CHS, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco
February 22, 2015 – January 3, 2016
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
February 21, 2015 – January 10, 2016
In the early twentieth century, a splendid walled city of domed palaces, palm-lined courts, and monumental statuary arose on San Francisco's northern shore. The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)—a world's fair commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal just nine years after the devastating earthquake and fires of 1906—emerged on 635 acres of land previously submerged by water.
The fair featured eleven exhibition palaces showcasing objects from every corner of the globe, more than 1,500 sculptures commissioned from artists all over the world, 65 acres of amusement concessions, and an aviation field. Fifty California counties, forty-eight states, and twenty-one countries mounted displays in the exposition's grand pavilions. Then, after the fair closed, this ephemeral city was all but erased from the landscape. In the intervening ten months, nearly nineteen million people—about twenty times the population of San Francisco at the time—were drawn to the spectacle.
What accounts for this world's fair's popularity, and what connections can we make with the present day?
In celebration of the PPIE's centennial anniversary, the California Historical Society presents two related exhibitions exploring the PPIE as a critical event that shaped the San Francisco we know today—a city undaunted by tragedy, audaciously innovative, rising to meet the challenges of the day.
AT THE CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
February 22, 2015 - January 3, 2016
City Rising at our headquarters on Mission Street is an in-depth account of the fair—its planning, construction, and extraordinary components—from how San Francisco became host of the exhibition, to the fair's remarkable innovations, to its attractions and concessions. Through vintage photographs, souvenirs, and other artifacts, visitors will journey inside the exposition to see what fairgoers encountered 100 years ago.
A video series with architects, historians, curators, authors, and memorabilia collectors—all of whom embody the spirit of the fair—provides a contemporary perspective to this important cornerstone of San Francisco's past, bringing history alive for our age.
On view every night after dark until 11pm is Engineers of Illumination, a projected light project by Optic Flare. This series of artist-based, projected-light installations uses CHS's windows to honor the stunning achievements of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Throughout the exhibition, six light-based artists will show an after-dark artwork for the gallery's front and side windows, each running for approximately six weeks.
AT THE PALACE OF FINE ARTS
What better place to explore the exposition's legacy than the only fair building still standing at its original location? City Rising at the Palace of Fine Arts provides an overview of the fair and how it captured the attention of the city, state, nation, and world during an era of international conflict and America's can-do spirit. Why did so many people visit the fair and what did they see? How did the fair transform the city's geographic, social, economic, and cultural landscapes? What did the Palace of Fine Arts represent, and why was it saved from destruction? An illustrated map and an animated video complements images and artifacts in telling the story of this captivating world's fair.
Reflect with us on this moment in San Francisco's history when the city stepped onto the world stage to represent the country and state at the beginning of a century in which both would figure prominently.
A projected light piece by Ben Wood
Engineers of Illumination: A Projected Light Project by Optic Flare
Lopa Pikta (Rope Picture), by Ben Wood
Thursday, August 20, 2015 – Sunday, October 4, 2015
Every night after dark
Lopa Pikta is the latest installation in Engineers of Illumination by Optic Flare, a projected light series honoring the stunning achievements of the 1915 World’s Fair. Lopa Pikta introduces the public to a Native American man called Ishi, who was the last native speaker of the Yahi Indians of Northern California. Ishi emerged from the wilderness into Oroville, California in 1911, at about 50 years of age, and became the subject of an extraordinary study at the University of California, San Francisco, where he lived until his death in 1916. Through films, photographs, and voice recordings of Ishi, anthropologists Alfred Kroeber and Thomas Waterman attempted to preserve the language, culture, and legacy of the Yahi people. Lopa Pikta (Rope Picture), the term Ishi used to describe motion pictures, presents a selection of the material resulting from this unique encounter. At the core of the video installation are audio recordings of Ishi, which the audience may listen to via their mobile devices as they view the installation from outside the building.
Artist Ben Wood describes his street-level installation as “a unique glimpse at Ishi in the city where he once lived.” The video includes an account of Ishi's meeting with members of the Blackfeet Tribe who were featured at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. To complement the archival footage—drawn from the collections of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley—Wood incorporates contemporary video of San Francisco locations Ishi frequented.
Engineers of Illumination is a series of artist-based, projected-light installations honoring the stunning achievements of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). During CHS's exhibition City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World's Fair (Feb. 22, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016), six light-based artists show an after-dark artwork in the CHS gallery's front and side windows, each running for approximately six weeks. The installations can be viewed from Mission Street or Annie Alley.
Optic Flare is a collective of experimental media artists with significant experience in creating light-based installations and performances in public spaces.
Engineers of Illumination is supported by a grant from the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District.
August 6, 2015 – August 31, 2015
History Keepers: Storied Objects from Los Angeles Collections
The Pico House
424 North Main Street, Los Angeles
Tuesday–Sunday, 10:00am – 4:00pm
Photographs, documents, scrapbooks, and ephemera are some of the material objects that help us to tell and understand our history. What are the objects that tell the story of Los Angeles? Who collects them? What stories do they tell? In this exhibition celebrating Los Angeles’s remarkable history, curious objects from collections housed across the Los Angeles region are displayed together at the historic Pico House in downtown El Pueblo de Los Ángeles to illuminate the history of this multifaceted city.
An exhibition by the California Historical Society and L.A. as Subject, presented in partnership with El Pueblo Historical Monument and the El Pueblo Park Association
Art of the West Exhibition
The Autry in Griffith Park
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles
Free to California Historical Society Members
Visit the California Historical Society Gallery at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The CHS Gallery is part of the permanent exhibition Art of the West, which showcases the dynamic and evolving world of art that springs from the cultural practices of some of the many peoples who have shaped the American West. The CHS Gallery features selections from CHS's fine arts and costumes collections that are permanently housed at the Autry. This collaboration has assured the exhibition and conservation of significant works of art from the CHS Collection by some of America's best known nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists (including Albert Bierstadt, James Walker, and Maynard Dixon) as well as turn-of-the-nineteenth-century costumes. The Art of the West exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how shared values and interests have inspired artists from different cultures and times to create distinctive, powerful works that speak to their experience of the West as both a destination and a home.