SFMoMa Photo Collection: On Tour Around California

Shomei Tomatsu, “Eiko Ôshima, Actress in the Film Shiiku (Prize Stock),” 1961, printed 2003; Kurenboh Collection, promised gift to SFMOMA; ©Shomei Tomatsu.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. — The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is presenting a statewide tour of two exhibitions drawn from its internationally acclaimed photography collection that will travel to six cities throughout California.

Venues include Bakersfield, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Rosa and Stockton, with an additional location to be announced. Launching in September, an exhibition tour of this scale within California is unprecedented in the museum’s history, providing greater access to its collection and enabling the museum to collaborate with museums throughout the state.

“It is a tremendous privilege to make these photographs available to a wide range of new audiences and forge fruitful relationships with institutions throughout the state,” says Corey Keller, the museum’s curator of photography, who is organizing the tour.

The tour’s exhibitions — “Photography in Mexico from the Collection of SFMOMA” and “The Provoke Era: Japanese Photography from the Collection of SFMOMA” — are a part of the museum’s extensive array of off-site programming taking place while its building is temporarily closed for expansion construction until early 2016.

Featuring the photographic traditions of Mexico and Japan, the exhibitions highlight particular strengths of SFMOMA’s holdings and explore themes resonant with California’s diverse communities. The tour’s first exhibition, “Photography in Mexico” opened at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa September 28.

SFMOMA is distinguished as one of the first museums in the United States to recognize photography as an art form, and for more than 75 years, it has been home to innovative scholarship about the medium as well as in-depth exhibitions of the practice. Drawn from the museum’s collection of more than 16,000 photographs — its largest collection of objects — this statewide tour of exhibitions expands opportunities for the public to encounter and understand the history of photography.

The museum has a longstanding commitment to collecting and presenting works of Latin American modernism. Featuring approximately 100 photographs, “Photography in Mexico” reveals a rich and diverse tradition of photography in the country.

The show begins with works from the medium’s first artistic flowering in the wake of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20) and goes on to explore the explosion of the illustrated press at midcentury; the documentary investigations of cultural traditions and urban politics that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s; and more recent considerations of urban life and globalization.

The exhibition includes work by Lola Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Carrillo, Alejandro Cartagena, Graciela Iturbide, Elsa Medina, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Edward Weston and Mariana Yampolsky, among others. Many of the photographs in the exhibition are recent gifts from Los Angeles collectors Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser.

“Photography in Mexico” remain at the Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa  through January 12, then travel to Bakersfield Museum of Art (September 2014–January 4, 2015); and the Haggin Museum, Stockton (dates TBD).

SFMOMA is also home to the largest collection of Japanese photography in the United States and has been actively acquiring the work of internationally recognized artists including Masahisa Fukase, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama and Shomei Tomatsu since the 1970s.

“The Provoke Era” begins with the avant-garde tradition that emerged in Tokyo in the 1960s and 1970s, and explores its influence on the diverse photographic practice that continues today. The tumultuous period following World War II proved fertile ground for a generation of Japanese photographers who responded to societal upheaval by creating a new visual language dubbed “Are, Bure, Boke” — rough, blurred and out of focus.

Named for the magazine Provoke, which sought to break the rules of traditional photography, this exhibition traces how Japanese photographers responded to their country’s shifting social and political atmosphere. The exhibition will travel to the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento (October 12, 2014–February 1, 2015) and the California Museum of Photography, UC Riverside (March 28–August 15, 2015).

The California tour of Photography in Mexico and The Provoke Era is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is at 151 Third Street between Mission and Howard Streets. Further information, www.sfmoma.org or 415-357-4000.

Alejandro Cartagena, “Business in a Newly Built Suburb in Juarez,” from the series “Suburbia Mexicana,” 2009; SFMOMA collection, accessions committee fund purchase; ©Alejandro Cartagena.

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