Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wassail for the Winter Solstice

The Briton Ensemble Gloucestershire Wassail Winter 2012

Wassail (Old English wæs hæl, literally 'be you healthy') refers both to the salute 'Waes Hail' and to the drink of wassail, a hot mulled cider traditionally drunk as an integral part of wassailing, an ancient southern English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Pieter de Hooch

This is a week for great artists. First Klee, now de Hooch whose work so impressed me in the traveling show from the Hague.This was one of the best shows that I have seen in San Francisco and not only because they were exhibiting “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” 17th century art is a genre that I can view over and over - so many masterpieces that pull you in by their skill, their love of ordinary life and their understated mystique.

December 20, 1629. Pieter de Hooch, also spelled "Hoogh" or "Hooghe" (baptized December 20, 1629 - 1684) was a genre painter during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style. Most scholars believe that de Hooch's work after around 1670 became more stylized and deteriorated in quality. It may be that his distress (at age 38, with a young family) at the death of his wife (in 1667) affected his work.

 In any case, his health was now deteriorating, and he died in 1684 in an Amsterdam insane asylum, though the direct cause of his admission there is unknown. In this image: A Couple Walking in the Citizens' Hall of Amsterdam Town Hall (aka Départ pour la promenade) - circa 1663-65 oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg.

 A Dutch Courtyard, 1658/1660 (this piece was on exhibit at the de Young, SF - from the National Gallery of Art)

De Hooch is noted for his interior scenes and use of light and best known for his early works, which he painted in Delft. His favorite subjects were middle-class families in ordinary interiors and sunny courtyards, performing their humble daily duties in a calm atmosphere disrupted only by the radiant entry of natural light penetrating a door or window. Critics believe that it was De Hooch who influenced Vermeer rather than the contrary. De Hooch repeated his basic compositions many times, so that some consider his later works less interesting. Alejandro Vergara, Vermeer and the Dutch Interior. Madrid, 2003, p. 211

Soldiers playing cards. 

Woman with baby on her lap, 1658

 "De Hooch's paintings have complex structures, which create the illusion of real perspective. Rectangular architectural frames and blocks give the impression of distance, and lead the viewer's eye to the main focus of the painting...receding floor tiles also help to create this impression of perspective.

"As well as his mastery of perspective, De Hooch was skilled in the portrayal of natural light falling on a scene. His light is warm - more intense than Vermeer's - and his color range is richer, with fewer cool tones."

- From Kirsten Bradbury, "Essential History of Art"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Paul Klee

 Dream City, 1921

From the Met's website: Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, the second child of Hans Klee, a German music teacher, and a Swiss mother. His training as a painter began in 1898 when he studied drawing and painting in Munich for three years.

Red and White Domes, 1914

By 1911, he had returned to Munich, where he became involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Klee and Kandinsky became lifelong friends, and the support of the older painter provided much-needed encouragement.

 A Young Lady's Adventure, 1921

Until then, Klee had worked in relative isolation, experimenting with various styles and media, such as making caricatures and Symbolist drawings, and later producing small works on paper mainly in black and white. His work was also influenced by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the abstract translucent color planes of Robert Delaunay.

Hammamet with Its Mosque, 1914

Klee's artistic training, which began in 1898, can be said to have lasted until 1914, when he visited Tunisia. The light of North Africa aroused in him a sense of color, and there Klee made his now-famous statement: "Color and I are one. I am a painter."

 Twittering Machine

In January 1921, at the invitation of architect Walter Gropius, its founding director, Klee began teaching at the Bauhaus. When the school moved from Weimar to Dessau four years later, Klee and his wife shared a Gropius-designed faculty house with the Kandinskys.

Ventriloquist and Crier in the Moor, 1923

 During the decade Klee spent at the Bauhaus, he created some of his most endearing art works, including The Twittering Machine, Dance You Monster to My Sweet Song, and Highroads and Byroads. It is to the school's credit that they supported his work, since the philosophy of the place was to try and fit everything into a square box. The more precise the musical and mathematical formulas he devised for his work, the more the work itself took off in bizarre and unpredictable directions.
Klee at the Bauhaus:

In the late 30's, as the world raced toward war and Klee had to seek refuge from the Nazis by fleeing to Switzerland, his work, always visionary, took on tragic overtones. He was dying of scleroderma, a devastating disease which turned his skin into a kind of armor.

 Burdened Children, 1930

In the year and a half remaining to him--he died in June 1940 as Western Europe was being engulfed in war-- "he crowded in an amazingly copious and varied output, as if he were collecting all his baggage for the great voyage: more than 1,650 paintings, drawings and colored works all told. Many of them are full of premonitions, of his fate and the fate of the world." Robert Wernick

 In this work, he covered a sheet of newspaper with black gouache on which he then drew the outlines of the figure and of the crescent moon with a thick, soft graphite pencil. Then he filled in these forms with a thin white wash. It is the black ground peeking through the white pigment that gives this creature its ghostly shimmer.

 In spite of his success during his lifetime, Klee was generally regarded as a peripheral artist. It was only after his death that he began to receive critical acclaim. A careful look shows how enormous his influence has been in every "school" of art. But he never founded a school; his vision was too unique.

  "Klee's career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities - its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity), he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object, from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches, makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space." -

From Robert Hughes, "The Shock of the New"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Women in the arts. NCWA shows for December 2014

The Northern California Women's Caucus for Art (NCWCA) is a networking organization for women in the arts.  They offer exciting events and programs: member forums, exhibitions, art-making, art activism and community. Dues are $65 a year but the exposure to other women artists and the opportunity to network is priceless. 

Mary K. Shisler in Berkeley Artisan's Holiday Open Studios, 2547-8th St, Berkeley, Saturday and Sunday, December 13,14, 20, 21, 2014 11am -6 pm and some hours before Xmas.

Sandra Yagi in "Tales of the Uncanny" group show, Bash Contemporary, 210 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, Nov 14 - Dec 31.

Carol Ladewig in 2014 Invitational gorup show at Axis Gallery, 625 S St, Sacramento, Dec 5-28. Also in Triton Museum of Art Salon group show, 1505 Warburton Ave, Santa Clara, Dec 6- Feb 8.

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." ~ Albert Camus

Marian Yap in group show "Seasons of Life,"  Peninsula Art Institute Gallery, 1777 California Dr, Burlingame, Nov 20, 2014 - Jan 4, 2015.

Elaine Jason in "Then and Now" group show, OXS Gallery, Nevada Arts Council, 716 N Carson St, Carson City, NV, Nov 10, 2014 - Jan 23, 2015.

Judy Shintani in UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health "Serenity Exhibition, Artist Judy Shintani invites visitors to Floor 4 to use intuition to find their appropriate nature shield. “The plants were intuitively gathered to adorn and infuse the shields with qualities of healing, perception, power, transformation, and beauty,” she explains. The feminine shaped shields honor the strength and serenity women carry for their family, community, and the planet. 2356 Sutter St, Oct 16, 2014 - Jan 13, 2015.

Maxine Olson's works at The Kingsburg Historical Park honoring individuals for contributions to the town and its history, 2321 Sierra St, Kingsburg, CA.

Miwako Nishizawa in Berkeley Civic Center Art Exhibition at the Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center, 2180 MIlvia Street, Berkeley, June 16, 2014 through end of May, 2015.

all images @the artist

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Party On! The BAM/PFA celebrates their last show at the old concrete building.

I have trudged up the hill to this concrete block of a building more times than I care to remember. Figuring out the Berkeley bus system has been a challenge, not helped by the usual surly bus driver or Berkeley's confusing bus schedules.

Some people like the space. I hate it - it's cold, difficult to mount shows in with gray walls that suck the life out of art and acoustics that allow the least whisper to boomerang around the hollow circle until your ears ring.

But the shows have been intriguing, interesting and even when a failure, more of a success than many a more "successful" but boring show in a mainstream museum or gallery.

I won't miss the old concrete barn and am looking forward to the party of all parties to end her tenure on the right note:

John King weighs in on the museum, pointing out (rightly) that the huge concrete space dwarfed many shows (i.e. Whistler's exquisite prints of Venice and London):


I think we may need a boat, sooner or later

@Nancy Ewart. From the Boat series. 2012/13