Sapien Fine Arts

Sapien Fine Arts

Artist's Statement

Over the course of a forty-five year career I have always considered myself to be an interdisciplinary artist. Having acquired many skills I employ them as necessary, in other words, I use what I need as I need to. Thus I’ve created artwork in sculpture, performance art, theatrical scenic design, drawing, painting, collage, assemblage, film, video, and computer graphics.

In the past five years my work has progressed on two parallel courses. In a return to performance art I’ve recently created Son of War Games and The Sapiad. As always my performance work combines the spatial properties of a location with my personal vision to strike a balance between external conditions and internal motivations. Outdoor performance uses landscape, man made or natural, as an armature upon which performers struggle to bring conflicting ideas to a physical resolution. Indoor performance addresses architecture and the space it encloses as a stage to create grand visual metaphors. In all these works the performers embody ideas and physical forces acting in opposition or harmony, often with one evolving into the other.

My studio work concentrates on transforming found and appropriated objects into three dimensional paintings or assemblage. Every object I incorporate into an artwork has a story to tell, and every story dictates the work’s final form. Each object suggests a unique metaphor and initiates a chain reaction of thought, image, language, and material. In painting an image on a three-dimensional found object I seek to create a dynamic synergy between the image and the object’s former function. I like to think of the process as a dialog between myself and the object I’ve chosen to work with. The finished work should awaken a dormant potential, with image and object converging into a unified statement amounting to more than the sum of its parts. In a palpable sense the objects are invigorated with a renewed purpose. Moreover, every new piece presents its own set of technical challenges required to achieve the vision it has generated. The ultimate goal is to accomplish a finished work that produces a provocative effect while maintaining the highest standards of skill and technique.

Darryl Sapien

Performance Art

Son of War Games
The Sapiad
San Francisco, Troy

The Sapiad was a performance art work in which Darryl Sapien makes a spiritual pilgrimage from his home in San Francisco, California to the site of the ancient city of Troy. Once there he presents a ritual offering to Homer and the characters of The Iliad. The artist’s first copy of The Iliad becomes a container bearing gifts for Hector and Achilles. Among the artifacts are an effigy of the artist as a modern warrior and a coin for the ferryman to deliver the book across the river Styx. The performance was a personal ritual merging the past with the present, the artist with Troy, and 3D printing with the Bronze Age. It also repays a debt of gratitude to Homer and the gift of his works, which to this artist proved to be his salvation.


Son of War Games
Son of War Games
Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx NY, with Michael Hinton, Joaquin Sapien, Jeffrey Hinton and Devin Castillo

A re-creation of the 1973 performance “War Games,” originally performed on the streets of San Francisco. In this version the sons of Darryl Sapien and Michael Hinton, Joaquin Sapien and Jeffrey Hinton, re-enact the conflict ritual created by their fathers forty years earlier. The actions of the sons are overseen by the fathers who, now in their sixties, have removed themselves to the relative safety of the wooden towers. From the tops of their towers they face off in a chess game while their sons grapple ritualistically on the pavement below.


Synthetic Ritual
Synthetic Ritual
San Francisco Art Institute, with Michael Hinton

Opposing forces, represented by two performers painted opposite colors, emerge from walls at either end of a room. Blindfolded and connected to ropes extending from the walls they meet at the center of the room inside a circle of steer manure where they begin a physical interaction. Gradually the encounter escalates from blind exploration to a contest of strength. Soon the performers begin to wrestle and as they struggle on the ground the opposite colors of their bodies blend into a uniform gray.


San Francisco City College Stadium

Autoadaptation was a performance art work which took place over a five week time span. In this work the artist used his body as a malleable sculptural material that could be molded through self imposed regimen. To do this the artist chose a task that would be repeated on an escalating scale over time. The selected task was to run a quarter mile around a track as fast as he could. The task was performed once the first week, twice the second, progressively, until the fifth week when it was run five times. Over the course of the five weeks the artists body was adapted to the task and able to perform it faster and more efficiently. The film reveals this by showing the first running versus the last running on a split screen. The closing visual metaphor is perceived as a man racing against himself; the man of the future chasing the man of the past.


San Francisco Art Institute, with Michael Hinton and Conny Vokietaitis

The neophyte artist and his double are initiated into the role of masters by a female adept in a series of labors and trials. The performance metaphorically equated rites of shamanic initiation with the process of a young artist achieving a personal vision and an authentic voice.


War Games
War Games
corner of Third and Howard Streets, San Francisco, CA with Michael Hinton and others

Two performers in war paint engage in a hierarchy of conflict rituals in the basement of a demolished building open to the street above. Seated upon towers elevated to street level at opposite ends of the space two chess masters engage in a chess game calling out their moves through loudspeakers. On a wall behind the combatants a youth tracks the game on a display board. In contrasting games and rituals of conflict the performance revealed how games separate participants by creating winners and losers whereas ritual brings the participants together in balanced equilibrium.


Split-Man Bisects the Pacific
ruins of Sutro Baths, San Francisco, CA, with Michael Hinton

Two performers are roped together through the axle of an eight foot diameter wheel. Their task is to roll the wheel along the top of a 100 yard causeway to an island and back again. A bright beacon of light from above tracks their progress. Each man, unseen to the other, calls back and forth to guide the wheel. The energy generated by the pull of opposition is harnessed and propels the men and the wheel along its night sea journey.


Tricycle: contemporary recreation
Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, CA, with Michael Hinton and Cyd Gibson

Two performers wearing video camera headmounts and equipped with intercoms create two drawings on two gridded walls within a wedge shaped enclosure. Their markings are guided by a female director on the floor above them. She speaks in a code based on the clock and compass to guide each performer’s marker in the execution of their drawings. The director can see through the video eyes of each performer on two monitors facing her. On the lower floor the two performers act as her robotic hands, square by square creating what evolves into a child’s drawing of a man and woman.


Splitting The Axis
Splitting the Axis
University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, with Michael Hinton

A thirty-four foot tall wooden utility pole was installed floor to ceiling in the visual center of the museum. Two performers ascended the pole equipped with wooden mallets and wedges. Upon reaching the top both men began hammering the wedges into the pole as they descended. While the performers were splitting the pole lengthwise they were themselves being fragmented by strategically placed video cameras and contact microphones. Visual and auditory fragments of the performance were transmitted around the periphery of the museum, there to be encountered by unsuspecting viewers in the different galleries.


Within The Nucleus
Within the Nucleus
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with Michael Hinton

Two performers wearing video camera headmounts assembled a thirty-two foot tall double helix ladder suspended on a floor to ceiling armature of tightened ropes. Inside a cylindrical plastic curtain each performer ascended his red or green ladder as he built it, one rung at a time. Both performers could only see through the video cameras attached to their heads. The visual images of each camera were projected live on two large screens behind the shrouded tower. One screen was tinted red and the other tinted green to correspond to the red and green ladders being built. Upon reaching the top the performers exited the cylinder through the ceiling. Ultra violet light was then projected onto the ladders to illuminate the fluorescent paint on the rungs. Finally the performers descended the ladders with their white costumes glowing in the dark.


A Bridge Can Also Be A Work Of Art
A Bridge Can Also Be A Work of Art
Jessie Alley, San Francisco CA and Bologna, Italy

Using time lapse photography the artist created a bridge between two buildings with his own body over an alley in San Francisco. Later, at the Bologna Art Fair, the artist repeated the performance over an Italian street. Upon his return to the USA he wove the two images together thus bridging the two countries with his body.


The Principle Of The Arch
The Principle of the Arch
P.S.1, Long Island City, NY, with Conny Vokietaitis

Two performers reconstruct the rise and fall of their personal relationship in comparison to a Medieval alchemical text, the Rosarium Philosophorm. Metaphorical actions refer to aspects of predestination, mythical encounters, archetypes of paradise, sacrifice, betrayal, contempt, death, and rebirth. Videotaped scenes from contemporary life are inter cut between the more symbolic performance actions.


Crime In The Streets
Crime in the Streets
Adler Alley, San Francisco, CA, with Michael Hinton and others

This was a street performance depicting a series of violent crimes against innocent and powerless victims. Among the crimes were rape, murder, suicide, and lynching. The city itself was identified as a voracious predator consuming its weakest citizens to fuel its growth. In the end the victims were restored to life, then climbed the fire escapes, and joined together to form a human bridge over the scene of the crimes. Thus a higher purpose was achieved surmounting the mayhem of the street below.


Liberated Zone
Liberated Zone
The Sculpture Center, Sydney, Australia

Performed in a vacant lot in downtown Sydney this performance focused on the subjects of judgment, confinement, escape, and liberation. It examined how people may judge themselves, consequently wall themselves off, and the necessity of breaking down those walls in order to grow.


Portrait Of The Artis x3
Portrait of the Artist x 3
ruins of Playland at the Beach, San Francisco, CA with Michael Hinton and others

Taking place amidst the ruins of a demolished amusement park this three part performance drew a portrait of the artist at three crucial stages of development. The learning stage where the artist masters his skills, the middle period of hard work and monumental effort, and the final period of entrapment, escape, and renewal. The audience wandered through the vast sandy landscape of broken concrete and jutting abutments to view the three performances which were running simultaneously.


Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA, and the Victoria Theater, San Francisco, CA with Menno Meyjes, Saun Ellis, and J.E. Freeman

“Hero” examined aspects of the ‘hero myth’ in popular and archetypal forms. The performance explored the meanings of maleness and machismo as its two protagonists searched for a path to manhood encountering contemporary stereotypes and archetypal role models; superheroes and culture heroes. Throughout the performance they were guided by a tutelary female goddess who directs, advises, and criticizes them along the way.


American Roulette
American Roulette
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY with Isabella Kirkland, Nile Yazici, and Jim Thorne.

A roulette table manned by two croupiers and crowded with eager gamblers sits at the center of the Guggenheim Rotunda. Depicted on the floor around the table is an exploded view of a roulette wheel with numbered red and black squares. There are two male/female couples moving around the giant wheel. One couple occupies the red squares and the other the black squares. Their movements are determined by the result of the spinning of the roulette wheel. At consecutive numbered squares they enact a symbolic progression of a romantic relationship from beginning to end. They are betting their personal relationship against career advancement hoping their gains in one will cover their losses in the other.


San Francisco Opera House, with the San Francisco Ballet and choreographer Betsy Erickson

Ten dancers in white costumes interacteed with computer generated, animated scenery set to the music of Corelli played by a live orchestra. The synchronized interaction involved five couples choreographed to move into and out of a continuously moving colorful backdrop. In three movements the music, the choreography and scenery coalesced in response to different rhythms and tempi. The imagery revolved around a subtle theme of maintaining one’s humanity in an increasingly dehumanizing world. “Pixellage” was the first large scale live theatrical production using animated scenery that was entirely computer generated.




San Francisco Art Institute, B.F.A., Sculpture 1972
San Francisco Art Institute, M.F.A., Sculpture 1976


"Work in Progress,” Union Gallery, San Jose State University, San Jose, California (catalogue) 1977
“Darryl Sapien, Recent Work,” Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California 1979
“Darryl Sapien at Studio Ink,” San Francisco, California 1984
“Darryl Sapien: Artspace Painting Grant Award” Artspace Gallery, San Francisco, California (catalogue) 1988
“Darryl Sapien: Recent Work,” Opts Art, San Francisco, California 1994
“Darryl Sapien,” City College of San Francisco 1996
“Darryl Sapien,” Swallowtail Gallery, San Francisco, California 2005
"Out Of This World," Bonnafont Gallery, San Francisco, California 2015


"Introductions 74," Hansen-Fuller Gallery, San Francisco, California 1974
"17 Artists, Hispano/Mexican American/Chicano," The Mexican Museum, San Francisco, California 1976
"Other Sources," San Francisco Art Institute, (catalog) 1976
"Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era," (catalog) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art & The Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C. 1977
"Tokyo-Bay Area Exchange," Kanagawa Prefectural Hall, Tokyo, Japan 1977
"Arte Fiera di Bologna," Bologna, Italy 1977
"California-Hawaii Biennial," San Diego Fine Arts Gallery, Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii 1978
"From Self-Portrait to Autobiography," Neuberger Museuem, Purchase, New York, New Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cleveland Ohio (catalog) 1979-1980
"Space/Time/Sound: A Decade in the Bay Area," San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (catalog) 1980
"19 Artists, Emergent Americans," Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City (catalog) 1981
"La Vue Independante," The American Center, Paris France 1981
"California Art on the Road," Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, California 1982
"Crime and Punishment," Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, California 1984
"Artists and the Theater," Phillipe Bonnafont Gallery, San Francisco, California 1984
"The Twentieth Century," San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 1985
"Contemporary Art, 30,000 B.C. to the Present," San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, California 1985
"Connotations," Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, California 1987
"Digital Visions: Computers and Art," Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse University, New York (catalog) 1988
"Darryl Sapien and David Flipse" Riskin-Sinow Gallery, San Francisco, California 1989
"The Written Word," Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California 1990
"Four Hispanic Artists," San Francisco Art Commission Gallery 1991
"Facing Eden: One Hundred Years of Landscape Art in the Bay Area," M.H. DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, California 1995
"Reactions, Artists Respond to September 11, 2001," Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 2003
"75 Years of Looking Forward" San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (catalog) 2010
“Radical Light,” U.C. Berkeley Art Museum (catalog) 2010
“State of Mind: new California Art circa 1970” (catalog)
    Orange County Museum of Art, California 2011
    Berkeley Art Museum, U.C. Berkeley, California 2012
    Belkin Gallery, University of British Columbia, Canada 2012
    Site Santa Fe, NM 2013
    The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY 2013
    The Smart Museum, Chicago, IL 2013-14
"The site a live" San Francisco Art Institute 2014


“Synthetic Ritual”, San Francisco Art Institute 1971
“Initiation”, San Francisco Art Institute 1972
“War Games”, corner of Third & Howard Street San Francisco, California (outdoor site-specific) 1973
“Split-Man Bisects the Pacific”, the ruins of Sutro Baths, Point Lobos, San Francisco, California 1974
“Tricycle: contemporary recreation”, Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California 1975
“Splitting the Axis”, University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, California 1975
“Within the Nucleus”, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 1976
“The Principle of the Arch”, P.S. 1, New York, NY 1977
“A Bridge Can Also Be A Work Of Art”, Arte Fiere di Bologna, Bologna, Italy 1977
“Crime in the Streets” Adler Alley, San Francisco, California (outdoor site-specific) 1978
“Liberated Zone”, The Sculpture Center, Sydney, Australia (outdoor site-specific) 1979
“Portrait of the Artist x 3”, ruins of Playland at the Beach, (outdoor site-specific) 1979
“Hero”, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, California, San Francisco, California 1980
The Victoria Theater, San Francisco, California 1981
“American Roulette”, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY 1981
“Pixellage”, San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, in association with San Francisco Ballet 1983-84
“Splitting the Axis Revisited”, Berkeley Art Museum, U.C. Berkeley, California 2010
“Son of War Games”, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY 2013
"The Sapiad", the ruins of Ancient Troy, Hissarlik, Turkey and San Francisco, California 2014


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Berkeley Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley
The Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
The American Academy of Opthalmology, San Francisco, California
National Automobile and Casualty Insurance Company, Pasadena, California
City and County of San Francisco-Public Utilities Commission Building


National Endowment for the Arts, Artist's Fellowships 1974,1979,1992
California Arts Council Project Grant 1982, 1986
First Prize, Artspace Painters Grant 1988


San Francisco Ballet, "Pixellage," computer generated scenic design, San Francisco Opera House 1983