Over the Top: Math Bass & the Imperial Court SF at the Oakland Museum

 

Familiar symbols, flipped and “queered” to create new shared meaning, are at the heart of this exhibition that pairs new work by a contemporary California artist with the creative practice of a local organization. In paintings, sculpture, and video, perception-bending Los Angeles-based artist Math Bass emphasizes that symbols change meaning according to context and orientation, and that the body and its costumes are meaningful symbols whether they are actually present or only suggested. For Over the Top: Math Bass and the Imperial Court SF, Bass’ compelling work is presented alongside crowns, scepters, portraits, and banners bearing the insignia of the Empresses and Emperors who have served the Imperial Court of San Francisco.These monarchs, elected annually, spearhead charitable fundraising efforts for the alternative society, whose core supporters are drag queens and other members of the LGBTQ community. Over the course of their 51-year history, the Imperial Court has created its own traditions in order to form family and new possibilities for survival. The “Over the Top” symbols activated in this exhibition will highlight acts of fantastic creative invention. Visitors will draw new connections and be both delighted and inspired in learning about practices that are playful, political, and subversive at the same time.  The show runs:  April 1–July 23, 2017

John Carrillo, left, chairman of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, and former Empress Donna Sachet stand in front of paintings of past emperors and empresses that are part of the new exhibit, “Over the Top: Math Bass and the Imperial Court SF” now at the Oakland Museum of California. Photo: Michael Nugent