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. Opening February 11 and running through May 14, 2023, “Negotiations with Eden” explores the twists and turns of Allan’s long career.
“We are bringing at least one example from each period of Allan’s work from the surrealist paintings that propelled him to fame to more recent works few have seen,” explains di Rosa’s chief curator, Kate Eliertsen. “The collective impact of seeing the full breadth of Allan’s work across his lifetime is profound.”
Known primarily as a painter, this survey reveals the full span of Allan’s practice with the inclusion of installation art, photography and a series of masterfully rendered miniature paintings on lima beans. His intense focus on the natural world is the thread that binds this exhibition and his career.
The title “Negotiations with Eden” comes from a large mixed media piece showing a coiled snake in what appears to be a basement, wind billowing the curtains above. Instead of appearing to be a threat to human innocence, the snake seems vulnerable. In a twist of metaphors, maybe it represents the garden itself, threatened by the built environment.
Allan’s work is defined by an undisputed technical mastery of painting and drawing. But it’s his irreverent sense of humor and fixation on the natural world that make it an ideal fit for di Rosa where art and nature are equally valued. It’s been decades since Allan’s work has been in a major show, so why now? Twyla Ruby, associate curator of di Rosa insists, “Allan’s work is more relevant now than ever. This generation is living the reality of our natural world in crisis that William Allan has been investigating for many years. Looking at Allan’s work in total, we see a through-line of questioning what role we play in creating or averting ecological disaster.”