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Sonoma Valley Museum of Art opens two new exhibitions
Question Bridge Video. Image ©

SONOMA, CA.- Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is presenting two stimulating summer exhibitions, running June 12- September 5, 2021 —Sacred Landscapes: The Art of Ynez Johnston and Question Bridge: Black Males.

Sacred Landscapes: The Art of Ynez Johnston is a retrospective of this modernist Bay Area artist featuring a luminous body of paintings, sculpture, and prints spanning seven decades. Johnston, born in Berkeley, CA., was influenced by numerous personal topographies and cultural inspirations gleaned from many adventurous travels throughout the world.

Her distinctive hybrids reference a universal cultural history of dream-like epic voyages, where mythic creatures beckon the viewer to enter and explore the sacred landscapes they inhabit. San Francisco art critic, Alfred Frankenstein, wrote in 1956 that Johnston’s unique style “fuses dream and the infinite….”.

“SVMA is pleased to host this historic exhibition of Ynez Johnston's art,” said Linda Keaton, executive director. “Sacred Landscapes: The Art of Ynez Johnston is a homecoming for the artist's work, as she grew up and attended school in the Bay Area, and had her first solo exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Art, now SF MoMA, at age 22.”

Question Bridge: Black Males, originated by artist Chris Johnson, explores challenging issues within the Black male community through a transmedia conversation among Black men across geographic, economic, generational, educational, and social strata of American society. For over four years, Johnson, along with Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, traveled the nation collecting questions and answers from over 150 Black men in eleven cities.

This innovative video installation presents interviews of exceptional honesty and vulnerability. Question Bridge: Black Males opens a window onto the complex and often unspoken dialogue among Black men, creating an intimate experience for viewers and subjects and providing new opportunities for understanding and healing. Sharing stories, beliefs, and values, this project offers nuanced portraits of the past, present, and future of Black men in American society.

“Question Bridge: Black Males is an important, compelling video installation,” notes Keaton. “SVMA is honored to present this exciting exhibition to Bay Area audiences.”

Question Bridge: Black Males was created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. The executive producers are Delroy Lindo, Deborah Willis and Jesse Williams. The post-production producer is Will Sylvester and the supervising story producer is Rosa White.

Ynez Johnston (1920-2019)

Ynez Johnston created a luminous body of work over the course of eight decades. Considered to be something of a prodigy, she entered the Art Department at the University of California Berkeley at the age of 16, and had a solo exhibition just six years later at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Johnston received early recognition with exhibitions at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1950-51 and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952. Ynez Johnston was born in Berkeley, CA., in 1920 and was named after the river that flowed through California’s Santa Ynez Mountain Range.

Ynez’s creative life was marked by a fluid aesthetic that explored numerous personal topographies and exotic cultural influences gleaned from many adventurous travels throughout the world. Gerald Nordland wrote in her 1996 monograph that she pursued ancient, modern and contemporary cultural influences in a “fearless” manner.

Ynez Johnston won numerous awards in her lifetime including the first prize at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1952. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, among many others.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson originated the Question Bridge concept with a 1996 video installation he created for the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Malcolm X library in San Diego, California. In 1994, he co-produced and directed The Roof is on Fire with Suzanne Lacy, which was broadcast on KRON. Chris Johnson is a photographic and video artist, writer, curator and arts administrator. He is the author of The Practical Zone System: for Film and Digital Photography; currently in its 6th edition. Chris Johnson served as President of San Francisco Camerawork Gallery, Chair of the City of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Commission and Director of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography. Currently, he is a full Professor of Photography at the California College of the Arts where for ten years he served as President of the Faculty Senate.

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