Abeyance (Draves y Robles y Vargas)

Abeyance (Draves y Robles y Vargas) is a public art installation found on the north side of the YBCA Theater within Yerba Buena Gardens.


YBCA has commissioned Bay Area–born artist Jerome Reyes to create the site-specific billboard project Abeyance (Draves y Robles y Vargas) (2017), installed on the facade of YBCA’s Theater facing Yerba Buena Gardens. Featuring both texts and altered photographic imagery from San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, Abeyance honors three Bay Area natives by sharing their stories of migration, displacement, and resilience. The billboard is located in the SOMA neighborhood, a site that during the 1980s and 1990s underwent dramatic redevelopment, still in process today.

Reyes’s project acknowledges this contested history by mining the spoken and textual record. With his experience working alongside community organizers and his work in social practice, and as a long-term collaborator of the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), Reyes brings to bear the tools of the urban researcher to intervene into the very infrastructure that uprooted communities not so long ago. The billboard’s texts, which can be read as a single statement or in fragments, weave together the voices of three prominent Bay Area Filipino/a Americans: the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas (b. 1981), the celebrated poet and activist Al Robles (1930–2009), and the Olympic gold medal diver Victoria Manalo Draves (1924–2010). Simultaneously collapsing and expanding time and space, Reyes’s project places these individuals in dialogue with Yerba Buena Gardens’ daily visitors. It blends the voices of the past and the present through a tapestry that alludes equally to care, despair, endurance, fear, and hope.

One of Abeyance’s quotes is from a New York Times article written in 2011 by Jose Antonio Vargas, where he remembers the parting words of his mother, Emilie Salinas, uttered in Tagalog, as he left the Philippines at age twelve to begin a life in the United States—an undocumented immigrant in search of what his mother hoped would be a better life. Al Robles was an integral figure in the fight to save San Francisco’s International Hotel, demolished in 1981. Also known as the I Hotel, it was an epicenter of activist resistance to redevelopment and the displacement of its elderly immigrant tenants. Reyes honors Robles’s advocacy in remembrance of the fortieth anniversary of the International Hotel evictions on August 4, 1977. Lastly, a quote by Vicki Manalo Draves, who grew up in this South of Market district, recalls the famed athlete’s memories of the night before her historic double gold medal victory at the 1948 Summer Olympics, held in London. Draves was the first-ever Asian American Olympic champion, breaking both race and gender barriers for athletes to come. She is also honored with a park nearby in her name.


1: A state of temporary disuse or suspension
1.1 Law: The position of being without, or of waiting for, a claimant

Billboard texts:

“‘Baka malamig doon’ were among the few words she said (‘It might be cold there’).”
—Jose Antonio Vargas (b. 1981), journalist and filmmaker
From Jose Antonio Vargas, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” New York Times, June 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/magazine/my-life-as-an-undocumented-immigrant.html. Courtesy Jose Antonio Vargas.

“As the fog squeezed in wailing sounds echoed.”
—Al Robles (1930–2009), poet and activist
From Al Robles, Rappin’ with Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark: Poems (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1996), 88. Courtesy the Robles family and UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press.

“I prayed a lot.” “I was afraid of the water.”
—Vicki Manalo Draves (1924–2010), Olympic gold medal diver
Vicki Draves, An Olympian’s Oral History: Vicki Draves, 1948 Olympic Games, Diving (Los Angeles: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, 1999), 2, 13. Courtesy of LA84 Foundation.

About the Artist

Jerome Reyes (b. 1983), who lives and works in Seoul, Korea and his native San Francisco, is an artist, researcher, and educator who addresses conceptual territories of architecture and cultural difference. He has an MFA from Stanford University and has made projects for the Prospect.3 Biennial, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He’s been awarded residencies at National Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea; Gwangju Biennale Foundation; Asia Culture Center; Seoul Museum of Art, and received the 2016 Artist-in-Residence Award at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. He has received awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Art Matters Foundation, Creative Work Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, and San Francisco Arts Commission. He is Artist Liaison and faculty at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts, and works in the South of Market San Francisco.


Photo: Charlie Villyard

Jerome Reyes is the recipient of the 2016 YBCA / Art Practical artist residency. Abeyance (Draves y Robles y Vargas) is supported by the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District grant.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Programs in 17–18 are made possible in part by: The James Irvine Foundation.

Additional Funding for YBCA Programs 17–18: National Endowment for the Arts, Abundance Foundation, Grosvenor, and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Any views, finding, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.