Funk Ain’t Dead is an exhibition that revisits an artistic legacy of the Bay Area and how it has evolved – existing in the peripheries of the contemporary canon, Funk has spawned a generation of artists working with similar attitudes, materials, and styles.
Funk is a term that is both organic and invented, a category that has been reviled and agreed-upon since the very moment of its inception. The seminal ‘Funk’ show – curated by Peter Selz in 1967 at the Berkeley Art Museum – put its finger into the midst of a significant, if goopy, West Coast movement. Funk art reinstated a measure of realism into the art scene – that art must be in and of this world, not an escape from it.
Funk artists exhibit a greater moral outrage, a fusion of high art with craft, notes of humor, a variety of materials distinguished by both sensuality and the grotesque. Funk’s foundation is in attitude rather than unity of form – eschewing theory for inner vision through a vernacular visual language, intended to connect with the viewer rather than setting art at an intellectual remove.
The attempt to integrate one’s own values is what guides Bay Area traditions –resulting in the proliferation of private, eccentric styles which often carry an artist from medium to medium. Funk Ain’t Dead is a celebration of the studio practices forging ahead on individual paths. These artists create from the core of their creative spirits, and the results are unfiltered, experimental, and more-often-than-not, funky.
‘Funk’ has become a reductive shortcut and national signpost for the art of Northern California for decades, often rejected even by artists who found themselves labeled within the movement. Nevertheless, Funk has been cemented into the Bay Area’s artistic history. With that history comes a new generation of artists echoing Funk attitudes and styles –a dedication to craft, a curiosity of color, unique attention to material. Irreverent, ambiguous, and absurd. Self-guided and experimental. Additive. Funk art reflects the deeply held personal, political, and spiritual beliefs of its maker.
I want to examine what Funk looks like today. How has it refined, what are the attitudes of our artists? This show is for the makers-of-things. The colorful, the weird, and the nasty. The politically outraged, the sidewalk scavenger, and the hoarder. The prolific and the psychedelic. The funky ones who are still kickin’ around the Bay Area.
Kuo-Chen (Kacy) Jung