The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.
Music as art: San Francisco’s venerable Alexander String Quartet is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and their longtime presenter San Francisco Performances is putting them front and center in a series called “The Art of the Quintet,” rescheduled from its pandemic-doomed place on the 2020-’21 lineup.
At 10 a.m. Sunday in the Herbst Theatre, the quartet, including new member David Samuel on viola, will be joined by guest violist Paul Yarbrough in a program that encompasses Mozart’s Quintet in B-flat Major and his Quintet in C Major. The recital is the first in a series of five that will explore the quintets of Mozart, Brahms and Schubert, and respected Bay Area music historian Robert Greenberg will be on hand to give some keen insight into their significance.
Tickets, $40-$60, are available at (415) 392-2545 or online at sfperformances.org, where you will also find information on the health and safety measures that will be in force at the event.
An open-air celebration: San Jose State’s picturesque Tower Lawn is the setting for two free “Strike Up the Band” concerts that Symphony Silicon Valley and Opera San Jose are joining forces to bring us, under the baton of conductor Peter Jaffe, at 7 p.m. Saturday and 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Fourth and San Fernando streets near the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Library.
Bring a picnic supper and lawn chairs, or take advantage of chairs at the scene to revel in music by Opera San Jose resident artists, Symphony Silicon Valley orchestra members and prize-winning pianist Jon Nakamatsu, soloing on Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on Saturday and Sunday’s lineups. The rest of Saturday’s program includes symphonic and operatic music from Sibelius, Gounod, Mozart, Puccini, Lara, Verdi and Smetana. Sunday’s offerings feature works by Brahms, Borodin, Bizet, Puccini, Donizetti and the stirring finale from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.
Bottled water will be available at the event, and patrons are asked to be vaccinated and to wear masks when they are not eating or drinking. Register and find information at operasj.org/strike-up-the-band.
Chicago in San Francisco: Some 42 years after Judy Chicago stunned the art world with the debut of her game-changing installation “The Dinner Party” in San Francisco (to wildly varying reviews), the artist is once again front and center in the city, with the opening of what’s described as the first career retrospective exhibition of the legendary feminist artist at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
The triangular installation, with 39 elaborate place settings for powerful women (real and mythical), was a clear statement that female contributions to society have historically been overlooked, yet some critics flinched at the use of genitalic imagery in the work and dismissed the work as “vaginas on plates.”
Chicago established the first women’s collegiate art program at Cal State Fresno in 1970 and was seen as one of the leaders of the feminist arts movement of that decade. Her conceptual art and installation works — employing everything from painting and knitting to welding and metal sculptures — focus on themes that seem ripped from today’s headlines: gender norms, sexuality and power, patriarchal malfeasance, environmental ruin. The de Young’s new exhibition, “Judy Chicago: A Retrospective” represents all phases of her career, from recent works touching on global warming to her early 1960s conceptual pieces from her involvement in the Californian Light and Space Movement.
And while “The Dinner Party” is permanently housed in Brooklyn, it is represented in a “the making of…” portion of the de Young exhibition. Many of her best-known works, from “The Birth Project” to “PowerPlay” to “The Holocaust Project” are represented, in whole or in part, as well. There are 125 works in all, plus a variety of objects and films focusing on her art, philosophy and life.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 9 at the de Young, which is open 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is $13-$28. Masks are required inside the museum. More information and tickets are at deyoung.famsf.org.
More feminist art: While iconic feminist works from Judy Chicago are on display in Golden Gate Park, “the most extensive exhibition to date of feminist art practices in the 21st century” is available for viewing across the bay, at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century” features 140 works by 67 artists in a collection that takes up half of BAMPFA’s 25,000-square-foot gallery space.
Besides spotlighting a wide array of contemporary female artists, the exhibition makes the case that women have been, throughout history, underrepresented in museums and galleries. The works, in a variety of mediums, explore such themes as cultural and gender stereotypes, “the male gaze,” portrayals of the female body, workplace issues and more. There’s even a video from the feminist Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose politics and art famously ran afoul of government censors.
BAMPFA’s exhibition is affiliated with the Feminist Art Coalition, a nationwide collective created by the museum representing more than 100 arts groups that will develop a yearlong series of feminist-art programming, including performances, lectures, workshops, discussions and more, that will take place at the museum and around the country.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 30; hours at the Center Street museum and film center are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission is $12-$14 (free for BAMPFA members and UC Berkeley students), and masks are required inside the facility. More information is at bampfa.org.
Dancing at Salesforce Tower: Weekends are normally a time when you would not find yourself in the bustling commuting hub that is the Salesforce Transit Center on San Francisco’s Mission Street. But this weekend offers something special at the lush and picturesque garden and park at the facility. That’s where the San Francisco contemporary dance troupe RAWdance will unveil a new site-specific work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“Portal,” created by the troupe’s co-artistic director Katerina Wong, in collaboration with mixed-media artist Ephraim Colbert, is a work for six dancers accompanied by multimedia text, lighting and video effects and an immersive music and sound score. The idea, according to RAWdance, is to turn the elevated garden area into “a multimedia ecosystem animated by evocative movement and physical storytelling” that tackles themes and forces that are central to San Francisco and the Bay Area: gentrification, conservation, immigration, the intersection of wealth and poverty, and isolation.
If all that sounds way too heavy for a holiday weekend, think of it as an enticement to take in an evocative performance in a very cool setting. Performances are 7:30 p.m. each evening. The transit center is at 425 Mission St.; use the escalators at the First Street entrance, between Mission and Howard streets, to access the park. And the show is free. More information is at rawdance.org or salesforcetransitcenter.com/salesforce-park.