Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Fish Wrap

Dellard Cassity, 1976

Friday Fish Wrap: I'm trying to start a regular or semi-regular feature of weekend events and information, culled from various Museum blogs. Let me know how you like it:

http://www.examiner.com/x-13996-SF-Museum-Examiner~y2009m7d31-Friday-Fish-Wrap

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bad news from New Langston Arts


In the last few months, I have noticed more and more gallery closings - Bucheon, Reeves and Lincart have closed in the Hayes Valley and I don't know how many other small or independent galleries have closed in other neighborhoods. I haven't had the heart to do a count. Now, via the SF MOMA blog comes more bad news:

Posted on July 29, 2009 by Julian Myers

“One of the country’s longest-running nonprofit arts centers has just announced that its “continued existence is in serious financial jeopardy.” While dispiriting announcements like this are common enough during the current economic recession, this loss promises to be particularly devastating. Founded in 1974, the organization has been a center of the San Francisco arts scene for the last three decades and more; it has served in that time as a vital laboratory for conceptual art, poetry, installation and performance – which practices found little purchase in mainstream institutions in the Bay Area in the Seventies and Eighties – as well as a crucial point of contact with the national and international artists who were shown there.”

“Recent years haven’t been easy. In a review I published in Frieze in late 2007, of an exhibition at Langton by the Mexican artist-collective Tercerunquinto (an interview by curator María del Carmen Carríon here, another review here), I put forward the idea that the institution was then already at a decisive moment. I wrote,”

‘For non-profit organizations such as New Langton, ‘economic uncertainty’ is inevitable. Founded in the 1970s to capitalize on new forms of federal funding in the USA, these institutions found themselves in trouble when that funding largely dried up around 1990. There are other kinds of uncertainty too: New Langton’s founding purpose was to foster forms of art practice not then supported by museums: performance art, Conceptual art, video, installation, improvised and electronic music, poetry and so on. Now these forms have faded from view or been incorporated into the larger and more established museums, leaving the non-profit just one exhibition space among many. In the present New Langton must do more than support itself – it must figure out why it should survive.’

"I hoped then that the board, and director Sandra Percival, might see Tercerunquinto’s project (and my review) as a kind of challenge: not only to raise money, but to re-imagine Langton’s role in the arts community, to locate and support forms of practice not addressed or exhibited adequately by larger institutions like SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and to pursue new audiences and new roles for itself. It doesn’t seem from outside that these questions were engaged within the institution; certainly they were not engaged effectively enough. Indeed it sometimes seemed as if the institution was moving in a conservative direction, considering its history (less poetry, less community, less chaos). And by largely showing artists who had been recognized and legitimated by institutions elsewhere, Langton lived problematically in those institutions’ shadow."

http://blog.sfmoma.org/2009/07/29/new-langton-arts-in-crisis/#more-4491

Anuradha Vikram Says:

"It’s devastating to see such an important local institution in this state. Still, I can’t help feeling that the first step down this hazardous path was the decision to import a director from outside the Bay Area, with a shift in focus from the regional to the international. The Bay Area has fewer and fewer spaces that support experimentation and innovation on the local level. There’s a misconception that turning outward, toward more market-supported art, is going to result in better revenues for these small organizations. These sad circumstances at Langton demonstrate why that’s not necessarily a solution. Hot Magazine)."

Photo: New Langton Arts, San Francisco, Photo by Jennifer Leighton (Borrowed from White

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Memorial to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Designed by Ann Chamberlain and Walter Hood, the memorial to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade is almost hidden on the far side of the more flamboyant Villancourt Fountain. Only 40 feet long and 8 feet high, it is located at the far end of the Justin Herman Plaza; the slender steel grid is a quiet presence amidst the busy commercial bustle. The wall is made of steel pillars, three tiers high with onyx panels inset within its frame. Located at ground level, it is set at a slight diagonal to the curve of the sidewalk and surrounded at one side by a wall of palm trees and a thin strip of grass.

Spanish and English quotes are etched into the panels which face Market Street. They speak of the idealism and political beliefs, which motivated the volunteers. There is poetry from Pablo Neruda and Langston Hughes and a fiery quote from Deloris Dolores Ibárruri, known more famously as "La Pasionaria" (passion flower).* “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” The words speak of freedom and the fight for liberty while the olive tree, placed at distance from the memorial, acts as a living symbol of the timeless Mediterranean landscape.

The panels facing the Villancourt Fountain show images from the participants in that war. The faces and scenes from the struggle are taken from newspapers, blown up and transferred onto the steel plates. The memorial cost $400,000, donated by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and Veterans and Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Sadly, there is some evidence of recent vandalism, showing that the politics are still controversial, sixty years later.

When the memorial was dedicated in 2008, it was the first US memorial to the still-controversial group that marched to Spain to fight against against Franco and his ultimately successful right wing coup d'état against the elected leftist government. About 2800 American volunteers fought in that war. As of 2008, there were only eleven still alive. Of the more than 3,000 who fought in the battalion during the conflict, over one-third were killed

In the 1930’s, Spain seemed a microcosm of all the world’s political conflicts. The Spanish Civil War was a fight between right and left but, unlike the ending in romantic stories, the progressive side did not win. Instead of a republic, Spain became just another dictatorship until Franco’s death in 1975. Now, it is a democracy, which allows free elections, open political dissent, freedom of the press and civil liberties.

The memorial wall honors the idealism and the integrity of those who had the courage – two years before Pearl Harbor – to stand up and fight in a war where the West indifferent. During this conflict, the dictatorships of Italy and Germany used the Spanish soil as a training ground for the wider war they planned. This was the first time that civilian populations were bombed, a horror which inspired Picasso’s Guernica and was a gristly forerunner of the nightmare that was to come.

A week before he died, Abe Osheroff, one of the surviving veterans of the ABL was able to attend the dedication and gave a powerful and emotional speech:


"Many people consider going to Spain as simply a sacrifice. I’m not one of those. To me, being an activist has always been a special privilege. And it’s a wonderful job. You never run out of work. You meet some of the nicest people. The pay is very high. Yes, it is! IF you value the love and respect of the people you work with and know more than you do money and physical things, then the pay IS very high. And that’s why I’m able to say, at the ripe old age of pushing-93, that I’ve had a glorious life, in many ways. Now, let’s see what we are dealing with. At this moment, there are, what, as of last week 39 people who remain out of the Struggle which is on the surface a rather small percentage. And yet, there is this incredible feeling that the stuff we are made of never goes away. With or without monuments. Because the bastards will never cease their evil, and the decent human beings will never stop their struggle. This has been a very difficult thing for me to do, not only because I’m getting a little frail (finally!).


But because I approached it with very mixed emotions. Going down to the very basics: what the hell are monuments all about, beside places for birds to deliver bird shit. And I’ll share that feeling with you. I’ll tell you what it’s all about for me. Some day in the not too distant future, some guy will be walking through here with a couple of his adolescent kids, and one of the kids will say, “Dad, what’s that?” And this Dad may know the answer. And giving that answer is like putting another spark plug into the vehicle of progress that we’re all engaged in. I’m very happy to see you guys here. And one more moment– I’m not a San Franciscan. I’m a New Yorker! But our record is not that great- no truthfully! I can’t imagine any other place where this would have taken place first except San Francisco! Because in many ways, San Francisco is one of the crossroads of growing culture, of advanced ideas that has appeared on the map. So I salute you, all you San Franciscans, and I thank you on behalf of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade for making us immortal."

He was wrong about the immortal part. San Francisco and the memorial didn't make him and his fellow volunteers immortal. Their actions - then and later in the larger stage of WW II and the battle for civil rights, worker's rights and women's rights - that's what makes them immortal to all who care about the ongoing struggle for a more just world.

http://abeosheroff.blogspot.com/2008/04/abes-last-stand-in-san-francisco.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolores_Ib%C3%A1rruri
*She was a Spanish Republican leader of the Spanish Civil War and communist politician of Basque origin, perhaps best known for her defense of the Republic with the famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! ("They Shall Not Pass"), during the Battle of Madrid.
http://www.alba-valb.org/
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/31/BAB6VSI4R.DTL
Documentary: Into the Fire (2002)
Further Reading: Paul Preston: A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War
Hugh Thomas: The Spanish Civil War

Monday, July 20, 2009

Favorite items at the Asian Museum


There is a fun discussion going on at the Asian Art Museum blog as to what their favorite items in the collection are. I love playing this game but there are way too many gorgeous objects for me to settle on "just one. " However, I can never resist bringing up one of my favorite, almost contemporary Chinese painters, Chao Shan-An. His brilliant colors, sensitive brushwork and loving images of birds and flowers just make his pieces sing. So often, current traditional Asian ink painting looks stale and bland; his pieces are anything but.

Then, Tom (of Right Reading and 7 Junipers Fame) brought up one of the subtler and understated pieces, one that is easy to over look. The Betty Bogart Contemplative Alcove is located on the second floor near the walkway leading from Samsung Hall to the Japanese art galleries on the south wing. It features a basin (2000) by Masatoshi Izumi, which is made from a single massive basalt stone. The exterior is an oxidized brown color with a rough surface but the top is a dark gray, polished smooth. (The artist polished the surface by hand with a whetstone and water over many months.) Water flows so slowly from the center that it can go unnoticed by visitors who are hurrying by. I remember when I first saw the piece. I didn't quite believe my eyes and had to touch the top (very carefully) to verify that the shining surface was indeed water and not only polished stone.

According to Nico (Nicole Harvey), someone
once mistook the fountain for a seat, creating a completely unexpected result of mindfulness, for where one should and should not sit.

I confess to a mischievous moment when I tried to encourage a teenager to sit on it. He and his friends were text messaging their way through the galleries, not paying much attention to anything but their cell phones. Of course, I stopped him before he could do so. I didn't want him to damage this beautiful object but I did want his friends to stop and look. They all laughed at their clueless friend but they did take their noses out of the current text message of the moment to marvel. One small step for mindfulness.

http://www.asianart.org/blog/index.php/2009/07/20/favorite-places/
http://thenicoleharvey.blogspot.com/
http://7junipers.com/log/

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who owns the images?

The battle over Internet images is a contentious one, which is why the Examiner.com where I post and other "official" news sites are so insistent that we only use the images that we are legally allowed to use. Unfortunately for the (often) innocent user, the definition of "legal" is constantly changing. If there's money to be made, you can be sure that some organization will be demanding it. The battle heated up this week as the National Portrait Gallery sued Wikipedia and PhD student Derrick Coetzee for uploading images from their website. If the museum wins, they will be expanding copyright restrictions, adding additional fees and restricting access, much as other industries like the music industry are doing (or trying to do). If this were an issue of some company copying the images for paintings and posters to be sold for profit, making t-shirts or mugs, I can see their point. But in this case, who is making money from this? As far as I can see, it's not Wikipedia or Mr. Cretzee.

Furthermore, if you want to point at somebody who does steal openly from artists and market the merchandise, look at the pirate Chinese art sites? As far as I know, few organizations are going after these rip off websites which openly steal from living artists and use the artwork to make "genuine oil paintings," mugs, t-shirts and other goodies which they sell via the Internet. In those cases, it's up to the artist to fight for his or her rights. Then there's the case of Shepard Fairey who pleaded guilty last week but because he's a famous, white male artist is being treated with kid gloves.

In the case of the National Portrait Gallery, the images are hundreds of years old. The original maker is long dead and probably didn't make that much money when alive. I don't like rip offs but in this case, who is really being ripped off - the public which can't afford a trip to the UK but would love to see those images or the museum which receives money from the British government, donations from the public and has the right to print postcards, t-shirts, mugs and other merchandise and sell it? Who benefits? Follow the money.

Drawing up battle lines – art gallery takes on Wikipedia

The appearance of some of the world's most famous portraits on a website could create a legal landmark

By Andrew Johnson (Sunday, 19 July 2009)

In her coronation robes, Elizabeth I looks formidable and stately – the Virgin Queen in her pomp, an image to propel rivals into battle. Some 400 years after her portrait was painted, that is precisely what she has done.

Hers is one of more than 3,000 images from the National Portrait Gallery uploaded onto the free internet encyclopedia Wikipedia in April by Seattle-based Derrick Coetzee. The gallery, founded in 1856, responded last week by threatening legal proceedings against the PhD student.

That action unleashed outrage in cyberspace and quickly led to a stand-off between the proponents of free information and cultural institutions wanting to protect one of their few revenue streams – licence fees for reproducing images of their artworks. The row also goes to the heart of an Internet revolution, which does not recognize borders or national laws.

The gallery has instructed the law firm Farrer and Co, which represents the Queen, to sue Mr. Coetzee unless the pictures are removed. They claim that letters to Wikipedia were unanswered. While the portraits are long out of copyright, the photographs are not and, the gallery argues, the digitization process to create high resolution images has cost it around £1m. They are, they say, therefore entitled to a license fee.

Wikipedia, which is supporting Mr Coetzee, argues that the portraits are owned by the public. Moreover, they work with many global cultural institutions, which are glad to have their images widely disseminated. A further complication is that Mr. Coetzee is a US citizen based in America, where copyright laws around images of publicly owned art are different. The gallery points out that Wikipedia's servers are based in the UK and come under the jurisdiction of a UK court. (see correction below).

But Alison Wheeler, an editor and administrator for Wikipedia in the UK, said the Inland Revenue takes the opposite view. "It's a very significant case, and very complicated," she said. "It gets to the heart of the internet. The Inland Revenue argues that if you buy something online, it doesn't matter where the server is located, you still pay tax. So the gallery wants it both ways.

"My view is that our taxes have paid for these, but you can't see them unless you live in London. People have a right to see them. I think the gallery has taken advice from other institutions and decided now is the time to act and settle this matter once and for all. There is no doubt they are taking it seriously."

Yesterday the leading art critic Brian Sewell waded into the row, calling the gallery managers fools. He added: "The National Portrait Gallery has always been managed by fools and this is another example of their folly. I'm on Wikipedia's side. The only thing the gallery has to preserve are the pictures themselves. The images must, in some sense, be public property already."

Media lawyer Duncan Lamont, of Charles Russell solicitors, disagreed. "This is the arrogance of new technology which thinks it can trample over rights and say, 'I'll have this for free'," he said. "Copyright law is very clear. If somebody has taken a great deal of effort to get the lighting right to produce the best picture possible then they should be protected."

Mr. Coetzee said he could not comment, as he is being represented by the Internet freedom campaign group Electronic Frontier Foundation. The group could not be contacted yesterday.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/drawing-up-battle-lines-ndash-art-gallery-takes-on-wikipedia-1752310.html

Addendum:
Your article states the following: "The gallery points out that Wikipedia's servers are based in the UK and come under the jurisdiction of a UK court."

This is entirely untrue. None of Wikipedia's servers are based in the United Kingdom, and none of Wikimedia Foundation's operations are conducted in the UK. Please correct this false statement of fact as soon as possible.

--Mike Godwin, General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation
415-436-9333 x 608

image from: http://venetianred.net/ National Portrait Gallery: http://www.npg.org.uk/
Isaac Oliver, Elizabeth I (The Rainbow Portrait) c 1600

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Culture on a budget


I just posted an article on all of the Bay Area museums that I could think of that have free days and/or free admission for kids under 12. I never realized that a "simple" newspaper article could be so much work. I had to check and double check my spelling and my facts. The good thing is that I can post to a "real" newspaper web site. The bad thing is that I don't have an fact checker/outsider eye making sure I don't goof up before the fact. I'm reading Lillian Ross' book "Reporting Back: Notes on Journalism" which makes me very nostalgic for the good old days. She had superb editors who helped her develop her skills but she also pays tribute to the fact-checking department of the magazine where she worked for so many years. Remember to click on the link - I'm aiming for one happy meal a month.

The image on the left is from the current show of Mithila paintings from northern Bihar. For centuries, women’s paintings have been used to consecrate space for human habitation and ritual purposes. The paintings are filled with magical properties and cover the walls near their hearths with images of their gods and goddesses. For weddings and festivals, they embellish the outer walls of their homes with elaborate drawings based on familiar mythological stories. Hence a major theme here is women’s art for the domestic world, and especially art that is found in association with life-cycle events.

Paper was introduced into the Mithila painting tradition in the 1960’s. The changeover to a portable support for the paintings moved the locus of the artists’ efforts out of the home and removed the creation of this art from its ritual setting. Despite the persistence of traditional themes, the change to paper also allowed the women artists to experiment with newer themes, and allowed them a broader freedom of expression. The works at the Asian are a mixture of old and new and even include one work by a male artist. The current show is up until July 26th and then, it will go into storage for almost two years to preserve the fragile works.

http://www.examiner.com/x-13996-SF-Museum-Examiner

Saturday, July 11, 2009

John Baldessari at the Legion


John Baldessari: A Print Retrospective from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation: July 11, 2009 — November 8, 2009

At 6 foot, 7 inches, Baldessari towers over most people. Dressed in black with long white hair and a lived –in face, his height belies his soft-spoken manner and his ironic and puckish sense of humor. Throughout his career, he has taken great pleasure in thumbing his nose formal art techniques and the art establishment (even though he's now a part of it). He appreciates the irony. He has worked in a variety of media but the current show at the Legion focuses on his work in print. He hates to be classified and loves to push the envelope.


"It's about what I can get away with," he declared at the opening of his show at the Legion, at a reception in a room filled with exquisite ceramics and just down the hall from cases of art from Egypt and Ancient Greece. The contrast could not be more extreme. The first piece in the exhibit "I will not make any more boring art (1971)" sets the tone for the show. A 22 x 30 inch lithograph, the sentence fills the whole space - black on white with no explanation other than that's what he felt like doing. He felt like being bored and was bored in the thirty minutes or so that it took him to write it. So why do it? Because he wanted to.

He’s a great trickster in the Duchamp tradition by using common everyday images and altering them to make the viewer look at them differently. His famous, face covering dots are a perfect example of his thought process. He was looking at some old photos of dignitaries and became irritated that they were out changing the world while he, the artist, was isolated in his studio, and unable to participate or impact the decisions that would change his life. “I was using some price stickers for another project and I pulled out the photos and covered their faces. I felt a great sense of power. I could color code them, red for danger, green, not so dangerous, blue for aspirations and yellow - chaos. ”

When he was teaching life drawing, it irritated him that the students would spend two hours on the model’s face and only an hour or so on the rest of the body. So, he covered her face with a drop cloth, forcing them to look at the whole, rather than just one part. By depriving them of what they expected to see, he forced them to look at something and understand it– in this case, the human figure – in a whole new way.

Perhaps understanding is not quite appropriate. His sense of humor and irony come though on each piece but his blend of surrealism, Pop art, Dadaism and Minimalism is unique and sometimes unfathomable. The most common thing that he wants you to fathom is that most of this is done in such a way to force the viewer to reinterpret the everyday. He considers himself a minimalist in that he is constantly taking away from the image, cropping, altering and changing his source (often an old movie photograph or a portion of a cinema still) into something new and strange. Many of the series in the show start with an image full of objects and people and end on the final frame with only one image. It’s not that the medium is the message, it’s that the process is the meaning. Concept is everything but he prefers not to tell the viewer what the concept really is (or was). "Am I telling a story? " he responded to one question by not answering it.

“Eyes, lips and hands have all been done, “ Baldessari says, “so I thought ears and noses, why not?” "I was thinking about totality (what is and what isn't a part?). Painting sections of the human body was part of that investigation. To represent people by an ear and/or a nose became a way of reducing human identity to a minimum." Simple logic? Not when Baldessari gets through with it.

Early in his career he wanted to make affordable art and went to some lengths to find a printer to produce books that students could afford. His goal was to stay within the twelve to fifteen dollar range. Those days are long behind him. In 2007, one of his pieces sold for 4.4 million at auction. Baldessari says, “I used to sell these pieces for a hundred bucks each. Luckily, I have a sense of humor.”

The son of a Danish mother and an Austrian father, he grew up in National City, a working class town outside San Diego. It was 1931 and the great Depression affected every aspect of life. Nothing was thrown away. Everything was recycled and reused – attitudes, which influenced his art from the beginning. He was good at art, went on to get a BA in art education and an MA in painting. He taught for years at CalArts and UCLA, challenging artists to make art that was different.

"I felt I had to challenge conventional wisdom about art. I had to reevaluate the givens. One thing he reevaluated is the notion that art has some special value, usually spiritual. He declares that he hates beauty and revels in the tatty, the mundane, the boring and the obscure. Even now, he seems slightly uncomfortable with his fame and the fact that his artwork is being showing in one of the most beautiful museums in San Francisco in one of the most beautiful locations. He prefers discomfort and antagonism but mostly he's just a guy who wants to have fun. Of course, his definition of fun is unique, ironic, full of juxtapositions and witty puns. As you exit, there's a piece on the ceiling, a three dimensional sculpture of noses, titled "God knows."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Top Artists?

Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker about the new reality show that she's co-sponsoring:
http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/news/artnetnews/sarah-jessica-parker-art7-6-09.asp

Do you suppose that we will now have a new brush off line - pack up your brushes/chisel/ photography supplies and go home? You are OUT! Will this be complete with the uber-bitchy "interview" with the loser du jour and the drum roll music? Ms. Parker gave the interviewer three minutes so it's really difficult to tell what the format can be but I think that the concept sucks.

Beautiful Day around the Bay

Organic sculpture at the Civic Center: read more about it at Civic Center and Venetian Red
Calligraphy show at the Main Library - read earlier review in my blog
Villancourt Fountain - an art critic's nightmare but fun for tourists and kits on skateboards.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A reality show for artists?


When I first read about this, I thought it was a joke, but apparently it’s official. Richard Lacayo (Time On Line) and Digital City TV both write that Sarah Jessica Parker and Bravo are going ahead with a Top Chef like competition for artists.

“In each episode of the series, contestants will create unique pieces highlighting art's role in everyday life, while they compete and create in a range of disciplines including sculpture, painting, photography and industrial design (to name a few). In working beyond their preferred mediums, artists will have to adapt quickly in order to succeed. Completed works of art will be appraised by a panel of top art world figures including fellow artists, gallerists, collectors, curators and critics. The finalists' work will be showcased in a nation-wide museum tour.

This leads to a few questions. Are these artists, curators and critics going to issue the snap judgments that judges on Top Chef and Project Runway pronounce? You might be able to get away with that when you're talking about a tuna tartare on a pool of lingonberry foam but I don't think it will work for something, like art, that takes a little longer to process. And where will they find people even willing to try?

Hmmm....Jeff Koons, check your messages.”

Are artists really that desperate for fame and fortune? I'm one and I know that I'd rather have a visit from the Spanish Inquisition than participate in this humiliating farce.

http://cheznamastenancy.blogspot.com/2008/07/sarah-jessica-parkers-art-competition.html
http://lookingaround.blogs.time.com/
http://www.digitalcity.com/2009/07/06/bravo-casting-for-artist-reality-tv-show/

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fisher waves bye bye and Baker tut tut tuts Tut

The Fisher Museum is a no-go for the Presidio. I wrote at the time:

Even if the Fisher Museum is built, will it be able to generate enough revenue to support itself or will it be a money sink? Very few museums are profitable; they live off their endowments, grants and any other revenue producing properties that they may own. Furthermore, what impact will the construction of all these buildings have? How many building projects have been built on time and within the budget? What about cost overruns? Construction boondoggles? I do not trust the powers that be and perhaps that’s the bottom line. If the door is opened a crack, how much wider will it be forced open? Can we be really looking at a dozen more super-towers of luxury apartments lining up along the bay? We can’t see it now but it’s a real mistake to assume that everybody is honest, ethical and eco-friendly where there’s money to be made.

CM Nevis thinks is a classic case of "not in my backyard" but dismisses the very real issues involved. While the collection may be first class, the choice of site was inappropriate. This wasn’t simply a NIMBBY issue; it was a serious problem involving an inaccessible site without public transportation and a building that would have negatively impacted the existing environment. The footprint would have been huge and while the Fisher’s claim that they would donate the money to build it, what about staffing and future upkeep – and who will ultimately own the complex? Reading through the 521 comments at SF Gate was a depressing exercise. Obviously the park and environmental activists have not done a good job in educating the public because most of the comments were hostile and uninformed. This wasn’t a free gift but a 21st century land grab. The complex would have included a 119-room hotel, meeting space, a restaurant and a bar; two new theaters and a heritage center. Who would ultimately have owned all these buildings and who would have ultimately been responsible for their upkeep? Who would get the revenue, if any? The editorial is severely one-sided since Nevius overlooks the fact that building the museum there would have violate the terms of the Presidio Trust. The ultimate decision was made by the federal government, not San Francisco.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/04/BAKU18ICI7.DTL

The good thing about this is the possibility that the collection (or part of it) might go to enrich SFMOMA, a far more accessible space. If Mr. Fisher wants more public acclaim, maybe they can rename the museum the Don Fisher/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and put his name in big letters over the entrance?

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/03/MNJI18IEQM.DTL
http://venetianred.net/



Kenneth Baker reviews the Tutankhamen exhibit and is haughty dismissive of blockbusters and those who host them. But he raises a number of questions regarding the proper use and funding of museums, which I will attempt to discuss in a future post.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/27/DDS318DH4T.DTL&type=art


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Calligraphy by Thomas Ingmire, photography by me.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Museum going this weekend

Georgia O'Keefe: Black Mesa
SFMOMA: The show featuring affinities between Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe is still up along with the Kerry Marshall mural in the atrium and an on-going small but exquisite show of Paul Klee in the permanent collection.
http://www.sfmoma.org/

Asian Art Museum
Lords of the Samurai at the Asian: http://www.asianart.org/
On Sunday, July 5th, they are showing two films with the iconic Toshio Mifune: Yojimbo at 11 am and Sanjuro at 2 PM. Both movies are in black and white with English subtitles.

Yojimbo: The incomparable Toshiro Mifune stars in Akira Kurosawa’s visually stunning and darkly comic Yojimbo. To rid a terror-stricken village of corruption, wily masterless samurai Sanjuro turns a war between two evil clans to his own advantage. Remade twice, by Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars) and Walter Hill (Last Man Standing), this exhilarating genre-twister remains one of the most influential films ever produced.

Sanjuro: 2:00 pm: This show opens with one of the most famous scenes in all samurai movies but I'm not going to spoil you by describing it. Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Akira Kurosawa’s tightly paced Sanjuro. In this sly companion piece to Yojimbo, the jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan’s evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a “proper” samurai on its ear.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
This will be your last chance to the see the Nick Cave exhibit as it ends July 5th. I reviewed the show when it opened at: http://cheznamastenancy.blogspot.com/2009/04/fashion-at-yerba-buena.html
















Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: http://www.famsf.org/

Of course, Tut reigns supreme at the de Young but their permanent collections, including the African and Oceanic arts collections are always worth a visit.

Legion of Honor: Drawn from the collection of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Waking Dreams highlights the dream-like etchings of Max Klinger (1857–1920), the German Symbolist artist best known for his enigmatic portfolio Paraphrases About the Finding of a Glove (1881).

Museum of the African Diaspora
MoAD's permanent exhibitions allow visitors of all ages to explore cultural traditions in an immersive, interactive environment. Organized both geographically and thematically, the exhibits are designed to raise curiosity and bring recognition to the genius of Africa and the civilizations, which arose from it. The current show “American Icons: Bay Area” honors the accomplishments of two legendary San Franciscans: Willie Mays and Willie Brown.
http://www.moadsf.org

Introduction to the Jewish Theater, 1920, tempera, gouache, and opaque white on canvas. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is showing “Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theatre (up till September 7, 2009). http://www.thecjm.org/

If (or when) you’ve had enough of “high” culture, you can always visit the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf which features a new tribute to Michael Jackson
http://www.waxmuseum.com/