William Allan – painter and leading figure of the Bay Area’s Funk scene in the 1960s and 70s – receives his first major museum exhibition in thirty years at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.
William Allan emerged in the 1960s as a leading figure of San Francisco’s funk scene – in many ways, however, he was a strange ambassador for that movement. Unlike contemporaries such as William T. Wiley, Allan cultivated a deliberate, meditative practice, laboring a year or more over each painting. In a 1999 lecture delivered at di Rosa, Allan explained that his process involved the slow accumulation of “many thousands of brush strokes and layers,” resulting in luminous, translucent images that pulse with life.
This repetitive, accumulative practice is the through-line connecting disparate phases of Allan’s long career. Whether painting on canvas or lima bean, depicting salmon scales or sweater fuzz, Allan resembles a zenned-out Dutch master, producing lush layers of light and color to play tricks on the eye and push the limits of representation.
Negotiations With Eden surveys the full breadth of Allan’s practice. Meticulously rendered paintings on canvas are displayed alongside more surprising works, including never-exhibited photography and
installation work produced in the last five years. The exhibition also includes several large-scale works on paper rendered in graphic style with pastel, charcoal, and graphite. Produced in the 1990s, these reflect the radical departures of the artist’s late style.