SFAI 150 | A Spirit of Disruption

San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco , United States
19 Mar 2021 - 03 Jul 2021

 SFAI News, Jay DeFeo and Hayward King, October 15, 1962. Courtesy of San Francisco Art Institute.

SFAI News, Jay DeFeo and Hayward King, October 15, 1962. Courtesy of San Francisco Art Institute.

The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2021 with ​A Spirit of Disruption, ​an exhibition that reflects on the school’s profound and sustained influence on contemporary art and highlights the contributions of generations of diverse artists and individuals often overlooked in the historical narrative of SFAI.

A Spirit of Disruption​ includes the work of more than thirty alumni and faculty from the 1960s to the present; a dynamic media installation drawn from SFAI’s vast archive; and a section dedicated to artist model Florence “Flo” Wysinger Allen, the subject of countless paintings, sculptures, and drawings made at the school from 1933-1997.

Also launching in conjunction with the March 19th exhibition opening and anniversary day is a 10-episode podcast and web series, created by the exhibition’s curators, that reveals new stories and old gleaned from the archive.

Founded in 1871, generations of important artists, scholars, and thinkers from around the world have been educated and have taught at SFAI, formerly the California School of Fine Arts. This spirited and often unruly community established SFAI as a microcosm of the Bay Area art world—a place dedicated to the interdisciplinary, where ideas and education reach beyond formal boundaries. This radical creativity played a central role in many influential contemporary art movements, including Abstract Expressionism, Bay Area Figuration, Color Field, California Funk, and the Mission School, affirming the school’s long-standing impact on the international art world.

A Spirit of Disruption​ features a selection of artworks and archival materials that celebrate the ethos and expansive ecosystem of the institution. Curated by longtime SFAI employee and educator Margaret Tedesco together with recent faculty member Leila Weefur, whose first curatorial project for SFAI was bringing the work of contemporary Black artists into a 2019 exhibition about the Black Panthers, ​A Spirit of Disruption b​oth embraces and takes a departure from the school’s wide-ranging history, advancing a new breadth of perspectives past, present, and future.

Participating artists include Alice Shaw, Ana Teresa Fernandez, Bill Jenkins, Brett Reichman, Cathy Lu, Conrad Guevara, Dewey Crumpler, Ebitenyefa Baralaye, Fredrick Hayes, Haein Kang, Hayward King, Ileana Tejada, Juan Matos, Jenny Odell, Joshua Pavlick, Julio Cesar Morales, Kezia Harrell, Leo Valledor, Lexygius Sanchez Calip, Lindsey White, Luis Recoder & Sandra Gibson, M Lamar, Miguel Calderón, Mildred Howard, Modou Dieng, N8 Devivo, Pablo Guardiola, Toba Khedoori, xylor jane, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Among the stories woven into ​A Spirit of Disruption a​re those that shed light on some of the seminal, but often overlooked figures of the Bay Area arts scene. Florence “Flo” Wysinger Allen was a beloved and esteemed artist model and the subject and inspiration for countless paintings, sculptures, and drawings made at the school from 1933-1997. Founder of the Bay Area Models’ Guild in 1945 and also a civil rights activist, her status at the school was such that her signature can still be found in the concrete in front of Studio 8 at the historic Chestnut Street campus. Ten sketches and paintings of Allen will be shown together in the Diego Rivera Gallery.

A Spirit of Disruption​ also includes a dynamic media installation drawn from SFAI’s Anne Bremer Library archive featuring artists Rigo 89, Karen Finley, Cliff Hengst, Doug Hall, Debora Iyall, Jun Jalbuena, Jennifer Locke, Paula Levine, Cecelia Dougherty; and George Kuchar in collaboration with Tim Sullivan, among many others.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Tedesco and Weefur have produced an interactive multimedia web program titledAre you listening?,​ a 10-episode podcast series with accompanying short videos and digital images from the SFAI archive. Each episode considers the histories of SFAI’s various departments and will include original music by alumni. A special episode will be dedicated to Flo Allen. Episodes will be released on Fridays beginning March 19, 2021 at sfai.edu or wherever listeners get their podcasts.

SFAI 150 / A Spirit of Disruption​ is made possible with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation, Grants for the Arts, and the Koret Foundation.




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