Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Out of Order" - Geometric Art at SFSU

Anne Weber. The Wedding Party.

Geometric abstraction is no longer an art world flavor of the month. From Op Art and Hard-edge Abstraction in the Sixties, to a resurgence of Neo Geo in the Eighties, geometric abstraction in all its variations has evolved into a menu staple. But the exhibit "Out of Order" at SFSU's art gallery is more interesting than the usual "paint rectangles and/or grinds a la Albers redux".  Conceived by Leeza Doreian and Gail Dawson, "Out of Order surveys the exploration of meticulous and abstract geometric systems in contemporary Bay Area art. Using a variety of media and shapes and concepts, the show displays a wide range of responses, resulting in a felicitous marriage between art and craft.

Amy Ellingson. Fierze Redux

To liberate work from representation is easy (these days) but to make it visually engaging is far more difficult. We are a long way from Malevich and his theories that by reducing art to geometric forms, one could also create a revolutionary consciousness. But what it does do is emphasize painting as painting and that is where this exhibit is most successful. But I have to qualify that a bit because, for me, two of the most interesting pieces in the show are not painting but sculpture.

Gay Outlaw's Three-Legged Inversion

Gay Outlaw's Three-Legged Inversion" is composed of a variety of materials - cardboard, paper, glue - to create a two-legged saw horse, a tripod form with the legless side braced against the wall. It's covered with elliptical, leopard colored shapes, some printed on, some cut out of cardboard. In, out, there, non-there, space, object, light, shadow, the quirky form does create a powerful impact. Also, by using more disposable materials, she obliquely critiques traditional art making's emphasis on expensive materials.

Ann Weber’s sculpture 'Wedding Party" dominates the center of the gallery. Made from interlocking strips of cardboard, the shapes suggest 1950's rockets (right out of Flash Gordon) or the woven shelters made by traditional African or Aborigine peoples. According to her artist's statement, she started working in cardboard in 1991 because she wanted to make larger forms without the more cumbersome process involved with making traditional sculptures. Like Gay Outlaw's piece, the shapes may be simple but the manipulation of materials and the space around the shapes is anything but. "Who cares what the art is made of,' she said. "It's the shape that matters."

 Danielle Mysliwiec, Middle Ground II

Danielle Mysliwiec's paintings are built up with ribbons of paint, woven in, out and under to create a three-dimensional, textured surface. Another intriguing painting is by Gail Dawson, the co-creator of the show and an Assistant Professor of art at SFSU. In the diptych "Where were you? Where you are" (2010), sharp, triangular geometric forms create a pictorial tension within the picture plane.

  Laura Paulini, Black Beauty

If I had one criticism, it would not be about the art but about who was chosen for the show. Many of the artists in the show have prestigious gallery representation - Haines, Paule Anglim, to name two.  A number of the artists - Ann Weber, Shirley Shor - have national reputations. It doesn't seem fair to use this space for their work and not the work of students struggling to get into the system. It's a shame that the curator, Gail Dawson, (Assistant Professor of Art at SFSU), didn't use her position to promote a few students who haven't gotten into galleries.

From Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" through Joseph Albers, geometric abstraction has proved to be one of the more lasting theories of visual language used throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The current show at SFSU is another chapter in the ongoing dialogue between realism and abstraction,

 Artists in the show include: Taha Belal, Gail Dawson, Leeza Doreian, Chris Duncan. Amy Ellingson, Mitra Fabian, Mike Henderson, Jim Melchert, Danielle Mysliwiec, Gay Outlaw, Laura Paulini, Mitzi Pederson, Shirley Shor, Jill Sylvia, Andy Vogt, Ann Weber and Alex Zecca
     
 San Francisco State University
Exhibition dates: Sept. 18–Oct. 14
Gallery hours: Wednesdays–Saturdays, 11am–4pm

Via Sharon Butler's Two Coats of Paint
Geometric Progression (in NYC): http://www.edwardthorpgallery.com/exhibitions/up/Upcoming.html

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

St. George and the Dragon

Anna Conti over at Face Book asked us what was the first painting that we remembered. Sandy remembered seeing St. George and the Dragon so I'm posting it in honor of her being the first responder.


The legend of St. George and the Dragon can be found here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael
www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/raphael/

One more thing - I just noticed that the dragon that St. George is slaying so ruthlessly is pretty pathetic. So, I think we should make up for St. George's anti-animal behavior and go to Pets Unlimited and donate money. Or adopt a pet. Whatever rocks your world.

The very fine organization Pets Unlimited has been offered a challenge grant by a wishes-to-remain-anonymous individual. If it can raise $100,000 by Dec. 1, the donor will kick in another $100,000. Pets Unlimited is both a shelter and a clinic. You can find a "donate" button at petsunlimited.org, or you can mail a contribution to Pets Unlimited, 2343 Fillmore St., San Francisco 94115.

petsunlimited.org,

Gauguin


 A Cuban in London (* See link below) pointed out that there will be a huge Gauguin retrospective opening at the Tate. We are lucky to have five pieces by Gauguin showing at the current post-Impressionist show at De Young but there will be 150 works by Gauguin showing in London. Sometimes San Francisco's position as a provincial city comes up and bites me on the big toe (HA! You thought I was going to say something else?).

I particularly liked this quote from the director, Nicholas Serota - except that I would compare Gauguin with other artists of established quality. Hirst or G&G are today's artists that want to shock but only succeed in producing more schlock.

"But there are other aspects. Gauguin is an artist who created his own persona and established his own myth as to what kind of a man he was. That is highly relevant when you come to think about an artist like Damien Hirst, or even Gilbert and George, or other artists who have created their own identity."

That is certainly something that I tried to highlight in my piece on Gauguin. Although I think that most artists try to reinvent themselves and that was even more true in the 19th century. Most of the artists that we now revere came from the bourgeois class and were expected to follow in their father's footsteps. Maybe it was easier for Gauguin to keep on reinventing himself because he never knew his father, who died when Gauguin was just a baby.


 'Yellow Christ' 1889 / image courtesy Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Buffalo, New York
 National Gallery of Scotland

As its name suggests, Gauguin's work was concerned with inner rather than external truth. He combined stylized images of Breton figures in a shallow pictorial space with a 'vision' in the top right corner. Thus the 'real' and imagined worlds depicted, are separated by the strong, diagonal of the tree, which was inspired by Japanese prints. Like the Impressionists, Gauguin studied Japanese prints and even adopted their use of bold, flat areas of solid color. The figures are distributed unconventionally, cut off and framing the canvas edge at the left and in the foreground. No identifiable source of light is used, a device which looks forward to developments in Fauvism.


Christ in the Garden of Olives

Gauguin's Famous Picture "Christ in the Garden of Olive-Trees" was painted in Britanny in 1889. Christ's features do not allow any doubt, that painting is the artist's self portrait in which he wanted to express his state of prostration and despair. Simultaneously with his bitter feeling that nobody understood him, grew his conviction that he was the "Saviour" of modern painting, one who could find the source and truth of art on an island in Oceania where lived good and happy people unaffected by European civilization.

He wanted to go there at any price, but he was penniless and without prospects for help. In his picture he identified his life and suffering with the Passion of Christ. The composition is conceived as a diptych divided by a tree trunk. The half figure presentation of Christ pushed in the left corner of the painting seems to intensify his humiliation and grief. The figure of Christ is in a folk-naive style and the unnatural red of his hair symbolizes the Saviour's human suffering. The landscape is mysterious and enigmatic. While being fairly true to the description in the Gospel, it portrays neither the environs outside the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem nor the Breton landscape. It is identical with the landscape of an island of Polynesia with its fairyland colour and peaceful atmosphere. However, Gauguin has painted Christ in Britanny in such a setting before his trip to Tahiti. This was only his genial preconception and vision of a lost paradise, which, as he then believed, he was not destinated to reach. In this way, the Breton Christ, depicted in the imaginary Tahitian setting, as Christ in the Garden of Olive-Trees, became a mystical and artistic connection between the two worlds created by Gauguin -- the Breton and Tahitian mythologies.                 

I don't agree with Adrian Searle's contention that it's Gauguin's faults that make him great - he's great IN SPITE of his faults.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/sep/27/paul-gauguin-tate-modern-exhibition
http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/gauguin/default.shtm
http://cubaninlondon.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gauguin at the De Young

 Paul Gauguin. Self-Portrait with Yellow Christ (1889-90. @ Musee D'Orsay.  The contrast between the two images- one religious, one secular; one serene, the other grotesque; one flat and schematic, the other fully modeled confounds any attempt to pull out a clear meaning from the canvas.  Part of the Post-Impressionist exhibit now at the De Young.

It difficult to see Gauguin through the shadow of his self-created legend, the bad boy of late 19th century art, Van Gogh's nemesis, all arrogance and ego, fleeing industrial Europe for a South Sea paradise (which never materialized). In his flight from the urban world of 19th century Europe, Gauguin left behind a host of victims - his wife, his family, the 13-year old Tahitian girl that he "married," his former disciples whose work he at first praised, then denigrated with withering scorn, his creditors, even his former friends.

But he was always more than his public persona. Coming from a lower class bourgeois background - and not from Peruvian nobility as he often claimed- he quickly grew beyond the limits of Impressionism, evolving a style, which combined mysticism, symbolism and imagery from the cultures of Peru and Polynesia that he both idealized and misunderstood. His notebooks and writings, as Richard Bretteil pointed out, are "The largest and most important body of texts, illustrated and otherwise, produced by any great artist in France since Delacroix...That he has always been treated as a businessman-turned-artist rather than as an artist-turned-writer shows the extent to which his literary achievement has been undervalued."

His past was often less romantic then he would have people believe, and it took a major financial crisis in France to turn Gauguin into a full-time painter. After a youthful stint as a sailor, Gauguin spent a decade as a stockbroker. During that period he became seriously interested in art and taught himself how to paint partly from works he collected with his new found wealth.

He studied with Pissarro and by 1880, was considered good enough to exhibit with the Impressionists, but soon moved in another direction. He found his true artistic voice, in Brittany, presiding over a colony of fellow artists. The strong patches of color, the flat perspective, the simple forms and harsh line are all present in "The Yellow Christ" (1889) with its red and yellow background, stick-thin Christ surrounded by solid figures of Breton peasants. "Savage and primitive, he wrote where "the flat sound of my wooden clogs on the cobblestones, deep, hollow and powerful, is the note I seek in my painting."

But he was restless, always seeking some mystical paradise, some place of primal innocence. First it was Brittany, then Martinique where he became desperately ill. After returning to Paris, he fixated on the South Seas as the place where his fantasy world could materialize. He had to auction his works in order to fund a trip to Tahiti (1891) but soon found Tahiti not primitive enough for his fantasy.

Tahitian Women. 1891. An early example of what would become a preoccupation throughout the 1890's; the tendency to focus upon the sculptural interrelation of figures. In this painting, the distinct curvilinear masses of the women's bodies contrast strongly with the flat horizontal banding of the near-abstract background. (part of the current exhibit at the De Young)

Gauguin returned to Paris in 1893 with just four francs in his pocket but departed for Tahiti again two years later where he was hampered by ill health and short funds. He continued his search for the perfect paradise, going further and further away from any civilization but suffering immensely from a lack of decent food and medical care. He died of syphilis in 1903 in the Marquesas Islands.

Gauguin did not go to nature to paint. He chose what nature to paint and when he finished, it was a new vision of art, which owed nothing to Impressionist en plain air studies. He was after a certain style - not only his sexual style, the swagger and bombastic bravado but how to transmute, like an alchemist, the art style that he admired into his own vision. "Imagine," he once wrote, alluding to the purples, reds and chrome yellows he loved, "a confused collection of pottery twisted by the furnace!" In fact, he saw the world through art-colored spectacles. He was after emotion, not the fleeting pleasurable but non-personal beauty of the world that the impressionists painted, but some deeper, more primitive, more authentic feeling.

He's been dead for over 100 years and we are still looking at his paintings, still finding new things, still pulling out new meanings. He was Christ and satyr, abuser and victim, martyr and cultural iconoclast. What is confusing to us about Gauguin is that he was all of those things and -- unlike many another artistic poseur - a very very good painter, in fact, as he claimed, a revolutionary painter of genius.

Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay: De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park: September 25th, 2010 through January 18th, 2011
http://deyoung.famsf.org/

References: Robert Hughes. Nothing if not critical.
Richard Bretell. The Art of Paul Gauguin
David Sweetman. Paul Gauguin. A Life

Post-Impressionism at the De Young

The names of the painters at the exhibit read like a roll call of Post-Expressionist art. The paintings gleam with orange and yellow hues, shimmer with pointillist delicacy or fill with canvas with thick ribbons of charged paint. There's a lot that can be said - and will be written - about the show, about each artist, about the lineage, the history and the inheritance of each painter.  But for now, simply enjoy a few of the images. They don't do justice to the real thing and viewing the real thing is right here, right now, in SF. 


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay

Tomorrow is The Day - I (along with a billion other members of the press) get to preview the post-Expressionist show at the De Young. At the risk of sounding juvenile, WOW! WOW! and WOW!

 Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Bedroom at Arles. 1889. Oil on canvas, 22 5/8 x 29 1/8 inches. © RMN (Musée d’Orsay)/Hervé Lewandowski

The much anticipated Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay exhibition opens at the de Young on Saturday, September 25.
The second of two exhibitions from the Musée d’Orsay’s permanent collection, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay follows on the heels of the first with a selection of the most famous late-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir, as well as works representing the individualist styles of the early modern masters, including Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and the Nabis Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard.

It is here where the d'Orsay’s collection shines brightest with masterpieces such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone, a haunting Portrait of the Artist, and Bedroom at Arles. The exhibition includes a superior collection of paintings from the Pont-Aven school, including Gauguin’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with The Yellow Christ. The exhibition concludes with the Orsay’s spectacular collection of pointillist paintings, represented by the masters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.

Peter Dubreuil, Eléphantaisie, 1908. Toned matte-surface printing-out print. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

This weekend is also your last chance to see the exhibition critics called “engrossing,” “complex” and “a real treat.”  Impressionist Paris: City of Light at the Legion of Honor closes on Sunday, September 26. Don’t miss seeing over 180 rarely displayed photographs, prints and drawings that bring 19th-century Paris to life.

Henri-Jacques-Edouard Evenepoel, Au Square, from L'Estampe Moderne, 1897. Color lithograph

La ville lumière—“the City of Light”: Paris earned this nickname during the 19th century with the proliferation of gas lamps that lit up the French capital, turning night into day and boosting its economic vitality. Moreover, the radiance of the metropolis transcended the glow of its streetlights as Paris ascended to its role as the cultural capital of Europe. Authors, composers, and especially visual artists—painters, sculptors, printmakers, and photographers—thrived in this dazzling setting.

James Tissot (French, 1836–1902) Ces dames des chars (The Ladies of the Chariots), 1885. Etching and drypoint, Wentworth 78

Impressionist Paris: City of Light explores various aspects of life in and around the city in which these artists came of age. Visitors to the exhibition are transported to Impressionist Paris as represented in over 180 prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and illustrated books from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and several distinguished private collections.
http://deyoung.famsf.org

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kristina Quinones at Nieto Fine Art

Demand, 36"x60", Acrylic on Panel, 2010, Photographed by Don Felton, Almac Camera

Kristina Quinones, a 2010 Headlands Center for the Arts Affiliate Artist, creates work that is colorful, fluid and dynamic. She describes her work as made at the intersection of control and uncertainty. Paint is poured, manipulated and glossed to create images that evoke an exploration of our inner universe. Her work has a beautiful and elegant simplicity, great vital force and a mystic wonder at the the forces around us - a creation in paint of the kinds of images that we see via NASA's satellite explorations of the universe.

Ms. Quinones adds, "The grounding I feel through my work is an expression of the space that exists between these two phenomena. As the layers of color accumulate on each painting, the opportunity to manipulate the space between control and uncertainty diminishes. A sense of urgency arises, which is expressed in the textured movement of color. Paradoxically, as the process unfolds, my desire to control dissipates, and I am left with the ambiguous feeling of uncertainty. However, whereas in the past this ambiguity would disturb me, I now find the process reassuring. It is clear that, despite my best intentions, each piece will choose its own path."

Opening September 24th, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Nieto Fine Arts: 565 Sutter St, San Francisco
http://nietofineart.com
Kristina Quinones: www.kristinaq.com

Tom Killion talks about his sources and inspirations

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tom Killion at the Book Club of California

Tom Killion: Tamalpias Walking: Poetry, History and Prints


In a new collaboration by the authors of the bestselling The High Sierra of California, readers are introduced to the unique mountain overlooking San Francisco Bay. A source of story and myth since time began, Mt. Tamalpais has inspired conservationists, trail builders, botanists, artists, and poets for more than a century. With freshness and sustained delight, Tamalpais Walking explores Mt. Tamalpais s natural, cultural, historic, and spiritual dimensions. It is a book shaped by two master craftsmen collaborating on an enterprise nurtured by long and passionate involvement. The artwork is the product of Tom Killion s decades of depicting and interpreting the mountain s many moods and aspects.

Gary Snyder has been hiking Mt. Tamalpais since 1948, and through poetry and a new, revealing essay he offers his thoughts on the mountain, its history, and the practice of walking meditation. Further enriched with Killion s essays on the mountain s history and selections from the work of Jack Kerouac, Ina Coolbrith, Kenneth Rexroth, and Lew Welch, Tamalpais Walking takes us deep into Mt. Tamalpais' pathways, offering original, revelatory views of a mountain prominent not just on the landscape but in the history and imagination of the West Coast.    

Tom Killion: Born and raised in Mill Valley, California, Killion was inspired from an early age by Japanese art, particularly by the works  of Japanese artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige. In his walks and travels around California (especially Mt. Tamalpias),  he sketches at the site. Later, back in his studio, he used his Japanese carving  tools to create wood and linoleum block prints

"The art of multi-color block printing is so demanding that to an outsider it seems almost cruel in the servitude it requires. To execute a print such as “Bolinas Ridge to Point Montara” Tom Killion had to carve fifteen separate wood blocks and commit himself to 300 hours of meticulous labor. One might expect the result to look overworked, but behold the miracle: a scene of startling freshness and radiance. Flowers sparkle in the foreground, trees bend to the wind, waves crash around sea stacks, clouds scuttle past distant mountains, and three birds hover in a world of clarity and delight, a world vibrant and distinct, a world that evokes wonder and gladdens the heart, a world alive, alive, alive."   

Book Club of California
Founded in 1912 by a group of SF bibliophiles, it has included a long roster of San Francisco's finest among it's members. Membership is limited to 1000 people (per their website) and there is a long waiting list. For a mere, you get the newsletter, access to events and the privilege of belonging to a distinguished group of book lovers. Only two hundred and twenty five books have been published in the last century, under the imprimatur of the Book Club of California. Each one is a masterpiece of the printer's art, a collector's item and a joy to look at and read.
http://www.bccbooks.org./history.htm
http://tomkillion.com/app/index/

The NY TImes has an article on "niche" book stores. I suppose you could consider the Book Club a kind of niche book store but it's much more. Without organizations like this, the art of fine book making would be an even more endangered craft than it already is:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C06E1DF1239F933A2575AC0A9669D8B63&ref=sanfranciscobayarea

Book Club of California
312 Sutter Street, Suite 510
San Francisco, CA 94108-4377
800-869-7656   415-781-7532
Open: Mondays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
current exhibit up through September 30th

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday Night Follies and Niana Liu

Perhaps calling this post "Friday Night Follies" is a bit overstated. It really should read along the lines of "Friday night flops." The real folly was me thinking that I could do just One More Thing after a very busy week.

One of the great things about this stage of my life is all the fun, fantastic and fabulous things I get to see and do - writing for the Examiner.com (web page only, no politics involved!), the blog, painting, calligraphy, book making, attending classes at SFSU thanks to a supportive history department who lets me audit classes, meeting people and making new friends... the list is endless.

Unfortunately for me, while my interests and ambitions are endless, my energy isn't! This week was packed to the gills with events, none of which I could bear to miss. So, while the spirit wanted to go to the De Young, I simply could not force myself to get up and go, face the crowded MUNI, the walk to the De Young and the search for my friends amidst the Friday night crowds.

My get up and go had gone up and went.

However, I refused to just crawl into bed. After all, it's Friday night. Move that body! I saw the notice on Face Book that Friday was an art night at City Hall. I don't live that far from City Hall so I walked over there. I didn't have to face MUNI but the weather was not to my taste. I felt like I was in Trinidad, where I had lived for a while. I hate the tropics and this was tropical weather, humid, airless and suffocatingly warm.

When I got to City Hall, I saw a red carpet and lots of people dressed in their sparkly evening clothes. There was some sort of gala going on up on the 2nd floor - where the art event was also being held. Because the foyer was all decked out and one hallway was blocked by the catering people, I got turned around. I tried to go around the edge of the "gala event" only to be stopped by a very stylishly dressed woman. She had a cell phone clamped to her ear while she waved waved me away with the other, screeching at me with a very posh English accent, "THIS IS A PRIVATE EVENT. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED."

I said, quite politely given the circumstances, that I was looking for the art event, held in the supervisors offices. She spat back at me that she knew nothing about that but I was to "GO AWAY, GO AWAY, GO AWAY!" I almost expected a platoon of security guards to kick me over the balcony but then, that would have made a mess in the entry way and that simply would. not. do.

I don't know what set her off but it sure wasn't me. I was dressed, as I always am, in respectable clothes. But maybe my pink windbreaker or my sensible shoes gave me away. I was completely taken aback or I would have replied quite curtly that if I wanted to crash her event, I would have worn the back breaking shoes, my Halloween tiara and would not be asking directions.

Nevertheless, I am stubborn and after walking completely around the second floor, I finally found the offices. But by this time, I was only standing through effort of will and really couldn't enjoy myself. But I did see one artist whose work I really liked. Niana Liu's work is part of the SF Art Commission's art in storefronts project and I'd seen her storefront in a walk through Chinatown. Her current exhibit at City Hall was both funny and politically astute. She's made "posters" of ducks, satirizing politician's lies and promises.

http://www.nianaliu.com/projects/voteforducks.html

Given today's right wing, tea party rhetoric, I also found her project for the SF Arts Commission very appropriate.

"As a Chinese artist, I would like to offer a perspective that encourages business owners and consumers alike to reconsider the importance of quality in our society, our culture, and our individual lives. I use as examples Chinese cuisine and craftsmanship, both of which were developed over thousands of years and brought to this country by generations of Chinese immigrants. We should not let valuable skills and craftsmanship be buried alive by fast food and disposable good

Speed, quality and price are competing constraints, although occasionally we do encounter products or services that are good, affordable and delivered fast. Usually, one of the three constraints must be sacrificed - when quality is the constraint that is sacrificed, what are we really sacrificing?

Shouldn’t we also be concerned about the quality of the workers’ lives? And what about the quality of our living environment? In this economy where everybody is on a tighter budget, should we produce and buy more cheap disposable goods, or fewer?"

http://www.nianaliu.com/projects/projects_Three_Entree_Restaurant.html

Wage theft in Chinatown:
http://www.nianaliu.com/projects/voteforducks.html

All images from Ms. Liu's website (I took photos but they are not very good. I think I need to bring my personal photographer to these events - anybody interested?"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on Open Studios

Everybody is getting ready for Open Studios so that made this post even more relevant. Our space - like many others - turns Open Studios into a party on down! night. The DJ chosen plays loud music, food rolls out on a regular basis and if you won't get that wine out there soon enough, the free loaders start complaining. Is this the way to present art? What are we creating - a space where our work is looked at with respect or just another Friday night pit stop? When I was doing PR for Open Studios, I was contacted by some blogger whose purpose was to post about where the free food and wine was - never mind what the event. The important thing was the freebies which are (mostly) thrown away on people who can well afford to feed themselves, probably better than we can. I didn't agree to him listing us although he may have done it anyway but it was another reminder, if I needed one, about how we have allowed ourselves to be used and viewed.

"Re: showing the video of Joshua Bell playing in the subway, the one where few people stopped to listen:

It certainly made me think about the many shows I have done when people have walked absent-mindedly through a show. Chatting on the phone, or with a friend. Half looking at the work. At these very shows, there are artists showing work that is worthy of being in a museum....or who have work in a museum.

I have yet to see someone walking through a museum, chatting on their cell phone, and munching on popcorn. Why does one setting invoke respect and focus, and another half-hearted attention? I do not expect people at a craft show,...even a high caliber show....to be looking at the artists and their work with reverence. But, if you do come to see beauty, then why not see the beauty? "


http://judydunn.blogspot.com/2009/03/is-it-all-about-venue.html

Viva Mexico

There are a lot of Mexican themed events planned for the upcoming celebration of Mexico's bicentennial.

September 16th marks marks the day in 1810 when Mexico began its war of independence against Spain, an event that triggered similar uprisings across the Western Hemisphere.

In September 1810, rebels in the central state of Guanajuato were secretly planning an uprising against the Spanish when their plot was discovered. As Spanish troops moved to arrest conspirators, one of the them, priest Miguel Hidalgo, realized the moment for revolution was upon them.

Before dawn on Sept. 16, 1810, Hidalgo rang the church bell to gather residents in the town of Dolores, and then delivered a famous call to arms known as the grito, or shout.

The war lasted 11 years before Spain finally gave Mexico and Central America its independence. The territory included what is now California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado - although much of that territory was not settled by the Mexicans in any significant way. In fact, outside of Taos and Albuquerque, much of the territory was occupied by Native Americans, the original inhabitants who fought fiercely to maintain their independence. But that's a story for another day.

On Friday, September 17, in celebration of Mexico's bicentennial, the de Young is offering free admission to the permanent collection galleries from 5–8:45 pm in conjunction with Friday Nights at the de Young. In honor of the bicentennial, the de Young proudly presents an evening of film, fashion, dance and music to celebrate Mexico's artistic achievements.

The event will feature a combination of audiovisuals, short films, fashion, dance, and music that will bond with the museum's permanent collection to create a unique art experience that will showcase a night out on the town in modern Mexico.

Monday, September 13, 2010

SF art events - Sept 13 -18

Obviously this isn't an inclusive list but if you are so minded, there is something fun to do every day (or night) of the week - with a huge pile up of activity tonight and on Saturday.
Heartbeats at Market St. Gallery - sculpture by Rive Nestor (photograph @ Robert Vo)

through September 30th. 1554 Market Street

TONIGHT!
Book Club Of California Gala
The Book Club of California: Gala on Mon., $50; public program Sept. 27, 5 to 7 p.m. at 312 Sutter St. (415) 781-7532; www.bccbooks.org.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/10/DD1V1F6F50.DTL&type=books#ixzz0zQew0zZP

More books(and book people) at the The Green Arcade: Monday, September 13, 7pm
Tunnel People with writer and photographer Teun Voeten
http://www.thegreenarcade.com/


 Clare Rojas Man among the lilies. @ Gallery Paule Anglim

SFMOMA Artists Gallery : Clare Rojas - Male Preserve
In the exhibition "Male Preserve," Clare Rojas presents a body of work dedicated to the male nude. Sometimes referred to as folk, sometimes cartoon, Rojas's work is of a vernacular all its own while her use of line as a means of expression demonstrates one of her outstanding artistic gifts. In this show, she uses color and lines to create personable characters to great effect — sometimes funny, surreal, poignant, vulnerable, or even naïve. Certain images show naked men in poses reserved for naked women in our media culture. But rather than be objectified, Rojas's vulnerable naked men will be protected more by women. It is perhaps through women, nature, and animals that her men find wisdom, protection, and a common ground or understanding.

Building A, Fort Mason Center
Opening reception: Thursday, September 16, 2010
5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Hours: Tues. thru Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.: From September 16 - October 30, 2010

SF Art Commission:
Night/Light: Bay Area Photographers Take on the Night
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 16, 5:30-7:30 PM
San Francisco City Hall, ground floor
September 16, 2010 - January 14, 2011

Sandy Yagi. @ Sandy Yagi, 2010

Four Squared Exhibition closes Saturday, September 18 - plus artist panel discussion
The ARC Studios & Gallery complex is located in San Francisco's SOMA district. The ARC community includes an art gallery, ten artist studios, an art education center, VEGA Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk, Goody Goodie Cream & Sugar, and the offices of Kearny Street Workshop.

Panel Discussion time: 1PM (will run about an hour)
Date: Saturday, September 18
http://arcsf.net/

Museum of the African Diaspora
MoAD FAMILY DAY: Celebate Hispanic Heritage Month
Saturday, September 18 | 1 pm – 4 pm
This month Family Day highlights the African Presence in Peru.
http://www.moadsf.org

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Van Gogh: part of the Post Expressionist exhibit Opening Sept 25th at the De Young.



Vincent Van Gogh . Self-Portrait. 1889. "THIS, the last of his self-portraits and one of the greatest, was painted only months before his death.


The compulsive, restless all-over ornament of the background, recalling the work of mental patients, is for some physicians an evidence that the painting was done in a psychotic state. But the self-image of the painter shows a masterly control and power of observation, a mind perfectly capable of integrating the elements of its chosen activity. The background reminds us of the rhythms of The Starry Night, which the portrait resembles also in the dominating bluish tone of the work. The flowing, pulsing forms of the background, schemata of sustained excitement, are not just ornament, although related to the undulant forms of the decorative art of the 1890's; they are unconfined by a fixed rhythm or pattern and are a means of intensity, rather, an overflow of the artist's feelings to his surroundings.

Beside the powerful modelling of the head and bust, so compact and weighty, the wall pattern appears a pale, shallow ornament. Yet the same rhythms occur in the figure and even in the head, which are painted in similar close-packed, coiling, and wavy lines. As we shift our attention from the man to his surroundings and back again, the analogies are multiplied; the nodal points, or centres, in the background ornament begin to resemble more the eyes and ear and buttons of the figure. In all this turmoil and congested eddying motion, we sense the extraordinary firmness of the painter's hand. The acute contrasts of the reddish beard and the surrounding blues and greens, the probing draughtsmanship, the liveness of the tense features, the perfectly ordered play of breaks, variations, and continuities, the very stable proportioning of the areas of the work - all these point to a superior mind, however disturbed and apprehensive the artist's feelings."
Meyer Shapiro, Vincent Van Gogh (Masters of Modern Art)

Links:
http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/van_gogh_vincent.html 
http://www.vangoghgallery.com/ 
http://www.vangoghletters.org/vg/ 
http://www.artchive.com/artchive/V/vangogh.html

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Van Gogh: part of the Post Expressionist exhibit, opening Sept. 25

Van Gogh. Starry Night. Musée d'Orsay

In a letter to his brother Theo in 1882, Van Gogh wrote:  “There are but three fundamental colours – red, yellow, and blue; ‘composites’ are orange, green, and purple. By adding black and some white one gets the endless varieties of greys – red grey, yellow-grey, blue-grey, green-grey, orange-grey, violet-grey. It is impossible to say, for instance, how many green-greys there are; there is an endless variety. But the whole chemistry of colours is not more complicated than those few simple rules. And having a clear notion of this is worth more than 70 different colours of paint — because with those three principal colours and black and white, one can make more than 70 tones and varieties. The colourist is the person who knows at once how to analyze a colour, when it sees it in nature, and can say, for instance: that green-grey is yellow with black and blue, etc. In other words, someone who knows how to find the grays of nature on their palette”.

Unfortunately, the block buster nature of the upcoming show will prevent much careful viewing. Van Gogh, whose best work was done at Arles in the 15 months between February 1888 and May 1889, needs and deserves that much. The 100 plus works in this show - plus Van Gogh's reputation as a mad genius - will probably get in the way. Yet, like many other 19th century painter (Cezanne and Gauguin come to mind), he was eloquent about his work, describing it with intelligence, power and yet, modesty. His work, in those eventful 15 months, gives us one of the best known (and sometimes least understood) narratives of artistic development in 19th century art. If I were to offer one piece of advice to those who will visit the museum, please, please, please study the art in advance. The history of this period, biographies of the artists, even well-written critiques are all available. Don't wait until you are there, headphones clamped over your ears, jostling with the crowds for that rare glimpse of what really is a work of genius. The more you know before you go, the more you will enjoy and appreciate.

Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces From the Musée d'Orsay: Paintings and drawings. Opens Sept. 25. M.H. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Timed and dated tickets include general admission: adults $25 ($20 in advance); seniors (65+) $17; students with ID $16; free to members and children 5 or younger. (415) 750-3600. www.famsf.org.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lhasa De Sela sings "Who By Fire"

Many Thanks to A Cuban in London who told me about this version. He hosts a marvelous blog, full of philosophical musings, music and information on the Spanish speaking world, including Cuba where he is originally from. It's a part of the world that I don't know much about and I always enjoy reading his views, coming as he does from a somewhat different culture than my North American, Navy Brat background.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lhasa_de_Sela
http://cubaninlondon.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah

May we all be written in the Book of Life, and enjoy a year of health, a year of prosperity, a year of joy, and a year of peace.



The video found via "The Last Exile" and is so beautiful and poignant that I am sure Paul Klee would have approved.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cohen
http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.com/2000/07/who-by-fire-leonard-cohen.html. The background to the song is in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Music for Paul Klee



 Philharmonische Vereinigung Arte Sinfonica & Heribert Brandt - Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo

Composer Gunther Schuller immortalized seven works of Klee's in his Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee. The studies are based on a range of works, including Alter Klang [Antique Harmonies], Abstraktes Terzett [Abstract Trio], Little Blue Devil, Twittering Machine, Arab Village, Ein unheimlicher Moment [An Eerie Moment], and Pastorale. The German Ensemble Sortisatio together with the Swiss Groupe Lacroix worked on the project "8 Pieces on Paul Klee", based on the work of the painter. Another Klee-inspired work is Wingate's Second Symphony, subtitled Kleetüden; Variationen für Orchester nach Paul Klee (Variations for Orchestra after Paul Klee) which consists of 27 tone paintings in homage to Klee. The Spanish composer Benet Casablancas's symphonic work Alter Klang. Impromptu for orchestra after Klee, based on Klee's painting of the same title, was commissioned by Orquesta Nacional de España, which prémièred it in 2007 under the baton of Josep Pons. This is not the only piece by Casablancas that is inspired by Klee; in 2007 he composed a chamber cantata Retablo sobre textos de Paul Klee, for soprano, mezzosoprano and piano, commissioned by Fundación Canal in Madrid.

One of Klee's paintings, Angelus Novus, was the object of an interpretive text by German philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin, who purchased the painting in 1921. In his "Theses on the Philosophy of History," Benjamin suggests that the angel depicted in the painting might be seen as representing the angel of history.

In 1938 Steinway pianos manufactured the "Paul Klee series", to commemorate the way in which Klee married the art forms of music and visual art. Only 500 pianos were produced in this limited series, with Vladimir Horowitz being one of those to purchase the piano. Paul Klee described the series as "a great honor and privilege. This tribute has affirmed my life's work."***

In the late sixties, the psychedelic nature of Klee's pieces was revived musically by a group (including jazz composer Chuck Mangione), The National Gallery released the album Performing Musical Interpretations of the Paintings of Paul Klee in 1968, with music and lyrics that are appropriately surprising, strange, and delightful.
From Wikipedia (what else)

*** Addendum: I received an e-mail from a reader who is working on a manuscript on Klee and music. According to him, this is not true but I am leaving it up because I can't verify it either way. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Paul Klee at SF MOMA

Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see." -Paul Klee

Paul Klee. girl on a tree. From the series "Invention." 1903

From August 7, 2010, through January 16, 2011, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will showcase the exhibition Prints by Paul Klee. Organized by John Zarobell, SFMOMA assistant curator, the exhibition features 21 works, re-creating a show of prints held in the museum in 1946. At that time, Klee's work was little known outside of Europe; the exhibition was perceived as highly original, and the works seem no less fresh or innovative more than six decades later. The prints demonstrate how Klee, like many German Expressionist artists of the early 20th century, experimented with etching, drypoint, and lithography techniques in order to advance his exploration of pictorial symbolism. 

Paul Klee. Threatening Head. From the series "Invention." 1905

The current small exhibit showcases a great deal of the artist's early work, particularly the prints of a series of "Invention." Created between 1903-1905, after Klee's visit to Italy and his experience with Italian Renaissance art. Nevertheless, you can see see the influence of of German Gothic, especially with his macabre little people and their nightmare visions. Klee is thought of as witty and picturesque and indeed he is. But these tiny graphic images are a sharply critical look at bourgeois society. It reveals a more somber side of him; maybe that's been there all along and we just didn't see it. 


Paul Klee. Two men meet, each supposing the other to be of higher rank. Inventions #6. 1903.

Perhaps we need to be reminded how important an artist he was. But the reality is that for a good part of the later 20th century, painters, maybe even whole movements (remember those)  "borrowed" from Klee or were influenced by him or, as with the artists who came out of the Bauhaus, were taught by him.


Artists from the Dadaists to the Surrealists to even the grand trickster himself, Duchamp admired his "extreme fecundity." His symbols and graphic line were copied  by the Surrealists, especially Max Ernst and Andre Masson, and evolved into what they called "automatism." His striped landscapes and magic-square paintings inspired Malevich and Constructivism. Miro borrowed his "walking line: "The line likes to go for a walk," he famously remarked and Miro's followers owe their inspiration to the teacher to their teacher.

His early shows in America had a tremendous impact on local artists. His late gestural paintings, with their thick brooding darkness and emphatic signs, such as Secret Letters, 1937, meant a great deal to American modernists like Jackson Pollock and Adolf Gottlieb.

Klee was also a poet, a philosopher, a naturalist. The titles he gave his paintings are small metaphorical poems. Their suggestive power enhances his themes, sometimes with sparkling wit and sometimes in such a way to suggest, even mask the meaning and intrigue the careful viewer. An excellent musician, his works also suggest visual music, a man with a sixth sense who is composing his pieces as carefully as any composer. 

All in all, a tremendous amount of Klee's work and teach influenced and enriched the development of modern art,  not only from the paintings themselves but also from his teaching theories, in which he obsessed about that most mysterious of subjects, creativity itself.


In 1918, Klee wrote. "I see a place for myself only with God...I am a cosmic point of reference, not species." And he continues: "I cannot be understood in purely earthy terms. For I can live as well with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat nearer to the heart of Creation than is usual. But still far from being near enough." In this small show of his graphic work, the careful viewer can share some of that vision. 

Images courtesy SF MOMA
Reference: Will Grohmann. Paul Klee. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cezanne

Did any painter ever achieve more in such isolation? Cézanne did not have a one-man show until 1895, when he was 56. If the last years of his life made him something of a public figure in his native Aix-en-Provence and among the artists in Paris, he spent them in virtual seclusion in his studio on the hillside above Aix. Of course, he sought that seclusion, believing that all his "compatriots are arseholes."

Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1890. Musee d'Orsay

The more he painted, the more he saw. The more he saw, the more he felt that ultimate truth was unattainable. But he never stopped looking, working, trying.  "I must tell you," Cézanne wrote to his son six weeks before his death in the fall of 1906, "that as a painter I am becoming more clear-sighted before nature, but with me the realization of my sensations is always painful. I cannot attain the intensity that is unfolded before my senses. I do not have the magnificent richness of coloring that animates nature. Here on the bank of the river the motifs multiply ..." and in a letter of September 1906, "Will I ever attain the end for which I have striven so much and so long?...I am always studying nature."

Nature morte aux oignons 1895-1898. Oil on canvas. 27 x 36 1/2 in (68.8 x 92.7 cm) 
Musee d'Orsay

The workplace held the permanent characters of his still life's: the plaster cupid, the blue ginger jar, the plain Provencal stoneware, the scroll-sawed kitchen table, the floral rug, the skulls, onions and peaches. Above all, there was Mont Ste.-Victoire, omniscient presence and symbol of his beloved South.

 Mount St. Victoire. 1890. Oil on Canvas. Metropolitan Museum, New York

One sees how absolutely, unlike most other painters who work en série, Cézanne despised repetition. Each painting attacks the mountain and its distance as a fresh problem. The bulk runs from a mere vibration of watercolor on the horizon, its translucent, wriggling pro file echoing the pale green and lavender gestures of the foreground trees, to the vast solidarity of the of Mont Ste.-Victoire, 1902-06.


"There, all is displacement. Instead of an object in an imaginary box, surrounded by transparency, every part of the surface is a continuum, a field of resistant form. Patches of gray, blue and lavender that jostle in the sky are as thoroughly articulated as those that constitute the flank of the mountain. Nothing is empty in late Cézanne — not even the bits of untouched canvas. This organized dialectic of shape and of color is the subject of Cézanne's famous remark: "Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one's sensations." To realize a sensation meant to give it a syntax — and as the hatched, angled planes in late Cézanne become less legible as illusion, so does the force of their pictorial language become more ordered. His goal was presence, not illusion, and he pursued it with an unremitting gravity."


 Still Life with Apples, a bottle and a milk pot. 1902-1906. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

"The fruit in the great still lifes of the period, like Apples and Oranges, 1895-1900, are so weighted with pictorial decision — their rosy surfaces filled, as it were, with thought — that they seem about twice as solid as real fruit could be. It mattered to Cézanne that he was a Provençal. Mont Ste.-Victoire was central to him, not only as a shape but as an emblem of his roots. The light in his watercolors (perhaps the most radiant exercises in that medium since Turner) is not just the transcendent energy, the "supernatural beauty" of abstraction; it is also the harsh, verifiable flicker of sun on Provençal hillsides. To his anguish and fulfillment, Cézanne was embedded in the real world, and he returns us to it, whenever his pictures are seen. "—: Robert Hughes. Time Magazine on Line.

On October 15, 1906, ill with diabetes, Cezanne climbed the winding road to paint his mountain. He'd done it hundred times before. But while he worked, he was caught in a sudden thunderstorm and collapsed. A passerby found him and carried him, semi-conscious, back into town on a laundry cart. "I want to die painting," he had told a friend. His last letter was to a dealer who supplied his paints. "It is now eight days since I asked you to send me ten burnt lakes no. 7 and I have had no reply," he wrote. "Whatever is the matter? An answer and quick, please." He died of pneumonia six days after writing the letter.


A year after he died,  a major exhibition of Cezanne's works opened at the Salon d'Autumne in Paris. Picasso, Braque and Matisse were among those crowding into the show--and stealing his secrets. But they would never steal his grandeur. Rilke, too, was there. "Not since Moses," he wrote to his wife, "has anyone seen a mountain so greatly."

Richard Kendall. Cezanne by himself. Chartwell Books, Inc. 1988
Cezanne - part of the Post Expressionist exhibit opening later this month at the De Young.
http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/cezanne_paul.html
http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/
http://www.expo-cezanne.com/

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hauntology at the Berkeley Art Museum

When is a painting supposed to be more than a painting? When it's a loose rift to represent a philosophical idea - in this case a VERY loose rift - on a theory proposed by Derrida based on a comment by Marx. Made up of recent acquisitions to the museum, the exhibit mixes these with a number of other works representing a wide range of periods and styles. 


Paul Sietsema. Ship Drawing. 2009.

The term "hauntology" was first used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in a 1993 lecture delivered at UC Riverside concerning the state of Marxist thought in the post-Communist era. He described it as a philosophy of history that upsets the progression of time by proposing that the present is simultaneously haunted by the past and the future. His reference was to political theory, how the post-Marxist world was haunted by the failure of Marxism to create a Utopian paradise. Since all the members of the European Socialist parties enthusiastically volunteered for duty in WW I, their failure to create a worker's state shouldn't have come as a surprise but trust a philosopher (French or otherwise) to make a banquet out of a bagatelle.

Speaking of a bagatelle, the weight of Derrida's obscure theory encumbers the exhibit with an unnecessary philosophical burden. A focus on haunting images would have been more fair to the works on display insteand of combining them in an attempt to fit a a particular theory and then, framing the show with a lot of jargon -- as in "the enigma of place and placelessness, memorial and longing, transitional beings, displacement and disappearance, demonic manifestations, auras, elegies of nature, and the translucency of the psyche."

Curated by Berkeley Art Museum director Lawrence Rinder and local artist Scott Hewicker, the 52 pieces that comprise this collection testify to their fascination with ghostly images, spirits that evoke the past and current works that evoke a sense of loss and a dream-like world that can segue into a nightmare.


Bernard Maybeck's 1910 frontispiece for the Greek play "Circe: A Dramatic Fantasy"

Among the first pieces on the wall is Bernard Maybeck's 1910 frontispiece for the Greek play "Circe: A Dramatic Fantasy" by Isaac Flagg. The delicate watercolor is exquisite - Ozymandias without the grandeur, a delicate vision of a fairy tale world in which the central figure could be a snake, a fountain or a palace out of a long vanished world.  Carina Baumann's untitled 2008-2009 piece was the favorite of the young man "guarding" the exhibit from the possibility of journalists run wild (heaven forbid that we write with a pen, instead of a pencil).  A piece of translucent white film placed over a large piece of aluminum looks blank at first and then, when the light is right, you see a the ghostly shape of a face with the eyes gleaming in the blackness of the background.. At first you don't see it, and when you do, the eyes seem to follow you around the room.

Paul Sietsema's "Ship Drawing" from 2009 is the centerpiece of the exhibit. The diptych portrays two masted sailing ship, the "Museo Nacional." It's drawn on ink on tattered parchment and paired with a blank piece of tattered, stained parchment.  Japanese painter Takahashi Sakunosuke, attempts a contemporary recreation of the late 12th-century "Gaki Zoshi (Hungry Ghosts). Ghosts are ubiquitous in Japanese art and folklore but do yourself a favor. Walk up one floor to the exhibit of the Clark Collection to see the real thing.


Miller Updegraff's "The Enigma of Kasper Hauser" (2010)

The exhibit hosts works by recognizable names like Diane Arbus, Fernando Botero and Francis Bacon; alas for the donors' intentions, not all of the works by the famous are first rate. But there is one very striking work on display, Miller Updegraff's "The Enigma of Kasper Hauser" (2010).  The dark oil painting sprinkled with glitter is one of the truly haunting images in the exhibit. Kaspar Hauser was a real person, a 19th century German who was reportedly locked away in a basement for the first 17 years of his life before being released. He was taught the ways of the world by a group of men who took him in, only to be mysteriously killed shortly thereafter.

"One of the wonderful things about this show is that it's something that can appeal to everyone, from an 8-year-old child who loves ghosts to an intellectual or art historian," said Lawrence Rinder, museum director and co-curator of the show. "I think it's very open-ended," he said.

But the best part is that it's sandwiched between two truly magnificent exhibits - one on Tibetan art and the other Japanese art from the Clark Collection, one of the finest private collections  of Japanese art in the United States. Now, the work in that exhibit will haunt you with its timeless beauty and it doesn't need any philosophical jargon to do so.

Through Dec. 5. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. (510) 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Green Arcade and the Barnes Foundation.

The Green Arcade is a local book store - in fact, it's just right up the street from where I live. Their focus is on the environment, ecology, progressive politics and history, both local and international. They host a lot of interesting events and tonight's event is no exception:
Wednesday, September 1st! @ 8 PM
Please come by for an informal, spontaneous theatrical happening at The Green Arcade. Just yesterday some good friends met New Yorkers Bina and her traveling companion Kevin Martin at Caffe Puccini and one thing led to another, which led to a call to the Arcade and so you are invited for a glass of wine and...  
A reading (with the help of Kevin and some other invited guests) from a work-in-progress from her 25th play, 'STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS OF SINGING BIRDS," which opens December 31ST at TNC in New York.
www.thegreenarcade.com


The Art of the Steal
Liz Hager (of Venetian Red) has a post up about the documentary on the Barnes Collection and it's eventual fate. The movie, "The Art of the Steal" makes no attempt to be balanced. It chronicles the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art valued at more than $25 billion. The Barnes Foundation is the testament to a remarkable man’s love of art and his willingness to use his checkbook, his wiles and, on occasion, a bit of discrete blackmail,  to amass an awe-inspiring collection of Impressionist and Early Modern art. His attempt to control it, even after death, is what led, first to a fiscal disaster and then, to the current state of affairs. Google "Barnes Collection" and you will get an encyclopedia of links.

When I was a young art student, living in New York, a couple of my friends and I got permission to visit the collection. We rented a junker car and went down, naturally on a very tight budget. Although we had the letter of permission with us, we were still held up for two days before we were allowed in.

When we were finally permitted in, entering the museum was an ordeal. The guard had to make a call to confirm again that our names were  on the proper list. Next, we were directed to pick up our tickets from another booth at the garden side of the house. This in hand, we had to walk around the museum once again in order to enter though the main door, where our tickets were (again!) closely inspected. I was exhausted by the time we were allowed in.

As a bunch of multi-racial, poverty stricken art students we were supposed to be exactly the ones that Barnes had in mind to view his collection. We were young and determined to see it though but older, less stubborn viewers would have given up and gone home. But Barnes' desire to control his collection extended to all aspects of the art - even the CD produced years later would not allow one to save an image to the HD or even print out a copy (which I learned to my chagrin).

The collection, the grounds and the house were gorgeous but even I could see that some of the art was in need of cleaning, if not repair (circa 1964). Although admission got easier in later years with reservations available via the Internet, special bus tours and package deals, it was still not a museum where the average person could get to, buy a ticket and walk in.

The chicanery involved with moving the collection from his villa to a new museum makes fascinating reading and there are no really "good guys" involved in the saga. At least, the art isn't going to disappear any time soon into a billionaire's vault. It will up be on the walls of a new museum in downtown Philadelphia and more accessible to the public.

venetianred.net