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Kamler Richard

Richard Kamler (1935-2017) was a San Francisco-based artist, educator, and curator, who, for more than 40 years, made art for social change. Decades before “social practice” became sanctioned in academia, Kamler practiced socially-engaged art through his installations, sound pieces, drawings, sculptures, actions and events in museums, galleries and public spaces throughout the world. Kamler’s interventions sometimes became the subject of political theater – though “political” in the sense that they tackled critical issues of our times (nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific; mass incarceration; the legacy of the Holocaust) – they were by design and by curation (in a prison yard, in the middle of the Pacific ocean), monumental works of art.  Trained as an architect at UC Berkeley, Kamler also held degrees in art and psychology, merging these passions and knowledges in sometimes sublime ways by deliberately stirring perceived societal “norms” with direct actions that haunted the collective psyche. Of these, Table of Voices was a hallmark of his patient and considered placements: from Alcatraz Island (a former federal prison-turned-tourist site) to art galleries and prison yards and views from jail cells (Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam). Through his advocacy for artist ambassadors to the United Nations, Seeing Peace (and a component series Billboards for Peace, co-curated with Tressa Berman) also gave public and international attention to the flip side of peace: war, confinement and torture.  His work is well-situated in this exhibit as representative of an artist whose artistic practice was dedicated to giving visual voice to the silenced. Kamler taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, the California College of the Arts, and became Chair of the Art Department at University of San Francisco where he taught until his death – mentoring the next generation of “artists as citizens,” through his hallmark course of the same name. Over the course of his career, he received many awards, including: a NEA Fellowship, Soros Foundation Open Society Fellowship and a California Arts Council Fellowship. His work is held and featured in private and institutional collections and exhibitions, including SFMOMA, Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco), The Judah L. Magnes Jewish Museum (UC Berkeley) among them. A book of collected essays about his work was published in 2015: Seeking Engagement: The Art of Richard Kamler.

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