Now in its 15th year, the Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center offers a visually dense and stimulating environment of elaborate, traditional altars and multi-dimensional art installations where creativity leads the way to meaningful reflection. Inspired by cherished relationships, current events, and a breadth of cultural traditions, Bay Area artists utilize multifaceted, contemporary creative practices in Visions at Twilight: Día de los Muertos 2014.
The exhibition unveiling, Friday, October 10, 6pm to 9pm, $12–15 sliding scale admission, features live music by Rupa of Rupa & the April Fishes, San Francisco’s 2014 poet laureate Alejandro Murguía reading poems by Maya Angelou and Gabriel García Márquez, interactive installations and a Día de los Muertos-inspired artist market. Advanced tickets are encouraged— click here to purchase tickets.
Each year, more than 80 Bay Area artists from a breadth of cultural backgrounds acknowledge the cycles of life and death in the Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts, examining local and global issues through altars and contemporary art installations that address themes ranging from the deeply personal to the political and emphasize viewer interaction.
Chosen by father and son curators René and Rio Yañez, the theme “Visions at Twilight” is evocative of the loss of culture and people being felt in the Bay Area now. This year the exhibition is dedicated to celebrated literary artists and activists Maya Angelou and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, radio DJ Chata Gutierrez, and to musician and performer Holly Schneider, founder of Studio Grand, a nonprofit arts center in Oakland.
“In this time of displacement our Day of the Dead exhibition focuses on the evictions of families, artists, cultural centers, and non-profit spaces, calling on artists to question and challenge the people and policies that are destroying the cultural fibers of the city and the Bay Area,” said curator, artist and activist René Yañez.
Accompanying events include:
Friday, October 10, 6–9pm
$12–15 sliding scale admission
Tickets & information: visionsatwilight.eventbrite.com
Exhibition unveiling features live music by Rupa, interactive installations and Día de los Muertos inspired artist market.
Gathering the Embers: The Spirit of Home
Friday, October 24, 7–9:30pm
$8 in advance & $10 at the door
Tickets & information: gatheringtheembers.eventbrite.com
Multi-disciplinary performers connect past and present with an evening of story and performance.
Saturday, November 8, 6–9pm
$7–10 sliding scale admission
Tickets & information: visionscloses.eventbrite.com
The final opportunity to view and interact with the altars features live music by Las Bomberas de la Bahia, interactive installations and Día de los Muertos inspired artist market.
Multiple altars address the gentrification of the Mission District, utilizing historic and family photos, and telling the stories of immigration to the neighborhood or of the changes felt by longtime residents.
Ytaelena Lopez and Gaurav Narasimhan create a playground where images and icons of the neighborhood buried in the sand can be discovered and manipulated by visitors. Above the sandbox, which doubles as a surface for digital projection, hangs a condominium-shaped piñata.
Many of the altars offer a glimmer of hope, a step toward healing, and an opportunity for the creative envisioning of a city that offers a place for everyone. Some are celebratory offerings, honoring treasured family members, friends and creative influences including actor Robin Williams as well as the exhibition’s four dedicatees.
William Rhodes leads student artists participating in programs offered by the Bayview Opera House in the creation of a superhero-themed altar, “The Guardians of San Francisco,” featuring a cohort of newly minted heroes that protect important cultural elements identified by each young artist.
Several altars draw inspiration from physical landmarks, such as the former Bay Bridge, small businesses being shuttered and displaced or endangered arts and cultural organizations. Others address a loss of culture, lamenting the migration of artists driven away by economic pressures.
Howie Katz, a former software engineer, creates an installation with a live streaming component that depicts a crowd of headphone wearing skeletons distractedly consuming video on tablets and other rectangular devices. The footage, shot at now-extinct San Francisco galleries, comments on technology’s impact on both our landscape and our ability to connect with one another offline. Martinez [sic] turns her creative lens to her own experiences in a city in flux, offering a pictorial view of the creative, financial, political and practical dilemmas facing a female artist with children living in San Francisco.
Several altars consider history’s impact on the present. Viewers may draw connections between artworks memorializing Africans lost during the transatlantic slave trade and those addressing police brutality and institutionalized racism and oppression.
The entrance to the exhibit features elaborate paper cut stencils and special lighting effects by artist team CJ Grossman, Todd Hanson, Choppy Oshiro and Victor Mario Zaballa. Architect Nick Gomez creates the material aesthetic and layout for these installations, including a large house inside the expansive gallery as a central visual element and a display space for smaller works.
Exhibiting artists include:
Raul E. Aguilar Pulido
Rachel “Reiho” Anderson
Crystal Azul Barajas Barr
Paz de la Calzada
Keiko “Reiho” Kubo
Irene “Soai” La Chance
Carrie Leilam Love
Monique D. López
Juliet Flower MacCannell
E. Oscar Maynard
Mary Molly Mullaney
Betty “Soha” Segal
Veronica Solis Mora
Barbara “Hodo” Stevens Strauss
El Chicano-David Tafolla
Michelle Marie Robles Wallace
Victor Mario Zaballa
Visions at Twilight is funded in part by the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.