An exhibition in the form of a website, MATRIX 277 explores and honors the rich history of the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. Using objects that relate to the institution as points of departure, the platform shines a light on the salient connections of these objects to other artworks, people, and places over the trajectory of the school’s history. The project’s title takes its inspiration from Bay Area artist, SFAI faculty member, and former student Clay Spohn’s Museum of Unknown and Little-Known Objects (1949), an exhibition that took place at what was then known as the California School of Fine Arts as part of a fundraiser party themed “The Unknown.” It consisted of junk Spohn had collected and transformed into artwork, and is often considered a progenitor of the Bay Area Funk movement.
MATRIX 277 grew out of a book being developed for the 150th anniversary by artist Nina Zurier (an SFAI alumna) and Jeff Gunderson and Becky Alexander, both librarians and archivists of the revered Bay Area school. Having undergone a calamitous period during the coronavirus pandemic, SFAI is in the process of reinventing itself. Thus, there is no better time to reflect on the legacy of the institution and the many artists who have studied there, worked as faculty, and helped shape Bay Area art communities. The project is the result of a creative collaboration with many individuals and organizations, including the Bay Area design firm MacFadden & Thorpe, April Martin, Genine Lentine, Rye Purvis, Sherwin Rio, and Christopher Williams.