Epicenter: San Francisco Bay Area Art Now

This handsome hardback collection measures the “hotbed of seismic activity” that is the San Francisco Bay Area art scene, showcasing nearly 50 prominent and rising-star artists based in the region. Each of the 48 artists and collectives is featured with a profile containing a critical overview, biography and gallery of his or her signature work. The format is handy, with lots of color photographs and prints, although the critical overviews—though informative—are little more than glorified artist’s statements.

While I don’t know the scene well enough to know which artists have been unduly left out (an inevitability in projects like these), each of these profiles seems to be a worthy selection. It was often interesting to read how artists’ individual pasts contributed to choices in their media, which range here from traditional to cutting-edge.

As the book points out, the most identifiable Bay Area styles (figurative and Funk) were variations from Abstract Expressionism and Pop but seemed to flourish more freely, with multi-ethnic, cultural and technologically progressive influences, apart from the stifling presence of New York or L.A. art tastemakers.

Here we get a taste of the area’s historical swirl of highbrow intellectualism and often awesome lowbrow chaos; overall, a useful collection for anyone interested in a colorful, current overview of Bay Area art.