From LaToya Ruby Frazier’s series Flint is Family II, (2017)
An exhibition about the ways artists use their craft to explore their roles as citizens and affect social change, SOFT POWER resonates at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through Feb. 17.
Curator of contemporary art Eungie Joo explains that the show’s title is borrowed from the President Ronald Reagan-era term used to describe how a country’s “soft” assets, such as its culture, political values and foreign policies can be more influential than violence or coercion. It features new and recent work by 20 international artists from 12 countries, including commissions and pieces never presented in the United States.
They include the four-channel video installation, The Specter of Ancestors Becoming (2019) by Tuan Nguyen. Nguyen’s collaboration with descendants of French Colonial soldiers once stationed in Vietnam features stories written by members of the Vietnamese community in Senegal. There are new sculptures by Haig Aivazian exploring the relationship between mythology and nation-building; an installation, “Who’s Afraid of Ideology, Part 2” by Marwa Arsanios; and a new mural by Minerva Cuevas inspired by the history of Smokey the Bear and the environmental impact of fire.
Eamon Ore-Giron’s “Infinite Regress LXXIV,” (2019)
Visitors will also experience a sound sculpture by Cevdet Erek, a series by Hassan Khan that echoes his concurrent exhibition at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid, a performance and video by Tanya Lukin Linklater on encounter as a form of repatriation in collaboration with the Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, and an installation and photographic diptych by Cinthia Marcelle based on the traces of economic instability.
“I trust the public can relate to many of the concerns of the artists in SOFT POWER,” says Joo in a press release, “and hope that his exhibition will unleash an untapped energy among us.”
Accompanying SOFT POWER is free programming, including musical performances and a symposium exploring the politics of borders, produced in conjunction with UC Santa Cruz.
Jazz pianist, artist and composer Jason Moran will perform aJan. 19 and 26 at the Gina and Stuart Peterson White Box at SFMOMA (2pm, free with museum admission).
Tavares Strachan’s “Henrietta Lacks” (2013)
The Bodies at the Border symposium (free, first-come, first-served), addressing the politics of borders as they intersect with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity and race, will take place Jan. 24 at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, UC Santa Cruz (9am-6pm, 1156 High St.) and Jan. 25 at the Phyllis Wattis Theater, SFMOMA (9:30am-5:30pm, 151 Third St.).
Museum adult general admission $25, seniors 65 and over $22, ages 19-24 $19; ages 18 and under free, sfmoma.org
Photography by: courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise © LaToya Ruby Frazier; courtesy of the artist, Fleisher/Ollman, Philadelphia, and Páaramo Gallery, Guadalajara; by Tom Powel Imaging