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The Art of Survival

After barely escaping the fires, di Rosa Center presents a new show that confronts our uncertain times.


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Photo: Lotten PåLsson/Courtesy of the Artist and Signal Center for Contemporary Art, Sweden.

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The turbulent politics of 2017 may have inspired di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art’s exhibit Be Not Still: Living in Uncertain Times, but the flames that nearly engulfed the center’s Napa grounds on October 9 are what truly brought the tumult home.

Armed with a fire extinguisher and a shovel, building and maintenance supervisor Gonzalo Magdaleno kept the blaze at bay on the northern edges of the property until two fire crews and a shift in the winds arrived, sparing the home of one of the world’s most significant collections of works by Bay Area artists.

“We were extremely fortunate that the impact wasn’t worse,” di Rosa curator Amy Owen says. “[Magdaleno’s] valiant efforts kept critical points of the fire at bay, away from di Rosa’s main campus and galleries.”

Delayed while the center recovered from fire and smoke damage, Be Not Still launches January 27 and will feature new works by Bay Area artists including Ala Ebtekar, Allison Smith, and Rigo 23. The center left the topics up to the artists—resulting in explorations of citizenship, white nationalism, and American exceptionalism.

While that may seem unwieldy for a wine country destination that also hosts a wildlife Rebirth preserve, Owen says it’s what drove the center’s late founder, Rene di Rosa. “There is such a heavy socially and politically engaged component that runs throughout the core of the collection and speaks to Northern California’s art history,” she says. “If ever there was a moment that the world needed artists, it is now.”
Jan. 27–May 27


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco 

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