Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Pier 24 Artist Lecture, California College of the Arts San Francisco, CA

October 23, 2018


Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s work is rooted in portraiture, homoerotic visual culture, and the role of the studio. His highly crafted photographs, in which his subjects are often revealed in fragments, alert us to the artifice and performance that are an integral part of the photographic process; a constant negotiation between the artist, the sitter, the viewer, and the work itself.

Describing his subjects as a cast of friends, intimates, and muses, Sepuya sees these relationships as being mediated by the making and production of photographs. Using a combination of draped fabric, careful framing, and layering of images of his previous work, the viewer sees arms, thighs, torsos, and hands, but rarely the whole of the subject’s body. Through shooting into his studio mirror, Sepuya draws his varied source materials together in one plane. His deliberately provocative approach is designed to create a feeling of longing within the viewer, to see what is concealed. This form of active looking implicates the viewer within the creative process and highlights the role of desire as a productive and critical force.

Sepuya was born in 1982 and he lives and works in Los Angeles. He received his MFA from the University of California Los Angeles in 2016 and a BFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts in 2004.


SFMoMA Artist Interview

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Nigerian-born painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby often grapples with dual ideas of home in her work. She discusses how she studied European figurative painting at an art academy, but now uses her traditional training to invent, transform, and express her uniquely hybrid point of view. (May 2015)

Prince: Pre Fame

Robert Whitman's photographs of 19 year old Prince in 1977. 

Family Affair Gallery, San Francisco


I Was There When...

By far the most in-depth and interesting documentary to date about the socio-cultural origins of House Music. The two-part online documentary was released in 2017 by the UK media outlet Channel 4.  I'm proud to hear old friends and comrades tell our story. I was there, and it was fun as f*ck.


I was there...

When HOUSE took over the world.


2018 PhotoFairs


February 23-25

Fort Mason Pavillion

I attended this year's PhotoFairs here in San Francisco and the standout gallery was in my opinion Rademakers from Amsterdam who garnered quite a buzz over these visually stunning large-format photographs from Dutch artists Ernst Coppejans, Dagmar van Weeghel and Monique Eller.  

The Obamas by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC  

Isaac Julien: Playtime & Kapital

Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco  - Through February 11, 2018

Playtime is an ambitious exhibition of three recent video installations by award-winning British artist Isaac Julien. Each film installation explores the wide-ranging effects of how information, labor, and capital circulate in global, networked societies.

Occupying three separate galleries, the exhibition presents the U.S. premiere of Julien’s seven-screen installation, Playtime (2014), featuring a cast of international film stars, including James Franco, Maggie Cheung, and Mercedes Cabral. 

KAPITAL (2013), a two-screen companion piece to Playtime, documents the public discussion “Choreographing Capital” which was held at London’s Hayward Gallery between the artist, social theorist David Harvey, and an audience of academic luminaries such as Irit Rogoff, Paul Gilroy and the late Stuart Hall.

In addition to Playtime and KAPITAL, a third artwork by Julien Better Life (Ten Thousand Waves) (2010)—is the cinematic cut of Julien’s monumental installation Ten Thousand Waves, filmed on location in mainland China. All three works were generously loaned from the Kramlich Collection.

The end of this year turned out to have a rather unexpectedly wonderful finish. After a crazy roller coaster ride like this one (socially, politically, etc) I was delighted to have spent the fading days of 2017 in Paris. Who could not love Paris during any time or season? It was cold, it was rainy, and still shockingly gorgeous.


December 2017

For starters, during part of my visit I was fortunate enough to stay in a building which is also in one of my favorite paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago. I grew up gazing into Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street; Rainy Day - 1877. (212.2 × 276.2 cm  - 83.5 × 108.7 in).  


It’s impossible not to awe at the impact Parisian culture has had on the world, created through centuries of championing the high arts, cuisine, architecture, even urban planning and development. For the most part whenever I'm in town I spend my time wandering around with friends, admiring just about everything about its people and places and checking out the latest exhibits. Almost too many museums and galleries to keep up with. 

Here's to 2018 and a continued commitment to learning, to travel and an avid commitment to art. 

©2017 Byron Mason. All photo rights reserved. 


Non-Western Sources and Influences



October 18, 2017 - February 19, 2018

BG_Dada_Hîch_Aus einem ethnographischen Museum (ohne Titel II)_1929.jpg

Dada, a prolific and subversive art movement, first emerged in Zurich during the First World War, and then spread to centres such as Berlin, Paris and New York. Through their new works – sound poems, collage, performance – the Dada artists rejected the traditional values of civilisation, while appropriating the cultural and artistic forms of non-western cultures such as Africa, Oceania and America. The Musée de l’Orangerie is presenting an exhibition on these exchanges with African, American Indian and Asian works alongside those of the Dadaists - Hanna Höch, Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Raoul Haussmann, Man Ray and Picabia, among others.

I was strolling around aimlessly when photographs in a gallery window literally stopped me in my tracks.




La Galerie de L'Instant - Paris

December 7, 2017 - February 13, 2018


Jean Patchett, Vogue and Irving Penn (6).jpg

Centenary Exhibition - Grand Palais Paris

September 21. 2017 - January 29. 2018

Turandot at SF Opera


Saw this the other night. I do love Puccini...

Turandot—a cold-hearted but exquisitely beautiful princess who challenges her suitors to a deadly game of wits. Only Calaf, an exiled prince, is hot-blooded enough to crack her icy veneer.

Music by Giacomo Puccini | Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni (1926)

September 8 - December 9, 2017

The November issue of The Art of Living, a Dutch online publication, features the design/architectural work of my friend Susanne Thijssen's renovation of a residence in The Netherlands.


Interior Architecture by Thijssen DesignPhotography by Muriel Schouten.

LINES Ballet featuring Lisa Fischer

November 15-19, 2017 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, San Francisco

In celebration of Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s thirty-five years of groundbreaking art-making in the SF Bay Area and around the world, Alonzo King and Lisa Fischer will team up for the return of The Propelled Heart for six performances only. This highly acclaimed collaboration premiered to record-breaking audiences in 2015.

Called “a phenomenal powerhouse” by The New York Times, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Ms. Lisa Fischer has shared the stage with musical luminaries of nearly every genre, including Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Beyoncé and Sting. In The Propelled Heart Ms. Fischer joins the dancers of LINES Ballet in a collaboration which achieves “rock star status” (San Francisco Classical Voice) as they pay tribute to the power of song. The piece is a voyage which explores the kinetics of the human voice, revealing the communicative potential of the body as an instrument, and also as a vocal chord.

Fred Lyon: San Francisco Noir

October 12 - December 30, 2017


Photographer Fred Lyon Is 93 and Still in Love With San Francisco.  His current exhibition at the Leica Gallery consists of 63 photos, mostly taken between 1940 and 1960. Titled “San Francisco Noir,” like the book, the show reveals a moody and cinematic side of the city.

Following in the footsteps of classic films like The Maltese Falcon and The Lady from Shanghai, veteran photographer Fred Lyon creates images of San Francisco in high contrast with a sense of mystery. In this latest offering from the photographer of San Francisco: Portrait of a City 1940--1960, Lyon presents a darker tone, exploring the hidden corners of his native city. Images taken in the foggy night are illuminated only by neon signs, classic car headlights, apartment windows, or streetlights. Sharply dressed couples stroll out for evening shows, drivers travel down steep hills, and sailors work through the night at the old Fisherman's Wharf. Stylistically, many of the photographs are experimental the noir tone is enhanced by double exposures, elements of collage, and blurred motion. These strikingly evocative duotone images expose a view of San Francisco as only Fred Lyon could capture.

Fred Lyon studied under famed photographer Ansel Adams and has been called "San Francisco's Brassai." A lifelong resident of San Francisco, he has contributed to numerous fashion, home, and garden magazines. His work has been exhibited in San Francisco at the Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor Museum, and the Leica Gallery, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, and was the subject of a Life magazine retrospective.


Spain 2017


This month I got to spend time exploring Andalusia (Al-Andalus) in southern Spain including Córdoba, Granada, Órgiva, Almuñécar and Málaga. For years I've been intrigued by it's Medieval history and culture which have been influenced by Iberians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines, Jews, Muslim Moors and Castilian Christians. This history is apparent everywhere, on buildings as well in the faces of it's people.

Starting in Barcelona I eventually made my way to the coast learning more about the long and interesting period of educational, agricultural, scientific, and artistic contributions of particularly the Moors, the fabled and elusive Arab/Berber/Africans who ruled the territory for over 800 years. At its height, Córdoba, the capital of Moorish Spain was the most modern city in Europe with well-paved streets and raised sidewalks for pedestrians. During the night, ten miles of streets were well illuminated by lamps. The Great Mosque of Córdoba is one of the architectural wonders of the world with its gold roof supported by 1,000 columns of marble, jasper and porphyry. In it's day it would have been lit by thousands of brass and silver lamps which burned perfumed oil. According to historians, no other land was "more admired by its neighbours, or more comfortable to live in, than a rich African civilization which took shape in Spain".