Well, the rain is back. Looking for an indoor activity to while away the weeks ahead? Good thing there’s plenty of art to see in San Francisco this month. From exhibitions by two legendary local painters to a group show raising the question of how art itself can offer a spiritual experience, here are five shows to check out in The City right now.
Dewey Crumpler: “In Space Time”
When I first saw Dewey Crumpler’s “Hoodie” paintings in 2021, it was like stepping into another dimension. This surreal world — which includes floating hoodies driving flying sneaker cars — is one that reflects our own social landscape, while offering a deft critique through a language of visual metaphor, specifically the image of the disembodied hoodie and the shadow it casts, the shape of which evokes a slave collar. Now the painter, whose murals have long graced The City, returns to Jenkins Johnson gallery for “In Space Time,” a solo exhibition of his paintings from the last 30 years, further exploring the visual emblem of the slave collar, especially how its circular form might relate to cyclical time, both in the Hoodie paintings and beyond, encompassing semi-abstract paintings of the repeating cyclical form, a meditation on Blackness and history and the potential future that comes from the void at the center of the circular motif.
Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Through April 9. Free. jenkinsjohnsongallery.com
Mike Henderson: “Chicken Fingers”
A legendary figure in the Bay Area arts, Mike Henderson’s latest solo show — his 15th at Haines Gallery — “Chicken Fingers” focuses on a turning point in the artist’s painting practice between 1976 and 1980. This period was marked by a broadening experimentation into abstraction, abandoning both his figurative style and overtly political content. Cryptic in both form and content, the paintings here range from large to small semi-abstractions, a fragment of a word or image emerging somewhere in the torrid surface of each: here, a ladder; there, a hand — the whole thing swimming with a sense of hidden meaning. “Chicken Fingers” runs concurrently with the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in 20 years, “Before the Fire,” at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, which focuses on work made between 1965 and 1985. If that show is the calm, then this one is the storm, a radical break from form that imbued each painting with the frenetic energy of exploration and redefinition.
Haines Gallery, 2 Marina Blvd., Building C, S.F., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free. Through March 25. hainesgallery.com
“Rituals of Devotion”
From the religious icon to the totem, works of art have possessed qualities of transcendence, and vice versa, in many cultures throughout time. But what about secular artworks and the experience we have looking at them? Do these works possess some transcendent quality, too? “Rituals of Devotion,” at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, pulls work from the McEvoy Family Collection and beyond that explores the theme of ritual broadly, as well as raising the questions of how making and looking at art can be practices akin to the spiritual. Standout examples of artistic examinations of religious ritual include Edvard Munch’s “Madonna,” 1895, and Portia Munson’s “Bound Angel,” 2021, a sculptural assemblage of found candles, figurines and wedding gowns. Secular entries include Robert Mapplethorpe’s venerating 1974 portrait of Patti Smith, and Nan Goldin’s documentation of friends and lovers from her “Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” By engaging in the ritual of looking at art, from the religious to the secular, viewers are invited to explore how art itself can move one beyond the physical. The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of short films in the Foundation’s screening room, as well as a screening of “Spirited Away” at the Roxie on April 12.
McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, 1150 25th St., S.F. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Opens March 10. Free. mcevoyarts.org
Hunter Saxony III: “You Have My Heart … It’s OK to Rest Here”
The first solo exhibition by the local artist who styles himself “San Francisco’s last Black calligrapher” brings new meaning to the term “illuminated manuscript.” Saxony III’s calligraphic works are often decorative to the point of abstraction, tessellating meditations on love, loss and homesickness. One series features Sankofa (Hearts) and Mpuannum (Squares), signifiers of the complexity of love and commitment, another features work made in collaboration with Saxony III’s partner, the tattoo artist Megan Wilson. The series “Nia Wilson / Say Her Name / No Silence,” blends ornamental lettering with found antique photographs of Southern gentry in response to the 2018 murder of Bay Area resident Nia Wilson, and raising questions about anti-Blackness throughout American history through a simple gesture of mourning. All four series included in “You Have My Heart … It’s OK to Rest Here,” on view at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, exhibit the artist’s breadth and technical mastery, while expanding notions of what the calligraphic form is capable of.
Eleanor Harwood Gallery, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free. Through April 15. eleanorharwood.com
In celebration of its recent expansion into the neighboring space at its Utah Street location, Catherine Clark Gallery presents “Sobremesa,” a group exhibition in the form of a dinner party that unfolds over time. The title roughly translates to “time spent at the table.” In an updated version of exquisite corpse, a classic drawing game among the Surrealists, “Sobremesa” features artists and artist duos adding leaves to an ongoing table each week throughout February and March, each responding to the one that came before. The individual installations vary from porcelain dumplings spilling out of a tanker ship, to reflections on climate change and same-sex marriage. In its totality, the exhibition reflects a democratic forum of artists in conversation, a reminder that art is always a dialogue, and one that offers the viewer a seat at the table. The final addition will be revealed March 9, by artists Reniel Del Rosario and Johany Huinac De Leon. Prior contributors include Deborah Oropallo, Michael Goldin, Amy Trachtenberg, Arleene Correa Valencia, Wanxin Zhang, Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet.
Catherine Clark Gallery, 248 Utah St., S.F. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Through March 18. Free. cclarkgallery.com