Fine Arts Gallery

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.

Moving Pictures: the Photography of Irene Poon, 1960s to present

The Fine Arts Gallery is proud to present Moving Pictures: the Photography of Irene Poon, 1960s to present

Exhibition Dates: July 2 through July 29, 2022

The exhibition features the photographic work and collection of Irene Poon (b. San Francisco, 1941). Poon’s career spans from the 1960s to the present, and along with her artistic production she also organized exhibitions for the Chinese Historical Society of America, celebrating the work of artists including Jade Snow Wong, Benjamen Chinn, and Martin Wong. Poon was one of the co-curators of the With New Eyes: toward an Asian American art history in the west exhibition at SF State in 1995, sparking a new dialogue about the influence of Asian American artists on contemporary art practice in the US. She is an alum of SF State and before her retirement was the longtime Slide Librarian/Digital Media Specialist for the School of Art. Along with her own work we will present highlights from Poon’s photography collection, an excellent representation of vintage photography, including work by Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Minor White, Don Worth, Wright Morris, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Wong, and Benjamen Chinn, among others.

Visitors will be required to reserve tickets in advance, and to bring proof of vaccination with them when they visit. Masks are required indoors.

Use this link to reserve a ticket to visit the exhibition during regular gallery hours.

Regular Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m.

Opening Reception: Saturday, July 2, 1 to 3 p.m. Use this link to reserve a reception ticket.

This exhibition is supported by the University's Instructionally Related Student Activities Fund.

Photo credit: Irene Poon, Memories of the Universal Café (1965)