A Historic Tale of Art and Total Elation on Alabama Street

A few years back, I went to the Bernal Heights Outdoor Film Festival. On that particular night the location was on Bernal Heights Boulevard, on the slope leading easterly towards Folsom Street. I remember it being extremely cold and uncomfortable. The other thing I remember, apart from the fact that it was kind of a crappy place to see a movie, was a film called “Yield To Total Elation” (by Pat Ferrero). It told the story of a reclusive draftsman who lived and worked for more than 50 years in a tiny house on Alabama Street in Bernal Heights.

From 1935 to 1944, A.G. Rizzoli produced a large body of architectural drawings of fantastical buildings — some of which were symbolic representations of friends and relations, most notably his mother. The drawings from this period are all part of a larger environment loosely based on the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, a world’s fair based in what would become San Francisco’s Marina District.

In 1935 Rizzoli began exhibiting his work, The Achilles Tectonic Exhibit, on the walls of the Alabama Street home he shared with his mother. Patrons included friends, relatives, and neighborhood children. Overall, it was kind of like the Open Studios of today.

The First Achilles Tectonic Exhibit

The book, A.G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions provides a detailed schematic look at the Achilles Tectonic Exhibit of 1940, with a 10′ by 13′ room crammed with over 50 artworks.

Rizzoli died unknown in 1982, 5 years after a debilitating stroke necessitated moving from the Bernal Heights home he’d lived in since 1933. His works were “discovered” in 1990 and his life has captivated people ever since.

A.G. Rizzoli on the Internet:

The Ames Gallery – Berkeley

A. G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions. by Jo Farb Hernandez, John Beardsley, and Roger Cardinal.

Yield to Total Elation, a film by Pat Ferrero

5 thoughts on “A Historic Tale of Art and Total Elation on Alabama Street

  1. I know the people who live in Rizzoli’s house now! There was an exhibit of his work at, um, SFMOMA or maybe it was Yerba Buena Center about 10 years ago. What a character! I highly recommend reading about him, he was a very interesting albeit disturbed guy.

  2. And the people Carol knows bought it from a friend of mine, who bought it in 1980 or 81 from some guys who were rehabbing houses at the time. Nobody knew about Rizzoli and his wild stuff. The art exhibit Carol refers to had a replica of the front bedroom, where Rizzoli and his mother slept, head to head on single beds, and the walls were covered with his art.

  3. I, for one, am totally elated. I have been searching for this artist’s work for about 10 years. I saw the exhibition at SFMOMA and totally fell in love, but then forgot most every detail about it (except for how a few of the models looked and that it was amazing and I needed to find out more!) which made my e-mails to the curators there sound really pointless.

    BUT THEN I saw this and almost jumped off the couch. I had no idea that he was a local, no idea that I would ever find out more about this. Let the Rizzoli nerding-out begin!

    Merci merci merci mille fois.

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