by Á.R. Vázquez-Concepción
Traveling via San Francisco International Airport (SFO) soon? If so, SFO Museum‘s Terminal Three gallery is worth a layover for Celebrating a Vision: Art and Disability, an exhibition of work by artists who are affiliated with the Oakland-based Creative Growth Art Center(opened in 1972), the National Institute of Art And Disabilities (NIAD, established in 1982), and San Francisco’s Creativity Explored (founded in 1983).
These organizations are the brainchildren of two unique individuals, artist Florence and psychologist Elias Katz, whose vision is honored in this showcase. The Katzes were pioneers of the arts and disabilities movement, a broad network of professionals that since the mass deinstitutionalizations of the ’50s and ’60s has worked to recognize and encourage the profound artistic capacities and intuitions of individuals with disabilities.1 Institutions, such as those the Katzes founded, have sought to recognize the distinctiveness and artistic merit of the discourses produced by the artists they serve while entering into broader conversations about ethics and aesthetics. Without exception, each artist on display in Celebrating a Vision presents us with profound, dexterous visual languages.
A case in point are the set of untitled 2012 sculptures by artist Tony Pedemonte, assemblages of pieces of wood and other materials wrapped in copious layers of multicolor thread. The string acts as a three-dimensional line drawing, encasing the wooden armature like a butterfly’s cocoon or, alternately, bringing to mind areas in the body where hard and soft tissues become fastened and secured to one another. Another example is Susan Wise’s mirthful Baskets (2015), a series of small-scale, intricate sculptures made through the artist’s painstaking method of shaping rope and twine into vessels.
While most would consider an exhibition inside an airport a passing distraction, Celebrating a Vision is, in fact, galvanizing. Rather than fade into the hustle and bustle of its surroundings, these brilliant works made by an invaluable artist community in the Bay Area captivate and encourage contemplation.
Celebrating a Vision: Art and Disability is on view at San Francisco International Airport (Terminal 3), in San Francisco, through December 4, 2016.
1 Doris Zames Fleischer, Frieda Zames. The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation (Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 2011), 33-36.
This review was originally published in Art Practical (with correction of date, as exhibition was extended past the original September closing date)