May 19, 2023 to July 08, 2023

Invincible Black Soul: The Art of Bearing Witness

Featuring the work of Mark Harris, Raymond L. Haywood, and Bryan Keith Thomas

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Main Gallery is thrilled to present Invincible Black Soul: The Art of Bearing Witness , a three-person exhibition featuring the works of Mark Harris, Raymond L. Haywood, and Bryan Keith Thomas. The exhibition explores the work and legacy of influential novelist, playwright, activist, and public intellectual James Baldwin. 

Black people need witnesses in this hostile world which think everything is white.
- James Baldwin

Invincible Black Soul explores Baldwin's ideas and examines how artists across different media continue to use art as a tool to bear witness to the times. Curated by artist Mark Harris, the exhibition looks at these themes through the lens of three Black Bay Area artists. The works by Harris, Haywood, and Thomas create a diverse range of responses to Baldwin's life and writings, from a direct reference to his work to more general reflections on what it means to bear witness to their surroundings. 

Invincible Black Soul serves to remind viewers of Baldwin's legacy and of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality in America," states exhibition curator and artist Mark Harris. "The artists unpack the complexities of Baldwin's work and invite viewers to consider the ways in which his writing and activism continue to shape conversations today. It is a reminder of the courage and resilience of those who continue to speak out against injustice and oppression, and a call to action to create a more just world." 

Mark Harris' cutting edge mixed media works combine his passions for art and activism and draw heavily on the current socio-political climate in America. His collages are a form of reclamation, a way of asserting the presence of Black voices, Black dignity, and humanity. Through the juxtaposition of color and found imagery, Harris' work seeks to challenge assumptions and provoke conversations and reflections. 

Raymond L. Haywood's abstract paintings use color, movement, and texture to express emotion. Using salvaged materials, such as found wood—a nod to his background in woodworking and carpentry—Haywood's paintings each stem from a particular feeling the artist is trying to express. Using a process of layering and excavation, Haywood's paintings use abstraction to articulate emotional depths.

Bryan Keith Thomas' use of historic symbols that celebrate the Black experience imbue his sculptural works with deep meaning. Thomas incorporates objects and images such as cotton, roses, seeds, church fans, mirrors, nails, and many other objects that speak to the history of Africans and African Americans. His work draw a connection between the past and the present day by using rich imagery steeped in meaning and history. 

Image credit: Image by Mark B. Anstendig. Designed by Bria Goelier and Mark Harris

Opening Public Reception Details 
Friday, May 19, 6 – 8 p.m.  
SFAC Main Gallery, War Memorial Veterans Building 
401 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 126, San Francisco, CA 94102 
Free and open to the public. No reservations necessary.

Public Programming Details
All programs take place at the SFAC Main Gallery and are free and open to the public. 

Artist Talk 
Wednesday, May 31 | 6:30 p.m. (Doors at 6:00 p.m.) 
Moderated by Demetri Broxton, Senior Director of Education at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) 

Also Belongs to Me/the World: Solo 
Saturday, June 10 | 3:00 p.m. 
Solo performance by Gabriele Christian responding to James Baldwin's novel Giovanni's Room

Curator Walkthrough 
Saturday, June 17 | 2:00 p.m. 
Join exhibition curator and artist Mark Harris for a tour of Invincible Black Soul.  

Also Belongs to Me/the World: Trio 
Wednesday, June 28 | 6:30 p.m. (Doors at 5:30 p.m.) 
Gabriele Christian with collaborators with jose e. abad and NIC Kay perform in response to James Baldwin's novel Giovanni's Room. Q&A with performers to follow. 


At SFAC, a Soulful Exploration of James Baldwin's Legacy in the Bay (KQED)

Your Arts & Culture Guide to San Francisco (SF Travel)

Bay Area Black artists expose inequity of San Francisco's liberal values (San Francisco Examiner

What's Coming Up

Public Meeting

Executive Committee Meeting

December 18
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM

Hybrid: 401 Van Ness | Rm 125 and Online
Public Meeting

Visual Arts Committee Meeting

December 16
2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 408 and Online
Public Meeting

Civic Design Review Committee Meeting

December 11
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 408 and Online
Public Meeting

Community Investments Committee Meeting

December 09
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 416 and Online