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Yerba Buena Center makes San Francisco art accessible

Jackie Kennedy

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) might be the least-seen San Francisco museum. Despite its convenient location and innovative exhibitions, even middle school field trips seem to avoid it. This does not mean it’s something to avoid.

YBCA’s current major exhibition is called “Dark Matters: Artists See the Impossible.” It is probably the best-curates and best-installed show YBCA has put on in several years. The theme is bringing light to those things we would prefer to keep in the dark, and it’s explored in many mediums, from paintings to photography and video. The display is one veritable masterpiece of electronic art using 231 dollar-bill-sized screens and eleven speakers.

There is something for you at this show, no matter what your tastes. A warning, though: as a sign leading into “Listening Post” reads, “Some material is meant for mature viewers.” This exhibition is going to make you think about the stuff you usually don’t. From a massive list of groups the government recognized as secret projects between 2001 and 2007 to a series of photographs of ashes never picked up from a psychiatric hospital, this show absolutely rocked my world.

If you’re looking for art, YBCA is certainly one of the easiest places to get to. Take the BART to Powell, walk down two streets to 3rd and over one to Mission and there it is, bordering the Yerba Buena gardens. (The gardens are a nice afternoon outing by themselves; with flat picnic grass, waterfalls, and a carousel, they make a cheaper break from walking around Union Square than any other nearby options.)

It is also a smaller, more approachable venue than most other San Francisco museums. YBCA has only two main galleries, one downstairs, housing “Dark Matters” and one upstairs, holding Joachim Schmid’s collection of “found photography,” which was excavated from flea markets, archives, and web cams. It’s easy to go, look, digest, and continue about your day.

The YBCA galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. It’s $7 to get in, only $5 for students with I.D. “Dark Matters” will be on display until Nov. 11. The first Tuesday of every month is always free.

YBCA throws notoriously lavish parties for the openings of new shows. For $12 in advance or $15 at the door, you can get the inside scoop from the curator, enjoy live local music and hors d’oeuvres complete with a free bar.

Any way you slice it, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is a great choice when you are ready to vacate the East Bay.
Check out for more about current exhibits.