The Haight Street Art Center is pleased to present “Light by Bill Ham: One Time, One Chance,” an exhibition of almost 40 acrylic-on-canvas paintings from the past five years by artist Bill Ham. The show will be up from September 14 to October 29, 2023.


While many in the rock-poster community know of Bill Ham for the light shows he ran in the late 1960s, particularly at the Avalon Ballroom, Ham always thought of his work in projected light as fine art, variously referring to it as “kinetic Abstract Expressionism” or “electric action painting.” From the beginning, San Francisco’s daily newspapers agreed, sending their first-tier art critics to report on his work as early as January 1966. The favorable coverage that ensued led to a series of performances with jazz musicians in 1967 at the San Francisco Museum of Art, followed by a half century of similar events around the world, whether at the artist’s Light Sound Dimension Theatre on California Street or arts institutions across Europe, where Ham lived for three years in the early 1970s.


Included in the exhibition are multiple groupings of paintings in grids, columns, and rows—because Ham paints his canvases from all sides as they lay flat, they cannot be said to have a top or a bottom, which means Ham’s show at the Haight Street Art Center will present his paintings in just one of tens of thousands of possible ways. Also included in the exhibition is a selection of vintage rock posters bearing his name, a DVD documenting recent Ham light shows, and several pieces of light-show equipment, among them an overhead projector upon which dishes of colored liquids were manipulated by the artist to create transient, abstract compositions.