There is no better image for this dive into di Rosa’s collection than William Allan’s 1992 painting, Update for the Model of Rome. Allan, who spent much time in and around the collection, here imagines not a new reality, per se, but a new way to imagine it. Likewise, the works by 40 artists in this exhibition address the world by offering generative visions of transformation and repair through social, physical, and ceremonial relationships. Artists like Carlos Villa and K. Lee Manuel made garments to be worn in public rites; Norman Stiegelmeyer and Robert Bechtle offer visions of psychic shifts; William Theophilus Brown, Irene Pijoan, Oliver Lee Jackson and Joan Brown’s paintings catch their subjects just on the cusp of social change. Exhibited for the first time are 13 collaborative drawings by William Allan and his friends, William T. Wiley, Robert Hudson, Robert Nelson, and Bill Geis, which were made for the filming of Dorothy Wiley and Gunvar Nelson’s 70-minute film about those artists and their families, BILLBOBBILLBILLBOB. These and a handful of related drawings memorialize the ethos documented in the film and remain a powerful example of the collaborative, community-based art and life that found fertile ground here at di Rosa itself.
Curated by Dan Nadel, this is the first in an ongoing series of exhibitions exploring di Rosa’s remarkable holdings of Northern California art organized by guest curators from beyond the Bay Area.