Rise Up! Social Justice in Art from the Collection of J. Michael Bewley
On November 27, 1978, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk—California’s first openly gay elected official—was shot five times. The assassination and its traumatic and charged aftermath were still raw some ten years later when J. Michael Bewley, an employment lawyer in San José, walked into the backroom of a San Francisco gallery and saw Five Times for Harvey (1982), a suite of drawings by American sculptor and painter Robert Arneson (1930–1992) that boldly narrates Milk’s political life and legend. Though unlike the artworks Bewley had been acquiring over the past two years, Five Times for Harvey went home with him and dramatically altered the course of his collecting over the next three decades.
In 2016, Bewley generously donated Arneson’s work to SJMA along with eleven other significant pieces, many of which will be on view for the first time (alongside selections from his personal collection) in Rise Up! These works of art embody the value system of their collector. They explore issues that resonate with current political movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and the contemporary LGBTQ movement.
Bold figurative expression of identity unites paintings, prints, sculptures, and textiles by Robert Arneson, Sadie Barnette, Squeak Carnwath, Enrique Chagoya, Dorothy Cross, Luis Cruz Azaceta, Lesley Dill, Marlene Dumas, George Grosz, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, Tino Rodriguez, Alison Saar, Mickalene Thomas, and Kara Walker. Resilience and radicalism resound through these powerful works. Collectively, they issue a call to action—rise up!
Organized by Kathryn Wade, curatorial associate.