“My show aims to highlight the power dynamics of space and property ownership in the Bay Area. The exhibition space is delineated and controlled, in the same way that we’re dealing with privatization of space and forced routes of navigating the land.” — Saif Azzuz
Saif Azzuz roots his practice in histories of Indigenous resilience. Informed by land, plants, and people, Azzuz examines the tandem forces of gentrification and settler colonialism. Cost of Living uses materials of corporate development—construction fencing, private mesh, barbed wire, gray paint, surveillance cameras—to mirror the impact gentrification has on humans and nonhumans. With sightlines and pathways altered, viewers are confronted by unjust, unequal, and shifting realities of the Bay Area.
Cost of Living incorporates a large-scale wood assemblage, mixed-media installations, found objects, and paintings. Every material in this exhibition holds a specific legacy of the lands and communities it has encountered. Azzuz sources, repurposes, and recontextualizes these materials to reveal their meanings with care and intention.
Azzuz constructed the large assemblage wall, titled Shared Memories, from wood he found throughout Bayview–Hunters Point where his studio is located. As one of the neighborhoods in San Francisco actively fighting gentrification, Bayview–Hunters Point represents strength and resilience. Security cameras installed above highlight the surveillance and policing of unhoused communities. Elsewhere in the exhibition, zip tie handcuffs and a prototype police robot dog highlight how state resources are used for criminalization rather than care.
Azzuz’s paintings honor the plant life indigenous to the Dogpatch neighborhood. He researched species that are either dormant, or starting to go extinct, because the marshland ecosystems supporting them have been destroyed.
He also incorporates traditional Yurok geometric motifs that reference animal life, such as snakes and frogs. These patterns often frame a stylized landscape. Azzuz paints directly onto unprimed canvas, saturating both the front and back of the raw material with acrylic pigments. Referencing varied histories of abstraction, Azzuz creates atmospheric layers of plants, water, mountains, and weather events.
Support for Cost of Living is provided by Anthony and Celeste Meier, and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York. Additional support provided by Kelly-Moore Paints.
Saif Azzuz (b. 1987, Eureka, CA) is a Libyan-Yurok artist who lives and works in Pacifica, CA. He received a BFA in Painting and Drawing from California College of the Arts in 2013. Azzuz has exhibited widely in the Bay Area, including exhibitions at Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Mill Valley; Pt.2 Gallery, Oakland; Ever Gold, San Francisco; 1599dt Gallery, San Francisco; Adobe Books, San Francisco, CA; and NIAD, Richmond.
He has participated in solo and group exhibitions at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; K-Art, Buffalo, NY; Jack Barrett, New York; Galerie Julien Cadet, Paris, France; and Rule Gallery, Denver, CO. Selected public collections include Rennie Museum, de Young Museum - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Facebook, North Carolina Museum of Art, University of St. Thomas, Stanford Health Care Art Collection and UBS Art Collection. Azzuz was a 2022 SFMOMA SECA Award finalist and has participated in the Clarion Alley Mural Project and the Facebook Artist in Residence program. Azzuz is represented by Anthony Meier, Mill Valley and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York.