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Way Bay! at BAMPFA

BY Trevor Cheitlin January 25, 2018

With the opening of its marvelous new downtown Berkeley building in January 2016, the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) positioned itself - and the city - as a centerpiece of the eccentric and diverse artistic culture that thrives in the Bay Area. Two years later, the museum is featuring an exhibit to match that promise in “Way Bay,” a sweeping new showcase that weaves together a complex web of artistic themes and mediums in an exploration of how the Bay Area’s artists have been influenced by the region and its people - and by each other.

With the opening of its marvelous new downtown Berkeley building in January 2016, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) positioned itself - and the city - as a centerpiece of the eccentric and diverse artistic culture that thrives in the Bay Area.

Two years later, the museum is featuring an exhibit to match that promise in “Way Bay,” a sweeping new showcase that weaves together a complex web of artistic themes and mediums in an exploration of how the Bay Area’s artists have been influenced by the region and its people - and by each other.

With “Way Bay,” BAMPFA is experimenting with the very idea of exhibition organization, according to Museum Director and Chief Curator Lawrence Rinder.

“This exhibition is not a conventional historical survey but rather an open-ended and provocative attempt to reveal hidden currents and connections among works from disparate times, cultures, and communities,” said Rinder.

Included in the exhibit’s approximately 200 original works is a strong multimedia presence, showcasing the breadth of the museum’s collection of avant garde and experimental film. One particular film, and a highlight of the exhibit as a whole, is a stunning silent flick which captures a trolley ride down Market Street in San Francisco, recorded just days before the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires that destroyed much of the city.

“Way Bay’s” inclusion of film is a reflection of BAMPFA’s dedication to cinema as an art form. The museum hosts special screenings and film engagements five days a week (typically) out of its innovative Barbro Osher Theater. Showings of films classic and contemporary, domestic and foreign, combined with a meal at one of Downtown Berkeley’s vibrant restaurants, make for an unforgettable night out.

The “Way Bay” exhibit itself is a work of art: provocative, and deliberately designed to prod the imagination of those who experience it. It’s free form structure and the museum’s proximity to Downtown Berkeley mean a visit can be as long or short of an excursion as you want. Guided tours are available twice weekly.

The first iteration of “Way Bay” runs from January 17 to June 3, 2018, after which new works will be added for a second, revamped exhibit from June 13 to September 2. More information, as well as museum hours, admission information and a calendar of events can be found on BAMPFA’s website.