www.friendsofcalligraphy.org/
"Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay"
On the centennial anniversary of his birth, the San Francisco Public Library is also celebrating the life and work of activist Harry Hay who laid the foundation for the modern U.S. lesbian and gay rights movement. The exhibition chronicles Hay's life from his early years through his labor activism and involvement with the Communist Party before founding of the Mattachine Society and co-founding of the Radical Faeries.
The exhibition, now at the San Francisco Main Library Gallery, brings its subject to life on the centennial of his birth, and illuminates the intersection of activism and personal biography, political conscience and humanity. The show, laid out in five sections, charts the progress of the precocious Hay, who early on recognized his "allegiance to high purposes, tenacity of vision, irrevocable resolve, and above all else, audacity."
"Historical shows can be deadly earnest and didactic, but the exhibit's independent curator Joey Cain has done an excellent job of culling archival materials, photographs, ephemera and original documents, including Hay's research and manifestoes, and touching on pivotal influences and events, while not losing sight of the fullness of a man who had strong ties to the Communist Party, dabbled in theater and poetry, enjoyed a rich and varied love life, and organized the first gay action group (in the late 1940s), the Mattachine Society, which recognized gays as a persecuted minority at a time when society at large regarded homosexuality as an illness. Cain supplies just enough supporting content to create a lean and coherent narrative of Hay's life, and flesh out a human portrait of an unconventional, outspoken man whose presence made the times he lived in more interesting." (Sura Wood, Bay Area Reporter. http://www.ebar.com/arts/art_article.php?sec=general&article=190
Curator's statement: http://www.sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000517301
Born in Northern China during WWII to parents who were life-long collectors of Asian art, Elizabeth moved with her family from place to place and eventually settled in San Francisco.
Elizabeth draws on themes of Asian cultural heritage, migration and childhood memories that have been threaded through each of her previous two exhibits, "Fragments of Memory" (2000) and " Remains of Journey" (2002). Over a decade later, her strong and elegant interplay of colors, shapes and lines remains but has evolved in a sophisticated direction beautifully illustrated in the body of work exhibited.
"Thumbprint" and "Cursive" are the two showcase works of the exhibition. "Thumbprint" literally and figuratively represents identity. Elizabeth uses her actual thumbprint in this very personal painting; the thumbprint remains her identity from the past to the present day. The oval shapes on the left of the canvas, draws in elements of her earlier paintings.
"Cursive", the second showcase piece in the exhibition, was inspired by Chinese calligraphy from the Fifth Century (a form still used today), also represents identity. Life, beauty and energy characterizes the cursive form; each stroke is like a dance movement and also illustrates the writer's identity like a signature or a thumbprint.
Each person has a unique thumbprint that identifies who he or she is as an individual. Elizabeth Tana's identity is the common thread, which connects the collection of work specially selected for this exhibition.
DATE/TIME: through August 31, 2012
LOCATION: Market Street Gallery 1554 Market Street San Francisco, CA, 94102