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Fall Arts Preview: 100 Binge-Worthy Shows, Books, Films, Concerts, Plays, and Cultural Happenings

Giant moss-people statues, a graffiti party in Marin, and Robert Redford busting out of San Quentin: A season’s worth of must-see arts events.


Chen Zhen’s Precipitous Parturition, coming to SFMOMA in November.

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An installation by artist Sofie Ramos headed to Fort Mason in October.

Photo: Sofie Ramos

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Marcus Gardley in Black Odyssey, which is reprising its run at Cal Shakes this fall.

Photo: Kevin Berne

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Charles and Ray Eames in their 1959 film Glimpses of the USA.

Photo: Courtesy of HarperCollins

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Work by street artist Zio Ziegler, whose first solo museum show opens at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in September.

Courtesy of Marin Moca

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A piece by Isamu Noguchi in the show Dimensionism, opening at the Berkeley Art Museum in November.

Photo: Dwight Primiano/© Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum

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Melissa McCarthy in Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Photo: Mary Cybulski

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A dance performance choreographed by Adam Linder.

Photo: Courtesy of Wattis Institute

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A make-believe memorial from Sandow Birk's Imaginary Monuments, opening at Catharine Clark Gallery in October.

Photo: Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery

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Peter H. Chang's documentary Cuba.

Photo: Courtesy of Peter H. Chang

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Rising Italian soprano Carmen Gian­nattasio makes her S.F. Opera debut in Tosca. Giannattasio is also a fashion icon, currently serving as a spokeswoman for jewelry designer Bulgari. Oct. 3–30

In photographer Youngsuk Suh’s series Wildfires, on display at the S.F. Arts Commission gallery, deadly smoke adds a gauzy filter to lush landscapes. The gallery’s concurrent exhibit, 10,000 Fahrenheit, investigates artistic depictions of the connection between nature, climate, and the sun. Sept. 14–Nov. 14

79–81. MIXED MEDIA: Three companies joining forces—and fields.

Hope Mohr Dance
Collaborator: San Francisco visual artist Ranu Mukherjee
Result: Dancers interact with the charred burns that run across the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art’s Napa property. Oct. 13 

Alonzo King Lines Ballet
Collaborator: Kronos Quartet
Result: Amazingly, this collaboration at YBCA is a first, a celebration of Lines’ 35th-anniversary season. Oct. 5–14

Sara Shelton Mann
Collaborator: Pamela Z
Result: For her latest work, Echo/Riding the Rapids, Mann teams up with sonic artist Pamela Z to investigate the world of sound. Oct. 11–13

82–85. ARTISTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT (Hint: It’s not good news.)

Piano virtuoso Yuja Wang joins the S.F. Symphony (Sept. 13-16) as images from the touring photo exhibit COAL + ICE (Sept. 4–23) are projected above the orchestra. The photo show takes place over three weeks at Fort Mason and includes work from more than 40 artists depicting the effects of coal mining.

Did you know that more seabirds are killed in fishing nets every year than died in the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Jonathan Franzen confronts the grim future of both bird and man in his essay collection The End of the End of the Earth (Nov. 13, Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Catch him live at the Nourse for City Arts & Lectures (Nov. 27).

San Francisco filmmaker Peter H. Chang’s long-gestating doc Cuba hits Imax 3-D theaters (Oct. 19), featuring never-before-seen images of pristine coral reefs and other treasures that have for years been hidden from the world.

This year, Litquake swaps out Berkeley’s celebrated literary Michaels (Chabon, Lewis, Pollan) for a less likely trio: Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) discusses his novel, The Perfume Burned His Eyes; Michael Nesmith of the Monkees speaks at Café du Nord about his memoir, Infinite Tuesday; and longtime Simpsons writer Mike Reiss dishes on Springfield Confidential. Oct. 11–20

Ask anyone who witnessed last year’s epic 24-Decade History of Popular Music: Taylor Mac is a must-see. This winter, Mac returns to the Curran with a typically resplendent, transgressive take on the holiday musical, Holiday Sauce—an over-the-top reframing of “the songs you love and the holidays you hate.” Nov. 21–Dec. 1

That’s how Fact/SF artistic director Charles ­Slender-White describes his dance company’s new work, Death, a meditation on loss and mourning, at CounterPulse. Sept. 27–Oct. 13

Women Laughing Alone with Salad: first a bizarro stock-photo meme, now a feminist body-shame satire by playwright Sheila Callaghan, making its Bay Area premiere at Berkeley’s Shotgun Players. Oct. 12–Nov. 11

Breathtakingly detailed works by Wesley Tongson, the late Chinese ink artist, are presented by the Chinese Culture Center this fall. Tongson’s later landscapes were painted with only his fingers and nails; earlier works involved ink rubbing, marbling, splash-ink painting, and paper crumbling. Oct. 12–Dec. 15

94–99. HOLLYWOOD UP HERE: Sizing up two blue-chip North Bay film fests.

Mill Valley Film Festival
Oct. 4–14
Star sightings: Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano appear to promote their trouble-in-suburbia flick Wildlife.
Actor to watch: New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon stars with Melissa Leo and coproducer Anna Paquin in family drama The Parting Glass.
Local ties:
Bayview-born chillax-wave musician Michael Franti directs the warm-fuzzies doc Stay Human.

Napa Valley Film Festival
Nov. 7–11
Star sighting: Patrick Dempsey stops by in support of Hurley, in which racing legend Hurley Haywood discusses coming out as gay.
Actor to watch: Jim Gaffigan goes against type—slightly—as a father with a secret life in You Can Choose Your Family.
Local ties: Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude’s doc General Magic tracks the ahead-of-its-time tech firm.


Among the 50 paintings, carvings, and sculptures in Gauguin: A Spiritual Journey, at the de Young, are several works made during the artist’s years in the South Pacific, where he frequently made portraits of very young Tahitian models—including his 14-year-old lover. Nov. 17–Apr. 7, 2019


Originally published in the September issue of San Francisco 

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