Mapping gets radical in twin art exhibitions at San Francisco State University

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO, August 6, 2009—The Fine Arts Gallery at San Francisco State University unfolds the beauty, mystery and hidden meanings behind maps in “Cartographic Imagination: Mapping in Contemporary California Art” and “An Atlas,” two exhibitions on display simultaneously Sept. 19–Oct 15. The 28 works help find the way about a host of environmental and social issues from all angles, including criminal justice, human rights, politics and more.

‘Cartographic Imagination,’ ‘An Atlas’ feature artistic and political maps from all angles

“Always creative and never apolitical, maps help us interpret and navigate reality by making us look at culture and nature in different ways,” said Sharon Bliss, associate curator and manager of the SF State Fine Arts Gallery.

Admission is free. The gallery is open 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays–Saturdays. The opening reception will be held 1–3 p.m. Sept. 19.

“Cartographic Imagination”
“Cartographic Imagination” is a new show allowing contemporary California-based artists to explore maps as both image and cipher, in media including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, new technologies, performance and installation. The exhibition intends to expand the long history of the conceptual use of mapping in art into 21st century expressions and practice.

Highlights in “Cartographic Imagination” include a new piece in Kate Pocrass’ “Mundane Journeys” series, featuring off-the-beaten path places to visit near the SF State campus. Michael Arcega’s “Spam/Maps: (Oceania, China, Australia, Asia, Japan)” is a series of maps created with Spam, which was the U.S. Armed Forces used as rations during World War II, leading to the meat product’s popularity throughout the Pacific Islands. Amanda Hughen’s and Jennifer Starkweather’s new “Airport Project” series uses archival pigment prints to articulate airline routes, runways and highways surrounding several airports, including San Francisco and Oakland. Other artists in “Cartographic Imagination” include Adriane Colburn, Russell Crotty, Sergio De La Torre, Paula Levine, Steve Roden, Lordy Rodriguez and Chris Sollars.

Professor Mark Dean Johnson, SF State Fine Arts Gallery director, and Bliss, with students in the Art Department’s Exhibition Design course, are curators of “Cartographic Imagination.” Paula Levine, an associate professor of Art at SF State, is faculty adviser.

“An Atlas”
“An Atlas” is a traveling exhibition of artists working with “radical cartography”—a practice that uses maps and mapping to promote social change, and that is part of a cultural movement linking art, geography and activism. The participating artists, architects and collectives play with cartographic conventions—geographic shapes, wayfinding symbols, and aerial views—to take on issues from globalization to garbage.

Works in “At Atlas” include Ashley Hunt’s intricate diagram of the social effects of the global prison-industrial complex, the Center for Urban Pedagogy’s mapping of the people who make and manage the “garbage machine” in New York City, Jane Tsong’s drawing of how nature and culture clash in Los Angeles’ watershed, and Trevor Paglen’s and John Emerson’s route map of CIA rendition flights. Other participants include An Architektur, Institute for Applied Autonomy, Pedro Lasch, Lize Mogel, Brooke Singer and Unnayan.

“An Atlas,” curated by Mogel and Alexis Bhagat, has been shown in Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, the Netherlands, Sweden and eight other locales.

Media Contact: 

Contact: Matt Itelson, (415) 338-1442,, College of Creative Arts c/o San Francisco State University 1600 Holloway Avenue San Francisco, CA 94132

News Release