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Surf's Up at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery

| posted on July 08, 2009
Exhibition Explores Ocean Environment and Surf Culture

From July 16 to August 28, 2009, the SFMOMA Artists Gallery will present the exhibition Pipeline: Art, Surfing, and the Ocean Environment. The exhibition examines the influence of surf culture on Bay Area artists and will feature paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, film, and mixed media works alongside custom surfboards by Jeff Clark, one of the most noteworthy big wave surfers. Artists in the exhibition include Doug Acton, Anthony Bacigalupo, Jo Ann Biagini, Leo Bersamina, Charlie Callahan, George Corzine, Peter Shepard Cole, Keone Downing, Jessica Dunne, Jack Y. Ford Collection, Colin Gift, Dale Hope/Kahala, Terry Hoff, Max Lawrence, Ian MacLean, Reuben Margolin, Serena Mitnik-Miller, Linny Morris, Adrienne Keahi Pao, Frank Quirarte, Don Ross, and Charles Valoroso.

The title of the exhibition takes its name from the Pipeline, a wave that breaks at Ehukai beach on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, the birth place of surfing. The sport was popularized by Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku in the early part of the 20th century. It spread to the United States, catching on first in California, and reached new heights in the 1960s, when surfing as a phenomenon became a nexus between youth culture and expressions of personal freedom. In recent years, California surfers have become an important arm of the environmental movement, raising awareness about the condition of the shoreline and ocean.

Exhibition Highlights

In the exhibition are paintings by Charlie Callahan that reverse the typical roles in which nature and humans are cast. His vivid, large-scale works painted on beach debris, imagine humans as victims consumed by sea predators.

Reuben Margolin looks closely at water, observes its dynamics, and translates it into handcrafted forms using salvaged materials. The resulting kinetic sculptures are moving tributes to the unseen forces that move water.

Adrienne Pao’s series of color photographs evoke travel posters that have attracted tourists to the Hawaiian Islands since the advent of jet travel. Beachfront Property at Diamond Head/Lei’ahi Kapa depicts the Waikiki shoreline of today, overrun with tourists and encroached upon by concrete high rises. The Hawaiian title, Lei’ahi Kapa, refers to the origins of the site and calls to mind a past that cannot be retrieved. Pao re-frames the visitor experience and calls into question the practice of exoticizing other cultures, the natural environment, and women.

Charles Valoroso grew up surfing Kalapaki on the island of Kauai. He is noted as the first artist to pay homage to the Aloha shirt in a series of large-scale oil paintings. His work has been translated into textiles for the Kahala shirt line. For the exhibition he will present an installation piece that includes paintings of the ocean that verge on the abstract and as well as works from his Bikini Atoll series.

Linny Morris photographed environmental issues such as the struggle to preserve Midway Atoll and its wildlife. She also made photographs of the world that exists below the surface of the water. Her appreciation of the ocean and her eye for abstraction are showcased in the exhibition.

Peter Shepard Cole’s realist works evoke the early period of Hawaiian contact with the West. His references are haunting; there are native women donned in layers of Victorian garb and hand-to-hand combatants. In the painting, Self-Portrait as Captain Cook, Cole imagines himself in the vulnerable position of the man who opened the door to the transformation of Hawaii and paid a high price for it.

Related Film

In partnership with The Surfer’s Journal, the exhibition will also include an education room featuring the Journal’s series 50 Years of Surfing on Film showcasing prominent surf filmmakers. The film surveys the history of surf films through interviews of the most influential filmmakers and the surfers in their films, along with clips from those historical features. In the process of covering the evolution of surf films it also depicts the surf culture in transition from 1940s to 2000s.

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Where: SFMOMA Artists Gallery, Building A, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

When: July 16–August 28, 2009.

Gallery hours: 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Tues.–Sat.

Opening reception: Thurs., July 16, 5:30–7:30 p.m. featuring the music of The Eldorados, a four-piece surf band that includes Stu Brandt, Mark Scardello, Jeff Moon and Scott Culbertson.

Admission: Free

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Representing Northern California artists, the SFMOMA Artists Gallery offers a diverse selection of original artwork for sale and rent.

The SFMOMA Artists Gallery is located in Building A at Fort Mason Center. Gallery hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission to gallery exhibitions is free of charge.

Visit our website at www.sfmoma.org/artistsgallery or call 415/441-4777 for more information.