Beyond Binary

Saturday, September 17, 2022 to Thursday, October 27, 2022

Beyond Binary focuses on the exploration of a gender spectrum, across cultures and generations, in the formation of personal and collective identities and visual narratives. Beyond Binary celebrates trans and gender-nonconforming artists who engage the body as both a form and site of social sculpture and who challenge established narratives of art history to become more inclusive, while working across media and transdisciplinarily. Through this project we are participating in the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC), a platform fostering collaborations between arts institutions that aim to make their public commitment to social justice and structural change. FAC seeks to generate cultural awareness of feminist thought, experience and action. Read more about the Feminist Art Coalition from their website and also read more about the Feminist Art Coalition in an article from the NY Times.

Our exhibition is being organized by the Fine Arts Gallery's Sharon E. Bliss and Kevin B. Chen in collaboration with independent writer and curator Roula Seikaly. Participating artists: Cassils, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Craig Calderwood, Wells Chandler, Jeffrey Cheung, Ben Cuevas, Demian DinéYazhi', Nicki Green, Juliana Huxtable, MCXT (Monica Canilao + Xara Thustra), E. "Oscar" Maynard, Vivek Shraya, Beatrice L. Thomas, Eli Thorne, Alok Vaid-Menon, Chris E. Vargas, Leila Weefur, Jess Wu, and Asri Wulandari.

Exhibition showcases photographer, curator who worked at SF State for 45 years

Alumna Irene Poon became a leading art historian during her career, focused on building recognition for Asian American artists

Five days a week for 45 years, Irene Poon would report to the San Francisco State University Art Department and work on its vast collection of images stored on slides. Along the way, she became a renowned photographer and a leading historian of Asian American art.

Now, the Fine Arts Gallery at San Francisco State will honor Poon with a retrospective exhibition. “Moving Pictures: The Photography of Irene Poon” will be on display from July 2 to July 29. It showcases Poon’s print photography and highlights from her personal collection and from working as a curator and community activist. Other artists whose works are featured include Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Wong and Benjamen Chinn.

Poon developed her passion for fine arts photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Born and raised in the historic neighborhood, she has continued to document the people that make it such a unique place. In the 1960s, she began exhibiting her photography as she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Art from SF State. Poon, now 81, has seen her photography on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), de Young Museum, Crocker Museum of Art and many more venues.

“Irene Poon is a brilliant artist and scholar whose powerful work in photography has been recognized since her early exhibitions at the de Young and SFMoMA. She was a friend of legendary figures like Imogen Cunningham and an integral figure in the Art Department at SF State for decades,” said Professor Emeritus of Art Mark Dean Johnson, who has written about her work. “Poon was also central in establishing SFSU as a center for Asian American art historical scholarship.”

Poon joined the Art Department (now known as the School of Art) staff in 1965 as the slide curator. By the time Poon retired from the University in 2010, the slide collection she was responsible for had grown from 36,000 images to almost 300,000. In 1995, Poon co-curated the exhibition “With New Eyes: Towards an Asian American Art History in the West” for the Fine Arts Gallery. It was the first exhibition to recognize and celebrate the Asian American art renaissance of the American West, covering the Gold Rush to the 1960s.

Poon’s 2001 book “Leading the Way: Asian American Artists of the Older Generation” (Gordon College) showcases 25 notable artists who had never been in a textbook. Poon had admired many of them since childhood and was determined to give them their overdue recognition. Johnson said Poon’s book “is an invaluable testament to both her personal scholarship as well as her own place in that history.”

An opening reception for “Moving Pictures” takes place 1 – 3 p.m. Saturday, July 2. Visitors to “Moving Pictures” must reserve tickets in advance and present their proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the door.

Learn more about the SF State School of Art.

Spring/Summer SF State Magazine available online

The new issue spotlights School of Art Director Victor De La Rosa, innovative University programs and a slew of amazing alumni

The cover story of the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of SF State Magazine takes an in-depth look at an alumnus who came back to campus as a professor — one who challenged the University to bring more diversity to the classroom. Now director of San Francisco State University’s School of Art, Victor De La Rosa has made it his mission to give students more access to the BIPOC mentors he was looking for as a fledgling young artist.

Read the full story.

New SF State School of Art director weaves diversity, inclusion into curriculum

When Victor De La Rosa was an Art major at San Francisco State University in the 1990s, he longed for a Latinx faculty mentor. Then he became one. Now, as the director of his alma mater’s School of Art, he is seizing the opportunity to make a wide impact of his own.

“I have a personal goal, which is to start to assemble a faculty that reflects the students that we serve,” said De La Rosa, who joined the San Francisco State faculty in 2006. “Now I’m able to respond directly and immediately. I don’t have to wait.”

SF State and many other art schools have committed to new diversity initiatives in direct response to the murder of George Floyd last year. New classes at SF State include Mexican American art history, muralism, “Art as Social Function: Chicanismo, Latinismo y California” and “Studio X,” a public art course taught by a different Bay Area artist each semester focusing on BIPOC student challenges. The School of Art also established a stipend award for Black students, and De La Rosa has participated in a College of Liberal & Creative Arts leadership development program based in equity and social justice.

“The art world, too, hasn’t created equal opportunity in this country,” he said. “It hasn’t always responded, even though artists are incredible social changemakers [and] incredible mirrors for our society. The field of art has really been an exclusive club, and it doesn’t fully mirror the population of this country.”

“When Vic was elected as director of the School of Art, I knew this was going to show our students of color — and especially Latinx students — that they, too, can start imagining themselves as professors and leaders in the university,” Art Professor Santhi Kavuri-Bauer said. “He understands the significance of his position and what it means to students who have similar backgrounds as himself: the first in their family to attend college.”

De La Rosa was raised in San Leandro as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother and Mexican American father from Texas. He took some semesters off from SF State to pursue career opportunities in apparel design, but would always eventually find his way back to the Fine Arts Building — with the support of faculty such as Candace Crockett.

“I realized that education was the way to disrupt the cycle,” he said, “and I want to do that for other students.”

De La Rosa (B.A., ’99) earned MFAs from UC Davis and the Rhode Island School of Design, where he was a President’s Scholar and won an award of excellence.

“I meet students today who are from similar backgrounds to me when I was growing up: first-generation, parents from another country,” he added. “To me, it’s exciting because I know the potential. I know the possibility if you apply yourself, work hard and hang in there.

“The students are hungry for it because they also did not get that type of role modeling in the arts in high school or junior high school. It’s so refreshing to them.”

Victor Saucedo, a senior and founding member of the SF State chapter of the Art Student Union, had stopped making art until he took “Chicanismo, Latinismo y California” with De La Rosa.

“He opens up the floor to everyone to start speaking where they’re coming from and their truth,” Saucedo said. “He told us to challenge the system a bit. … He is one of the most open professors I’ve ever had.”