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Monday, February 15, 2016

Latino Folk Art, George Takei, and Octavia Butler: Three Can't-Miss Exhibits

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2016 at 4:30 PM

click to enlarge STACEY ROBINSON
  • Stacey Robinson

February isn't always the prime season for art exhibits, but some of San Francisco's heavy-hitting cultural institutions have produced some superior shows for what passes for the dead of winter around here. From two genuinely breathtaking cultural events riffing on the career of Octavia Butler to a collaboration between the JCC and the soon-to-move Mexican Museum to some bonus George Takei, there's something to fill every weekend with intellectual enrichment and dazzling visuals.

click to enlarge Arturo Estrada, Coco, 1966, Oil on canvas - Permanent Collection of The Mexican Museum, Gift of Jane Levinsohn, 1986/33.002
  • Arturo Estrada, Coco, 1966, Oil on canvasPermanent Collection of The Mexican Museum, Gift of Jane Levinsohn, 1986/33.002

¡Que Rico, Que Bueno!

The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (JCCSF) partnered with the Mexican Museum to develop ¡Que Rico, Que Bueno!, a new exhibition in the JCC's Katz Snyder Gallery that's up until the end of June. To celebrate the Museum's 40th anniversary, guest curator David J. de la Torre pulled items from the vaults as well as from various local collections to provide a panoramic view of Latino art and culture from the Mesoamerican period to the contemporary era, including painting, sculptures, glass work and other media. As the Mexican Museum (founded in the Mission in 1975) will move from Fort Mason to Yerba Buena, this collaboration is meant to strengthen the ties between two of S.F.'s leading cultural institutions, emphasizing the breadth and complexity of San Francisco's Mexican and Latino artists.

On Sunday, Feb. 28, from noon to 4 p.m., check out Zocalo: Family Day Fiesta & Mercado, a free event dedicated to crafting, dance and street food. Learn to make a piñata, put some cotija on your corn, and watch a performance of the Ballet Folklorico.
¡Que Rico, Que Bueno!, through June 30, at the JCCSF's Katz Snyder Gallery, 3200 California,

  • California Academy of Sciences


Aren't you thrilled to know that gravitational waves have confirmed predictions Einstein made a century ago, opening up an entirely new frontier for astronomical research? You should be, but if your comprehension of the specifics is a little fuzzy, it might be good to hit up the Academy of Sciences' newest planetarium show. Incoming! might not deal with astrophysics per se, but you're sure to learn about how asteroid and comet impacts have directed the evolution of life on earth. From the crater near the Yucatan that marks the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event — that is to say, what made the dinosaurs go bye-bye — to what NASA is doing to make sure we don't get clobbered by a giant rock from space, it's a dynamic region of scientific exploration.

Narrated by none other than George Takei, Incoming! includes live updates of NASA missions like Dawn and New Horizons (which famous studied the asteroid belt and Pluto, respectively) during each performance. Homo sapiens' ability to look at the universe gets sharper all the time, and finally there's a planetarium show that can keep up!
Incoming! March 11 - Sept. 5, at the California Academy of Sciences' Morrison Planetarium, 55 Music Concourse Dr., in Golden Gate Park,

click to enlarge screen_shot_2016-02-15_at_3.47.21_pm.png

Octavia Butler x 2 

Science fiction has a reputation for attracting nerdy white guys, but there was one black woman writer who could slay Comic-Book Guy from The Simpsons and The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, and fend off any nettlesome Trekkies while suppressing a yawn. Afrofuturist, MacArthur Award winner, and supreme genius Octavia Butler (1947-2006) wrote brilliant novels like The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents (set in a dystopian, near-future California) that consider topics like gender, the morphology of race, cultural imperialism, and the future of the species alongside more typical sci-fi fare like weird aliens. Ten years after her death, Butler is being honored with two shows at the end of the month.

First, Live Worms Gallery straddles Black History Month and Women's History Month with Octavia's Attic: ARTifacts From Our Possible Futures (Feb. 24 - March 2), a compendium of over two dozen artists. Through the use of painting to video art to interactive installations, these creative minds have been tasked with re-imagining "time-navigation tools" discovered posthumously in Butler's attic and which she may or may not have singlehandedly dragged from other dimensions. Expect post-psychedelic poster art from Black Kirby, spoken-word incantations from Walidah Imarisha, a "psychotemporal transcranial stimulation device (PTSD)" from lawyer and science fiction author Rasheedah Phillips, which allows visitors to experience past events, and more.

Relatedly, a two-day show called Parables of the Future, an interactive art and science event that combines choreography with the current science on time travel, arrives Feb. 27-28. Featuring Brontez Purnell, Shinnerrie Jackson, and University of Connecticut physics professor Dr. Ronald Mallett, it might open up a tear in the space-time continuum and fill it with paradoxes of queer African-American awesomeness. (The only thing better than learning how to build your own time machine is hearing an original performance set to Butler's own text, right?)
Octavia’s Attic: ARTifacts From Our Possible Futures, Feb. 24 - March 2, at Live Worms Gallery, 1345 Grant Ave.,

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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