David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965)

May 19, 2022 - Jan 06, 2023

Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. City Hall, North Light Court & Ground Floor

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

San Francisco, CA 94102

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The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Galleries is pleased to present David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965), an exhibition at San Francisco City Hall featuring 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.

Johnson was born in 1926 in the segregated South near Jacksonville, FL and was the first member of his household to learn to read or write. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he moved to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts (later renamed the San Francisco Art Institute) in the newly formed Photography Department led by renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Johnson was the first Black artist to graduate during what is now known as the program's "Golden Decade" from 1945 to 1955.

SF/Arts Curator Insight

David Johnson began taking pictures at 12 after winning a small camera in a contest. His initial glimpse of San Francisco's Fillmore District, then known as Harlem of the West, came after he completed basic training in the city during WWII. In 1946, Johnson became the first Black student in Ansel Adams's legendary photography program at the California School of the Arts (later the SF Art Institute), and began documenting everyday life in the Fillmore, a vital black community decimated by redevelopment in the 1970s. "In the Zone" features 65 of Johnson's iconic photos from a cache of over 5000 currently archived at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library. Images of luminaries abound, alongside eloquent photos of couples dancing, local political events, protests, worship, people hanging out, and kids playing in the streets.

Mark Taylor

SF/Arts Curator

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery

401 Van Ness

San Francisco

[email protected]


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