This has been a fortunate semester. I’ve had the opportunity to take my Academy of Art University class on many adventures. Last week Thursday, we visited the exclusive Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco. Appointments are required to enter this magical and majestic space. Excellence is hidden in a large warehouse under the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge.
From venue’s website: “Located on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, Pier 24 Photography provides a quiet, contemplative environment for viewing photographic works. Pier 24 Photography houses the permanent collection of the Pilara Foundation, which is dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting photography. We seek to engage the community through exhibitions, publications, and public programs, and we welcome members of the public, academic institutions, and museum groups for self-guided tours that last up to two hours…”
Entering Pier 24 is similar to visiting an exclusive club or secret hideaway. The current Looking Back exhibit is an in-depth curation of the Pilara Foundation. Each room highlights a fraction of the collection while celebrating its tenth anniversary.
The main gallery dominates with portraits dating from the past to current day. The human condition resonates in the masterpieces of Richard Avedon, Frank A. Rinehart, and Maurizio Anzeri. Richard Avedon: “My photographs don’t go below the surface. They don’t go below anything. They’re readings of the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.”
The Pilara Foundation’s collection of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto is a spiritual mecca. From Fraenkel Gallery in regards to Sugimoto’s The Last Supper: Acts of God: “The artist first created this work in 1999, from a life-size wax reproduction of Leonardo’s The Last Supper, which he photographed at a museum in Izu, Japan. In 2012, while the work was stored in the artist’s basement, it was damaged by the storm surge and flooding that occurred when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Sugimoto chose to retain the dramatic marks, colorations and ripples that have changed the character of the photograph.”
The works of Alec Soth, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, and Adou haunt me. Soth’s Mother and Daughter, Davenport, Iowa strikingly tells the story of America. The expressions document generational struggle. Denial can’t stop circumstance, time, or reality.
Looking Back is looking forward. The exhibit is one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. The collection is stunning and overwhelming. Excellence lives and breathes under the bridge: one photograph at a time.