The de Young opens ‘Crafting Radicality’ first in series of 3 exhibitions drawn from the Svane Family Foundation



Ramekon O’Arwisters. Flowered Thorns #3, 2020 / 2021. Fabric, ceramics, beads, pins. 16 x 21 x 16 in. (40.64 x 53.34 x 40.64 cm). Museum purchase, a gift of The Svane Family Foundation. Courtesy the artist & Patricia Sweetow Gallery. Photograph by Randy Dodson, courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.


Sunday, July 23, 2023


SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Opening today at the de Young, Crafting Radicality: Bay Area Artists from the Svane Gift launches a series of exhibitions drawn from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s unprecedented Svane Family Foundation acquisition. In 2022, the Svane acquisition brought 42 artworks by 30 emerging and mid-career Bay Area artists and collectives into the Museums’ permanent collection. Representing a broad range of media, the foundation’s generous gift encapsulates the concerns and approaches at the forefront of artistic practice throughout the region over the past decade. Crafting Radicality unites 12 of those artists who reconfigure the hierarchies of the past and the material processes of art-making. Creating their own aesthetic language to reframe and upend personal and political histories, and the media and methodologies traditionally used to render them, the artists in Crafting Radicality approach art-making as a form of resistance.

“Probing some of the most complex social issues of our time, the 12 works on display in Crafting Radicality speak to the region’s enduring legacy as an activist nexus,” noted Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “We are delighted to present this important work at the de Young as the first in a series of three exhibitions culled from the transformative Svane Family Foundation acquisition, and in a year in which Bay Area creativity is a running thread in the de Young program. Coinciding from September 30, Crafting Radicality and The de Young Open will serve as testaments to the vitality of the Bay Area arts community.”

Helmed by Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming, the Svane Family Foundation acquisition reflects the abundant artistic energy and creative scope of contemporary Bay Area artists. Crafting Radicality is curated by Janna Keegan, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art and Programming, and Hannah Waiters, Curatorial Collections Fellow, presenting works from the acquisition that address intersectionality—a conceptual framework for understanding how social identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege—through new liberatory craft techniques. Together, these artists spark a dialogue with the museum’s ongoing exhibition Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence over the critical importance of artistic reclamation of both materiality and meaning.

The works of Demetri Broxton, Kota Ezawa, and Sadie Barnette are grounded in, but transcend, subjugated lived realities. Meshing materials and meanings, Broxton is engaged in an ongoing investigation of the cultural flow of the Black Atlantic, tracing ancient symbols of power as they resurface in contemporary popular culture. Transforming a pair of Everlast boxing gloves with embroidery, cowrie shells–symbols of colonial exchange–beads, and mirrors, Save Me, Joe Louis (2019-2020) invokes the legendary story referred to by Martin Luther King Jr. in his book Why We Can’t Wait (1963) of a Black adolescent on death row during the Jim Crow era who called out to the famous Black boxer from the gas chamber. Ezawa subverts moments from current events and pop culture in glossy, animated films and drawings, alluding to legacies of erasure and declarations of emancipation. For the animation National Anthem (2019), he deconstructs archival footage of professional football teams taking a knee–a Black Atlantic ritual acknowledging the globally subjugated–into more than 200 individual watercolors. Working with the archive, Barnette uses her own family history as a mirror for the collective history of repression and resistance in the United States. Barnette’s FBI Drawings, Legal Ritual (2021) transforms her Black Panther father’s 500-page FBI file into a personalized record of reclamation and redress.

Still other artists subvert traditional narratives of universal human experience grounded in a worldview that centers whiteness and patriarchy. In abstract sculptures such as Body for a Black Moon (2019), Angela Hennessy works with synthetic and human hair, including her own, to counter traditional aesthetic presentations of such supposed universal experience. Koak confounds tropes of desirability and motherhood in a rendition of mother and child in June (2021), pushing back against societal expectations for women’s roles and contested boundaries of self and other. Muzae Sesay plumbs the relationship among community, space, place, and memory in Charades (2021), flattening urban infrastructure into a two-dimensional plane to reflect on the collective sense of isolation and oppression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using dye, graphite, powdered metals, and chalk, Sydney Cain creates otherworldly images of the physical and spiritual displacement of her ancestors, imagining the possibility of an afterlife. Her mixed-media piece The Child Opens Its Eyes to the Earth (2022) conjures a timeless copresence of figures and spirits.

In her painting Mi permiso secreto (2022), Liz Hernández explores the politics of intersectionality through the ritualistic painting of the body in gold. Rashaad Newsome and Ramekon O’Arwisters use assemblage and collage to create new conceptual frameworks for marginalized materials and Black and queer cultures. Conveying counter-hegemonic narratives, Newsome combines photographs of West African masks and sculpture with those of male nudes in Thirst Trap (2020), while O’Arwisters uses repurposed fabrics and ceramics in tightly constructed sculptures such as Flowered Thorns #3 (2020–2021). Creating monumental works on paper, David Huffman explores sociopolitical themes through a combination of abstraction and surrealist mark-making, as in his most recent “hoop net” series. In Untitled (Water Fall) (2017), Huffman employs basketball nets as stencils to create lyrical patterns in spray paint as a form of “social abstraction” that alludes to the sport’s exploitation of Black players. With more than a billion people around the world without access to clean, safe drinking water, Woody De Othello’s Fountain (2021), newly installed in the de Young’s sculpture garden, reflects on the role of public fountains as anchors of life and community.

“Through profuse materiality and a framework of craft and popular culture, the artists in Crafting Radicality speak to the power of reclamation,” remarked curator Janna Keegan. “Theirs is a reclamation of experiences and materials to tell subversive stories that question traditional narratives of art, history and identity.”

Established in 2019 by Zendesk founder and CEO Mikkel Svane, the Svane Family Foundation earmarked $1 million in 2021 to support the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s acquisition. Contributing artists are: Wesaam Al-Badry; Miguel Arzabe; Saif Azzuz; Sadie Barnette; Demetri Broxton; Sydney Cain; Maria A Guzmán Capron; Woody De Othello; Kota Ezawa; Ana Teresa Fernández; Guillermo Galindo; Katy Grannan; Angela Hennessey; Liz Hernández; David Huffman; Chris Johanson; Koak; Sahar Khoury; Christiane Lyons; Ruby Neri; Rashaad Newsome; Ramekon O’Arwisters; Postcommodity; Clare Rojas; Muzae Sesay; Daisy May Sheff; Allison Smith; Stephanie Syjuco; Rupy C. Tut; and Chelsea Ryoko Wong..

de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Crafting Radicality: Bay Area Artists from the Svane Gift
July 22nd, 2023 – December 31st 2023