Exhibitions & Public Events

Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019 - Sunday, Apr 7, 2019
Walter and McBean Galleries

Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures

Collaborative Practices led by Jeff Gunderson presented with University of California Santa Cruz and guest curated by Leila Weefur

On View: January 22–April 7
Opening Reception: January 26 | 5–8pm

In 1968, when Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones first began photographing members of the Black Panther Party, the ingenuity of the party’s diverse organizing tactics had begun to capture the imagination of people hoping for revolutionary change. The Black Panther Party’s multifaceted approach to community activism, together with strong political education campaigns, coalitions with local and national organizations, and international relationships built from legacies of organizing within Black communities, created a template for decades of organizing to come.

Vanguard Revisited exhibits images from the photographic essay BLACK PANTHERS, 1968—initially shown at San Francisco's de Young Museum 50 years ago—alongside never-before-seen images of the Black Panther Party from 1969 onward. San Francisco Art Institute (where Baruch and Jones met while studying under Ansel Adams, and Jones later taught for many years), in partnership with the University of California, Santa Cruz, brings this expansive archive into conversation with contemporary artists, drawing on a not-so-distant past to discuss a still-volatile present.

Poetic Politics & Black Futures is a living archive of political possibilities. Artists Kija Lucas, Tosha Stimage, 5/5 Collective, and Chris Martin present a range of creative and radical resistance. Working in concert with the archival photographs, this exhibition of contemporary work assembles a new understanding of the Black political imagination. To disrupt the assumption that activism needs to be aggressive or didactic, the artists employ symbolism associated with Black radical traditions, making space for nuance and complexity.

5/5 Collective and Lucas use a taxonomic approach to examine “Home” by gathering and archiving objects, offering a quiet confrontation to the viewer’s notions of “Home” and Blackness. Stimage and Martin use high-contrast iconographies that serve as bold punctuations to the “What We Want, What We Believe” sentiment of the Panthers’ legendary Ten-Point Program. Black Futures is not delivered with a passive voice, but a voice steeped in deft poetics and sharp politics that continues to accumulate power from its own rich history.

Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures was organized by San Francisco Art Institute in partnership with the University of California, Santa Cruz and made possible in part by a generous grant from the Pirkle Jones Fund. Special thanks to the SFAI Collaborative Practices class led by Librarian and Archivist Jeff Gunderson with SFAI students Eliza Phelan-Harder, Kathryn Porter, Yang Bao, Mikayla Mays, Midori Kimata, Katrina Magowan, and Candice Rongwan Xia; guest curator Leila Weefur; UC Santa Cruz Outreach & Exhibits Librarian Jessica Pigza and UC Santa Cruz Public Humanities Fellow Lani Hanna; SFAI President Gordon Knox; Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Jennifer Rissler; Vice President of Operations and Facilities Heather Hickman Holland; Manager of Exhibitions, Events, and Partnerships Kat Trataris; and Chief Preparator Robin Beard.

The Visiting Artist + Scholars series will present a conversation in conjunction with this exhibition. More information forthcoming. 


About the Artists

Ruth-Marion Baruch was a documentary photographer, poet, and educator who was born in Berlin, Germany in 1922. She immigrated to the United States with her parents in 1927 and spent her childhood in New York City. In 1946, she became the first recipient of a Master’s in Fine Arts degree in photography from the University of Ohio. After completing her graduate studies, Baruch relocated to San Francisco and began postgraduate studies in photography at the newly inaugurated fine art photography program founded by Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts, now SFAI.

Baruch’s work is in the permanent collections of the Oakland Museum of Art, Center for Creative Photography, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman House, Arizona State University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Polaroid Corporation, among others. Her one-person exhibitions included the 1966 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art show, “Illusion For Sale,” a photo essay about women shoppers in San Francisco’s Union Square; “Haight Ashbury 1967,” at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum; and “The Shape of Birth,” in 1976 at the Focus Gallery in San Francisco. 

Pirkle Jones was born in 1914, in Shreveport, Louisiana. He came to California in 1946 to study photography under the GI Bill at the California School of Fine Arts. He studied under Ansel Adams and Minor White. For almost sixty years he chronicled the people, politics, and landscape of Northern California. Jones did collaborative work with Dorothea Lange on a project commissioned by Life Magazine documenting the dislocation of the farm community of California’s Berryessa Valley to build Lake Berryessa in a photo essay later published in Aperture Magazine titled “Death of a Valley.” Other collaborative projects included “The Story of a Winery” with Ansel Adams, and “Walnut Grove” and “Black Panthers, 1968” both undertaken with his wife of 48 years, Ruth Marion Baruch. Jones’ individual work included landscape photography of California, most notably Marin County and Mt. Tamalpais, as well as a series titled “Gate Five” which were portraits of the life of the artist, houseboat, and hippy community of Sausalito in the early 1970s.

Jones taught at SFAI for twenty-eight years, retiring in 1997. In 2003, SFAI awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Jones’s achievements included the Photographic Excellence Award from the National Urban League and a National Endowment for the Arts Photography fellowship. He exhibited at the International Museum of Photography, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, Oakland Museum of California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, M. H. de Young Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

Kija Lucas is an artist and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She uses photography to explore ideas of home, heritage, and inheritance. Lucas received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2006 and her MFA from Mills College in 2010. Her work has been exhibited throughout the Bay Area at The Headlands Center for the Arts, The California Institute of Integral Studies, Altar Space, Intersection for the Arts, Luggage Store, Mission Cultural Center, Root Division, The Bedford Gallery, Pro Arts, The Asian Resource Center Gallery, as well as Venice Arts in Los Angeles, CA, La Sala d’Ercole/Hercules Hall in Bologna Italy, and Casa Escorsa in Guadalajara, Mexico. Lucas Has been an Artist in Residence at The Lucas Artist Residency at Montalvo Center for the Arts, Grin City Collective, and The Wassaic Artist Residency. Lucas is currently the program manager for The Growlery in San Francisco. She has been a member of 3.9 Art Collective since 2018.

Christopher Martin is a southern-raised artist from North Carolina and is currently based in San Francisco. While attending school at North Carolina A&T for graphic design, Martin was prone to create hand cut and sewn banners with logo-like images to tell a story relevant to his own culture and history. With cotton representing the toil/labor of those captured in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Martin hand-cuts and sews tapestry pieces that are representative of the modern-day experience of the African diaspora. His work continues in this medium alongside many other freelance positions like graphic design, electric tattooing, photography, videography, & teaching art classes/workshops throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tosha Stimage is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses a variety of mediums to examine and reflect on the limitations of language. Her work focuses on disrupting the idea of isolated meaning. By consistently re-contextualizing material forms and histories she is able to challenge visual languages as an ongoing investigation of racial ideologies. Stimage is a recipient of numerous awards/residences such as: Toby Devin Lewis Award, Murphy Cadogan Award, Real Time and Space Artist in Residence, and Facebook Artist in residence. She is currently an AICAD teaching fellow at The Columbus College of Art & Design.

5/5 Collective is a multimedia collective dedicated to exploring Black(ness) as an idea, consciousness, reference, and embodied experience through space, language, and visual culture. Tania Balan-Gaubert uses photography, found and ready-made objects, assemblage, and video to contemplate exodus, long-distance nationalism, and belonging. Troy Chew's work explores the African Diaspora within the urban culture through painting and sculpture, while also questioning the definitions of “Fine Art” and “Folk Art.” Employing hand sewing, collage, drawing, and assemblage, Nkiruka Oparah builds multimedia portraits from found objects, familial images, video, and repurposed materials to investigate black identity, and Nigerian cultural memory as an ongoing attempt to materialize her experience of displacement.


Special thanks to the Pirkle Jones Fund of the Marin Community Foundation.


IMAGE: Pirkle Jones. Black Panthers drilling before Free Huey Rally, DeFremery Park, Oakland, CA, #23 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers. © Regents of the University of California. Courtesy Special Collections, University Library, University of California Santa Cruz.

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Opening Reception: Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures
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