curatorial statement

This exhibition tells the story of four remarkable moments when artists in California formed communities that changed the face of art. In Fertile Ground we invite you to explore artworks, personal memorabilia, historic film footage, and the artist's own words, to learn about political events and personal realtionships that fostered radical breakthroughs in art.

Where does great art come from? Popular culture has given us the stereotype of the solitary artist, struggling in isolation against personal demons in a private quest for inspiration. Mentioned less often are the crucial but intangible factors that bring together the right people at the right place and time to spark a fury of creativity that inspires groundbreaking art.

In a rare collaboration between the Oakland Museum of California and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Fertile Ground draws on the collections of two institutions whose own histories are deeply intertwined with the rich stories told in the exhibition. Though each of the moments presented here are the product of unique personalities and circumstances, they all serve as examples of the magic that occurs whenever people put their passions and ideals into practice, growing creative communities in fertile ground.


Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California is curated by Drew Johnson, curator of photography and visual culture and René de Guzman, senior curator of art, at OMCA in association with Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture, Caitlin Haskell, assistant curator of painting and sculpture, and Peter Samis, associate curator of interpretation at SFMOMA.