Burning Man, Black Power, and American Style

American style takes many forms—from black power to blue jeans—in these upcoming Bay Area art shows.

Art collective HYBYCOZO has displayed its oversize lanterns in Black Rock City.
Art collective HYBYCOZO has displayed its oversize lanterns in Black Rock City.
RON BLUNT

NO SPECTATORS: THE ART OF BURNING MAN

• Through Feb. 16
• Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland
museumca.org

Can’t get to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man? Then visit OMCA to see scores of massive community-driven sculptures and installations—including a 40-foot-tall temple crafted by lauded Bay Area sculptor David Best (whose work is often ritually set afire at the end of the weeklong art-centric celebration). The exhibition, which originated at the Smithsonian, also includes a companion show: City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man traces Burning Man from its countercultural origins in the San Francisco Bay Area to the world-renowned city in the desert it is today.

Iconic Levi Strauss button.
Iconic Levi Strauss button.

LEVI STRAUSS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN STYLE

• Feb. 13–Aug. 9
• Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
thecjm.org

What a long, strange trip it’s been for blue jeans—from utilitarian denim work pants created by Bavarian-born Levi Strauss in 1873 in San Francisco all the way to his namesake company’s IPO in early 2019. Levi Strauss is a riveting (and, yes, riveted) exhibition showcasing his life and the worldwide phenomenon he launched, one that has been embraced by 19th-century cowboys, 1950s Hollywood bad boys, and modern-day collectors (who don’t raise an eyebrow at the thoroughly modern price tag of $200-plus for some pairs). The show features more than 150 items from the San Francisco company’s archives.

Benny Andrews is one of many black artists whose politically tinged work is exhibited in Soul of a Nation. His collaged paintings incorporate cut fabric and paper.
Benny Andrews is one of many black artists whose politically tinged work is exhibited in Soul of a Nation. His collaged paintings incorporate cut fabric and paper.
© BENNY ANDREWS

SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER 1963–1983

• Through Mar. 15
• de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., San Francisco
deyoung.famsf.org

What do activism and resistance look like in a gallery setting? This charged question animates the works of more than 60 African American artists in Soul of a Nation. Some answers: artist-activist Dana C. Chandler Jr.’s Fred Hampton’s Door 2, inspired by Hampton’s bullet-riddled front door (the Black Panther leader was killed in 1969 by Chicago police while asleep in his apartment), and Elizabeth Catlett’s Black Unity, a 1968 mahogany sculpture of a giant raised fist, which reminds us how the black power movement galvanized artists to use their work to resist racial violence and injustice.

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