Bill Jacobson: American Trip, 1975 Opening Reception (Tenderloin Museum)
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Tenderloin Museum | 398 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Submitted by the Event Organizer
American Trip, 1975 is a never before exhibited selection of early work by artist/photographer Bill Jacobson. The images, made in San Francisco’s Tenderloin at a pivotal moment in the neighborhood’s history, are infused with dreamlike splendor and beguiling candor.
Opening Reception: September 15, 2022 | 6pm – 8pm
The photographs came from the young artist’s formative journey into the heart of an unfamiliar and great city– thus, the notion of a “trip.” Originally from a small East Coast town, Jacobson spent his junior year of college on the opposite coast, studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. San Francisco engendered a cultural counterpoint that energized Jacobson both personally and artistically, and the time for the young artist was pivotal. The dense, multitudinous thrum of the Tenderloin intrigued him as an environment in which he could fully dedicate himself to self-discovery, through both observation as well as image making. Jacobson depicts vibrant bar scenes populated by pensioners and long-term denizens. Significantly, there’s also an photograph of porn celebrity Marilyn Chambers at The Mitchell Brothers’ Theater, emblematic of the neighborhood’s sensational nightlife. Together, these photographs point to the transitory nature of the Tenderloin, as well as its function as an enclave of working-class housing and as a refuge for society’s outcasts.
These images foreshadow some of the artist’s eventual dedicated lines of aesthetic inquiry. Jacobson’s celebrated and iconic Interim Portraits, along with his related explorations with defocused photography throughout the 1990s, explore the porous relationships between abstraction and evocative, haunting imagery. While frequently contextualized as symbolic of the AIDS epidemic, Jacobson’s work from that decade broadly evokes emotional responses to our relationships with others, as well as loss, the power of memory and its shortcomings, erosion, and lacunae. His earlier American Trip 1975 resonates with a similar deep yet fleeting visual energy, exemplifying how people can both seem to exist in place while implying the tentativeness of human existence.
American Trip, 1975 also tells the story of the relationship between humans and the built environment, as well as a neighborhood on the cusp of change. These images were made in 1975, the same year of the Fall of Saigon, after which Bay Area bound Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian refugees landed in the low-rent Tenderloin district. This influx of families began a change in the neighborhood’s stature, away from the liminal zone of boarding houses, single workers, and misfits, and toward a more diverse, politically galvanized, and self-aware community. As such, Jacobson’s photographs document the eve of this generational shift, portraying the Tenderloin in all of its infamous grandeur and mystery with the enthusiasm of an artist encountering this extraordinary neighborhood all for the first time.
Exhibition Dates: September 1 – October 29, 2022
About the artist:
Bill Jacobson (b. 1955, Norwich, Connecticut) is widely known for his photographs of the figure, landscape, and object. He began his signature, indistinct images in 1989, and has since been exhibiting in galleries and museums throughout the US and Europe. His early Interim Portraits feature shadowy, pale figures that evoke the loss experienced by many during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The blurred subjects underline the futility of capturing a true human likeness in both portraiture and memory. Subsequent photographic explorations include Songs of Sentient Beings, Thought Series, A Series of Human Decisions, and more recently Place (Series). His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, SFMOMA the Victoria and Albert Museum, and many others. He was the recipient of a 2012 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and a 2016 fellowship from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation. Jacobson has published six monographs. when is a place will be published in 2023 by Hatje Cantz. He holds a BFA from Brown University and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Categories: Art & Museums, In Person