Bill Ham

Bill Ham was born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1932. He graduated from the University of Houston with a BFA in 1954. Ham was then drafted and served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956. While stationed in Germany, he took leave to travel Europe and visit major art museums in London, Paris, Madrid, Rome and Berlin. In 1958, Ham moved to San Francisco and briefly attended the San Francisco Art Academy. In 1960, he moved to Pine Street and began exploring various media including oil paint, wood assemblages, metal work with lead, and other materials. In 1964, he started experimenting with projected imagery using overhead projectors. Adding the elements of kinetics, scale and time to his work, Ham extended his abstract expressionism to create a new relationship between the viewer and the artist in real-time, in which the artist and the viewer share an immediate experience; composition, execution, and presentation occur simultaneously. During this period, in June 1965, he also created a kinetic light panel for the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. In 1966, Hamʼs first public light show concert “Vision in Motion” was held in San Francisco. Later that year, he created the original “Avalon Ballroom Rock Dance Light Shows” that launched the 1960s’ psychedelic movement. In February 1967, Ham presented a week of light show performances at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 1968, he constructed the unique Light Sound Dimension Theater Gallery in downtown San Francisco. For the next year and a half, the art collaborative produced weekly performances and the gallery featured several artists including the Kyushu Group from Japan, the original Zap Comix artists and Pat McFarlin, among others. After some preparation Ham went to Europe to explore new possibilities there: For the next three years he lived in France in a traditional alpine barn house near Geneva, Switzerland. From there he travelled and presented his work in Europe: His first show, in 1971, was at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Numerous other presentations followed in such venues as concerts, festivals and universities. Back in San Francisco in 1973, Ham established a basement studio to further develop his art of projected imagery. For the next several years, Ham participated in Tribal Stomp Concerts at the Greek Theater, UC Berkeley and the Monterey Fairgrounds. Other presentations included the Herbst Theater, Grace Cathedral and others in San Francisco. Throughout the 1990s, Ham continued his studio sessions and in the 2000s began digitally recording his studio light painting sessions. These were archived by Emi Ito and provided the imagery used in his first two DVD’s. This offered the viewer the first opportunity to experience his art of projected imagery in a non-live setting. In 2017, with the assistance of Emi Ito, Ham created an installation for “The Summer of Love Experience” at the San Francisco De Young Museum. It was a floor-to-ceiling 360-degree display of Hamʼs liquid imagery. The show then travelled to Europe entitled “Summer of Love” and was exhibited at the PalaisPopulaire in Berlin in 2019. Bill continues to practice his art of projected imagery.

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