Figure of Speech (2018)

Paintings by Seyed Alavi

February 10 through February 24, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 5, 2018) – The San Francisco Arts Education Project is proud to host the exhibition Figure of Speech by Seyed Alavi, running February 10 through February 24, 2018 at the Minnesota Street Project (1275 Minnesota Street @ 24th Street in Dogpatch).

The opening reception is from 1-4pm on Saturday, February 10. Mr. Alavi will participate in a free artist’s talk on Saturday, February 24 at 1:30pm in the SFArtsED Gallery.

Mr. Alavi was part of SFArtsED’s Rise Up! Art as Action exhibition in 2017 and now returns with a show of his own featuring large-format paintings.

Mr. Alavi describes the show:

Figure of Speech is a body of work that, within the historical continuum, could be identified as non-representational and abstract. These paintings reflect my interest in the relationship between language and meaning; the concrete and abstract; the physical and meta-physical. They resemble, and can be likened to glyphs, pictographs, logograms and/other imagistic, referential shapes.

This work is inspired, influenced and informed by various artistic practices and traditions such as quilt making, street art, primitive/ outsider art, ethnic and Islamic art, as well as abstraction and German expressionism. They draw on a bold color palette and make use of strong color contrasts to set the stage for the interplay between seemingly diverse, but related characters, to take shape.

The paintings in the Figure of Speech series, each convey an interaction between a number of abstracted and unfamiliar shapes. Each painting, similar to a tangram or jigsaw puzzle, is covered with interlocking shapes, which creates a constantly shifting relationship between the background and foreground; figure/ ground. These shapes, although they are abstract and non-representational, have a presence, that may evoke a sense of familiarity and recognition, similar to the way that we can find figures in the clouds or a face in the moon.

“Figure of Speech marks the fifth time we have had the opportunity to work with this great artist and educator,” says SFArtsED Artistic Director Emily Keeler. “The first time, Seyed participated our wide-reaching Give and Take exhibition more than 20 years ago, culminating in an exhibition and catalogue. His participation was profoundly generous, both in his expressive answer for the show, his multiple visits to the class with whom he was partnered and his hosting of the students in his studio.

“He also led an intriguing project that spanned our numerous school visual arts residencies entitled Colors of My Dreams in which students were directed to use dye-cut butterflies as canvases. The thousands of resultant pieces portraying dreams of each young artist ‘flew’ in groups at several sites including The Children’s Museum and the Fine Art Gallery of San Francisco State. He also participated in our portraits exhibition with Dawoud Bey and other SFArtsED artist mentors at the Mills Building celebrating our 40th Anniversary, and most recently in our Rise Up! Art as Action exhibition. It is an honor to present his new work exploring a wider idea of visual literacy to our young visitors and to the wider public.”

Figure of Speech is on exhibit February 10 through February 24, 2018 in the San Francisco Arts Education Project’s art studio-classroom in Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota Street (@24th Street), San Francisco, second floor. Opening reception is Saturday, February 10 from 1pm to 4pm. Regular hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11am-4pm.

Artist’s Talk

Mr. Alavi will participate in a free artist’s talk on Saturday, February 24 at 1:30pm in the SFArtsED Gallery at Minnesota Street Project.


About Seyed Alavi

Seyed Alavi received a Bachelor of Science degree from San Jose State University and a Masters of Fine Art from the San Francisco Art Institute. Alavi’s work is often engaged with the poetics of language and space and their power to shape reality. He has created site-specific installations for The New Museum of Contemporary Art and Franklin Furnace in New York City; The University Art Museum- Cal State Long Beach; The Museum of Santa Cruz County; The deSaisset Museum; The University Art Museum, Sonoma State; The University Art Museum, Cal State San Bernadino and San Francisco’s Capp Street Project.

His public art projects include; Fountain Head in Walnut Creek, CA; Tree of Life in Seattle, WA; Room for Hope and Flying Carpet in Sacramento, CA; Tale of Time in Kochi, Japan; Seed of Knowledge in Saint Paul, MN; Nature of Life and A Sense of Unity in San Jose, CA; Signs of the Time in Emeryville, CA; Where Is Fairfield in Fairfield, CA; Words by Roads in Oakland, Selected Words in San Rafael, CA; Forgotten Language for the City of Palo Alto; Speaking Stones, Golden Gateway and What Do You Think? in San Francisco.

He has also received grants from the NEA/ US-Japan Creative Artists’ Fellowship; The California Art Council; Western States Arts Federation; Art Matters Inc.; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; New Langton Arts; City of Oakland Creative Artists Fellowship; The Creative Work Fund, and The LEF Foundation.

Mr. Alavi has taught classes and workshops at The San Francisco Art Institute; California College of the Arts in Oakland; San Francisco State University; The University of California, Davis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He has also been a visiting artist at Kyoto Seika University in Kyoto, Japan, and the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. He has been an artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle; Capp Street Project in San Francisco; The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Blue Mountain Artists Residency, New York, and at the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California.

About SFArtsED

Founded in 1968 (as the Alvarado School Arts Workshop) by renowned artist Ruth Asawa, SFArtsED has transformed the lives of children, their families, teachers, artists and volunteers. Programs include SFArtsED Summer, In-School Artist Residencies, After-School programs, The SFArtsED Players Musical Theater Company, Interdisciplinary Arts Program and apprenticeships for college and high school students. SFArtsED moved into its new space at Minnesota Street Project in March 2016, marking the first time in the organization’s 50-year history that it has a space of its own for instruction, exhibition, seminars, workshops and gatherings of all kinds.

About Minnesota Street Project

Located in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch district, Minnesota Street Project offers economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits. Inhabiting three warehouses, the Project seeks to retain and strengthen San Francisco’s contemporary art community in the short term, while developing an internationally recognized arts destination in the long term. Founded by entrepreneurs and collectors Deborah and Andy Rappaport, Minnesota Street Project was inspired by the couple’s belief that philanthropic support for the arts today requires an alternate model—one suited to the innovative nature of Silicon Valley and the region as a whole. Their vision of a dynamic, self-sustaining enterprise that shares its economic success with arts businesses and professionals aims to encourage heightened support for the arts from newcomer and established patrons alike.

For more information, photos or to arrange interviews, please call 415.551.7990, or e-mail Right click on images below to download.

Figure of Speech


WHAT Figure of Speech
Large-format paintings by Seyed Alavi that reflect his interest in the relationship between language and meaning; the concrete and abstract; the physical and meta-physical. They resemble, and can be likened to glyphs, pictographs, logograms and/other imagistic, referential shapes.
WHO The San Francisco Arts Education Project
WHERE Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota Street (@24th Street), San Francisco, second floor
WHEN February 10 through February 24, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 1pm-4pm

Regular Hours:
Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm

Free Artist’s Talk:
Saturday, February 24, 2018
1:30pm, SFArtsED Gallery

TICKETS $15 for students and seniors
$22 general admission* Tickets for the 1:00 PM show on 2/26 are $40 general, $20 student/senior and include drinks, hors d’ouevres and dessert as part of the Players’ Family Reception and Closing Day Party
INFO SFArtsED | | 415.551.7990