Berkeley Art Center in the 1970s 

The 1970s in the San Francisco Bay Area continued to grow as a global cultural hub. Chez Panisse opened in Berkeley just down the street from the Berkeley Art Center and BART began operation. The Bay Area became a mecca for experimentation in contemporary art. It provided a less determined, less contained environment than New York City for artists to engage in the process and performance of their work.  

The Berkeley Art Center exhibited work by over 156 artists from 1970 - 1979.
Below are selected exhibitions from the 1970s at the Berkeley Art Center. 


Harold Paris: An Unforgiven Vision
October - November, 1970

In the Fall of 1970, Berkeley Art Center’s exhibition of Harold Paris' An Unforgiven Vision showed the extent to which clay could be used as a means of creative expression without utilitarian function. Harold Paris, along with Peter Voulkos and Dan Haskin were working in a foundry along the Berkeley waterfront that they called The Garbanzo Works. Many younger sculptors worked as their assistants, such as Ruth Asawa and the studio turned out may large-scale public art works. Berkeley Art Center recently acquired Harold Paris' Wall II from 1960 as a part of its sculptural garden. 

Harold Paris, Wall II, on long tern loan from the artist's estate.


Betye Saar: Black Girl's Window
December - January, 1973

Betye Saar was part of the black arts movement of the 1960/70s, challenging myths and stereotypes about black artists and their work. Her work not only represents a black woman's perspective but also makes audiences aware of an individual’s own identity through self-reflective elements. Saar incorporated objects that were "found" and have a prior history in her mixed-media works. These carefully chosen objects are reinterpreted and redefined through her placement.

Black Girl's Window was created during a pivotal time in Saar's artistic development, as she began working with iconography that alluded to her heritage, personal biography, and astrology..

Betye Saar


Joseph Rees, Mondran's Chair

Neon.Argon: Joseph Rees
October - November, 1975

Joe Rees was a pioneer in the use of neon in fine art in the early 1970s and a groundbreaking video artist.  His neon sculpture ranged from the depiction of ordinary objects such as tables, chairs, eye glasses and spurs, to 3-D crucifixes, mixed media stalactite-inspired visions and text-based works.

In the late 70s, Rees founded Target Video, through which he single-handedly documented the raging Punk Rock scene as it unfolded in San Francisco in the 1970s and early 1980s.  Using one of the earliest portable video backpacks available, Rees shot some of the most entertaining and lasting punk rock footage known, documenting Devo, The Screamers, The Stranglers, Iggy Pop and others.

Joe Rees lost almost all of his artwork in the 1989 Lomo Prieta earthquake. In 2010 gallerist Steven Wolf had a number of these pieces re fabricated for an exhibition of Rees' sculpture and video titled Transformer.


sample work by Sonya Rapoport

sample work by Sonya Rapoport

Mixed Media on Paper: 
30 East Bay Women Artists
June - July, 1978

Curated by guest curator Elizabeth Sher, this show illustrated the growing use of nontraditional media on paper. Women were on the forefront of experimentation with new techniques and materials. The development of Xerox and other photographic and printing technologies were helping artists cross over barriers of traditional materials.

Artists such as Judith Foosaner, Mary Lovelace O'Neal, Kate Delos, Bella Feldman, Kati Casida, Squeak Carnwath, Laura Raboff, Sonya Rapoport, Marilyn Levin, and many others demonstrated their adept use of scale, surface, collage, embossing, sewing, tearing, painting, and pushing paper beyond its perceived limits.