On View: January 2–February 3
A+ is an affirmation of the enduring power of quality, exhibiting work by three artists – Susan Hauptman, Irene Pijoan, and Richard Sheehan – who captured the attention of the art world in the 1980s with inventive audacity, conviction, and confidence, taking traditional subject matter of landscape, still life, self-portrait, and abstraction and blowing it to smithereens. While the artists used distinctly different media, materials, and sources of inspiration, each had a remarkable and dynamic intensity of vision which made their teaching a profound experience for the students in their lectures and classes at the San Francisco Art Institute. Some 25 years later, and after each of their deaths, their work has been infrequently seen locally yet their influence lives on in exemplary artists who studied with them at SFAI, and have shaped the contemporary art scene in the Bay Area and beyond.
Among many notable periods in SFAI’s long history, the late 1980s and early 1990s stand out as a confluence of extraordinary and interconnected artists. Students at the time included Paris gallerist, Joseph Tang, and now-lauded artists Toba Khedoori, Rachel Khedoori, Alicia McCarthy, Ruby Neri, and Jason Rhoades, all of whom studied with Irene Pijoan, an associate professor at SFAI from 1983 until 2004. In 1988, Richard Sheehan joined SFAI as a visiting lecturer, and in 1990, Pijoan recruited Susan Hauptman as a visiting faculty member.
All three artists grounded their own work and their teaching in a strict emphasis on foundations of painting and drawing — composition, light, and color — while bringing distinctive approaches to their interactions with students: Pijoan was a fiercely dedicated and even intimidating mentor; Hauptman always encouraging; Sheehan more matter-of-fact and direct.
As an educational institution, SFAI’s pedagogy is built on the role of artists teaching artists, and the generational transfer of knowledge that catalyzes further exploration and creation. This vital undertaking is not easily summed up in simple results or grades, yet depends on determinations of artistic quality – a consensus that the ecosystem of the art world continues long after graduation. Or perhaps a more evocative motif of lineage, individuality, and interconnection is the colorful weave of the mural by Pijoan’s student Alicia McCarthy that anchors SFAI’s new Fort Mason Campus and is visible from the Main Gallery, entering into conversation with A+.
A+ is Pijoan’s first exhibition in San Francisco in 15 years and Hauptman’s first exhibition in San Francisco in 25 years. Sheehan developed a devoted following in San Francisco in the 1980s, but largely stepped back from the art world in the early 1990s. This current presentation aims to introduce a new generation of SFAI students and Bay Area audiences to three extraordinary artists, and foster continued conditions for the development of unique visions enriched by interplay and exchange.
A+ is guest curated by Jeremy Stone. Special thanks to Jeremy Stone, the estate of Susan Hauptman, the estate of Irene Pijoan, the Sheehan Family Trust, and the Forum Gallery, New York, for their participation and assistance in organizing this exhibition. A+ is accompanied by an illustrated color catalogue.
Susan Hauptman (1947–2015) was born in Michigan. She worked almost exclusively on paper with charcoal and pastel, and is best known for her stark, enigmatic, often expressionless self-portraits in which she depicted herself with alarmingly precise and candid detail, in ways critics described as strikingly androgynous, and confronted cultural notions of beauty, reality, femininity and masculinity. A recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants, an Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and other awards, Hauptman is represented in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Norton Museum of Art, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and Oakland Museum of California. Solo museum shows include the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Hauptman was a visiting artist teaching drawing at SFAI in 1990.
Irene Pijoan (1953–2004) was born in Lausanne, Switzerland but came to study in the United States, receiving her BFA and MFA from UC Davis where she studied sculpture with Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, and Manuel Neri. Pijoan moved into painting with her figurative encaustic relief and oil work on wood and plaster, first shown at the Lester Gallery, Inverness, CA in 1980 and in San Francisco in 1981 at Gallery Paule Anglim. Pijoan’s later abstract paintings on canvas and large-scale mixed media and paper cut-out works with text evolved into large installations and commissions in aluminum. Pijoan’s work has been shown both nationally and internationally, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Forum d’Art Contemporain, Sierre, Switzerland; Raab Gallery, Berlin and London; Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, NM; and Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA. In California, her work has been shown at Artspace, San Francisco; Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara; Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco; Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose; the Oakland Museum of California; Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco; Stella Polaris Gallery, Los Angeles; and UC Berkeley Art Museum. In New York her work was included in exhibitions at Leo Castelli Gallery (1987) and David Beitzel Gallery (1992). Grants and residencies include a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grant, Art Matters Individual Artist Grant, Ford Foundation Grant, and Djerassi Foundation Residency. Pijoan was an associate professor of art at SFAI from 1983 to 2004.
Richard Sheehan (1953-2006) was born in Boston, MA. He received his BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and his MFA from Yale University in 1977, where he received the Elizabeth Canfield Hicks Memorial Scholarship. A figurative painter who documented the urban Massachusetts and Rhode Island surroundings, Sheehan worked outdoors, with an old mail truck carrying his easel and canvases. Critics often thought he was a West Coast artist following in the legacy of SFAI faculty members Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn, due to his palette and the light emanating from his paintings. Sheehan was given his first solo show in 1978 at the Alpha Gallery, Boston. His paintings have been exhibited at ABC/Capital Cities, Inc., New York, NY; The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hayden Corridor Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; Marilyn Pearl Gallery, New York, NY; Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI; Roger Ramsay Gallery, Chicago, IL; Allan Stone Gallery/Allan Stone Projects, New York, NY; Jeremy Stone Gallery, San Francisco; and Wilhelm Gallery, Houston, TX. His work is in the permanent collections of Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and numerous corporate and private collections across the U.S. Sheehan was a visiting lecturer at San Francisco Art Institute in 1988.