Morse Code Messages from Displaced Artists Light Up Civic Center Window Installation
Displaced artists send messages to San Francisco through an installation by local artist Ma Li
SAN FRANCISCO – This summer messages from displaced artists will light up the SFAC Galleries Window Installation Site. Local artist Ma Li asked artists who have moved from San Francisco to send messages to the city they left. For her installation, titled Wish You Could Have Seen This, Ma translates these messages into a Morse code light signal flashing out into the city. At night the light signals fade and are replaced with video depicting artwork by displaced artists, projected onto a shrine-like sculpture in the gallery.
While developing the idea for her installation, Ma noted the many artists she knows who have recently moved away from San Francisco. Wish You Could Have Seen This provides a platform for displaced artists to reflect on their circumstances—whether the move came from a new job, a change in their lifestyle, or an untenable rent increase—and a place to share their thoughts in the center of San Francisco. A call for artists will be sent out asking for new messages and images of artwork to be added throughout the run of the exhibition, establishing a virtual network that transcends geographical barriers. “Wish You Could Have Seen This is a statement from an art community that contributed to the culture of this city,” Ma states.
The installation also makes use of materials stored at 155 Grove Street, connecting with the history of the SFAC Galleries. Comprised of pedestals, vitrines, and tubes that once contained the track lighting in the new Main Gallery, the installation takes on an architectural form that mimics the columns that encircle San Francisco’s City Hall.
The public is invited to gather on the sidewalk outside of 155 Grove Street for a discussion with Ma and Marc Mayer, Senior Educator of Contemporary Art at the Asian Art Museum. They will discuss working in the arts at a time of change in the Bay Area. SFAC Galleries Associate Curator Jackie Im comments, “Li’s installation is an ode to the artists who have called San Francisco their home. For so many of us in the arts, it’s hard to ignore the changes that are occurring within our community, and the larger San Francisco population. Li’s piece reflects on these changes in a visually poetic way.”
Ma Li (b. Fuzhou, China) is an interdisciplinary artist working in painting, sculpture, installation, and performance. Using both traditional and nontraditional media, Ma Li formulates dreamlike worlds influenced in part by her background in choreography and upbringing in a collectivist society. She has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Shanghai Dong Hua University, and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (2014). She has been awarded grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Santo Foundation and Knight Foundation; a fellowship from La Napoule Art Foundation; and the Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award. She has been a resident artist at Recology San Francisco, Momentum Worldwide Berlin Residency, Vermont Studio Center, Elsewhere Museum, among others. Ma Li has exhibited her work in a range of museums and galleries, including solo projects such as Gathering Among Stars, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2015); and Bits en Route, Momentum Gallery, Berlin (2016); and Seeing, Peeping, and Scrying, Alter Space-Peephole Gallery, San Francisco (2015). Group shows include Zhong Gallery (Berlin), A.I.R Gallery (Brooklyn), Gallery 825 (Los Angeles), SOMArts (San Francisco), Napa Valley Museum (Yountville, CA) and Château de La Napoule Gallery (Mandelieu, France), among others.