Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring in SF

The Japanese Plum tree just burst into blossom between one and the next. I wake up to the sounds of birds warbling all up and down the street and the breeze now has a bit of softness to it. Of course, our winter is very mild compared to those who live further north but as I live in an ancient and unheated Victorian, I will welcome warmer weather. Not hot, mind you, but warmer. I will probably be complaining about the heat in a few months but for now, I'm enjoying the sunshine after a month of rain.

I've been out and about with my camera, taking photos all over the place. I even went to the Ferry Building and walking along the waterfront - didn't see any thing worth photographing but the breeze from the ocean was delightful. I went to see the Theophilis Brown show at Elkins-Ellins and was very disappointed . It was very interesting to see two of his pieces from the late 50's - early 60's where it seemed like he was struggling to integrate Hoffman and De Kooning's ideas into his work. The best work is all on left side of the gallery as you walk in - very nice figurative work with some portraits. But as the work got larger, it became less interesting, stiffer with less juicy paint and much less interesting composition.

The rest of the shows in the building were so-so, nothing to get excited about although I always like seeing what's at the Art Exchange. When I was in one of the galleries, a artist with either a British or Australian accent came in and introduced himself to the woman that runs the gallery. He was extremely polite and soft spoken and wanted to know if she would be interested in looking at his slides, Man, she was rude! She wasn't interested, didn't know of anybody that was interested and was too busy to bother and dismissed him in a very curt manner. I caught up with him and his wife outside and told that that SF was a terrible city to make cold calls and that I didn't think they would have any luck. They were both astonished at the woman's rudeness but I said - well, I'm sorry but she's that way with everybody. I told him that he might try either SF Art Works or Hang on Sutter but if he didn't have a very prestigious resume, to not bother with Hang. I explained that I had worked for a gallery one summer and we got stacks of mail each day from artists, all of which just got thrown away. Unfortunately, I said, SF is very provincial. They thanked me but headed off down the hallway, determined to introduce themselves to every gallery in the building. I know that a lot of artist's advice books tell you do do this but it's really a waste of time.

I went back to Crown Point Press to look again at the Neri show and over to Aurobora Press to look at Rivera's work - both great shows. I must have banged or dropped something on my right foot yesterday because it's very very sore so I came home and intend to veg out. I will be posting a review of both shows somewhat later in the week.

In the meantime, I must finish reading my assignment for my Renaissance Art History class. So far, it's been heavy on one artist (Cellini) but light on everything else. Maybe this is Renaissance lite, 21st century style?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Edward drops a bomb?

"What's not being discussed here much, but perhaps it's time to do so, is the fact that formal proficiency in and of itself (as subjective as that remains) is rather dull in most artists' hands. It's simply not enough anymore for many art viewers. It would be nice if there were more of it (most artists can stand to work on their craft), but as a goal unto itself it strikes me as anachronistic. "

I guess that there aren't many artists reading this blog but even if you are not, what do you think? Is learning your craft an appropriate goal? Would learning your craft make you a better artist? Why is it anachronistic? I think that I most agree with Joanne Mattera's comment ( She works with encaustic so craft is very important but it's no less important with using other materials..

"I'm not suggesting that artists work inside a tight technical box, but at least understand the parameters of the box so that you can decide where and how to push its boundaries. Art schools don't "techniques and materials" any more. How many painters really know how to stretch a canvas, even? This is not about a return to the "good old days" but about integrating some technical applications into the stream of contemporary practice."

The whole thread is well worth reading.

But this, to me, validates the theory that artists need to learn their craft and the public needs to learn how to appreciate it:
Jeff Koons (and his whole career)
This went for $23 million, beating out last Spring's winner, Damien Hirst, highest auction price of a living aritst. Larry Gagosian, Koon's dealer, bought it. Koons has made a very nice living of selling work that somebody else made, manipulating the art market and generating a whole lot of PR for a tiny piece of junk. What's even sadder is that I've heard him spoken of in admiring terms, completely ignoring that not only does he not know his craft, much less produce art but he's completely ignorant of ethics. But then, so are those who admire him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Opening Tonight: Serenity, UCSF

I'm always glad to be in a show but I think that I will pass on the next shows in this series. The art work is hung in areas that are not open to the public and my work - being small - was posted at the end of a long hallway and poorly lit. Oh well, it's a resume builder if nothing else but I certainly won't be getting much public exposure out of this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chop Suey

Not one of my better pieces but it's interesting to look at how it developed. I like the use of red but the central face was very difficult to do; I still haven't worked out a balance between realism and a more expressionistic style. I really liked using oil in this one as the reds came out all rich and juicy but I think that there just wasn't enough emotional resonance in this one for me. Well, I will just add it to my ever expanding pile of unsold works and consider it another good lesson in painting.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Orange Zest

At first, I thought these would be part of my I Ching series and I even threw the coins for titles. But they just didn't seem right. When I put them up in the studio to photograph them, the name "Orange Zest" popped into my mind so that's what they are. It's interesting; they are small (12x12) but do look larger. I feel very free in working in this size - with collage, scraping things, layers of paint and images, yet when I try to work with an abstract format in a larger size, I freeze up and the pieces never seem to work well.

I also worry about going back and forth between abstract painting, more "realistic" work, calligraphy and photography. Sometimes I think I'm all over the map and then, at other times, I think - well, who cares? Nobody's looking. Then, I feel like I'm too cynical and negative.
It's not only young artists who are afraid to experiment. Sometimes us older artists are afraid as well. But I don't want to be a one-trick pony and I like working in different mediums. But I found this on Carol Diel's site and immediately felt vindicated for being more eclectic.

"Artworks must be consistent for a final review, to show a dealer, or for an exhibition. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’m not sure where this reverence for sameness came from. Even though its usefulness has been flagrantly disproven by two of the most famous artists of our time, Louise BourgeoisGerhard Richter, it persists among young artists who are afraid to experiment because their job, as they see it, is to produce a “body of work” with a singular character. Sometimes I have to remind them that what looks like a big difference to the artist is negligible to the viewer, and that their work is unified simply by being theirs. But even if the leaps were huge, so what? While I’ve never been to an exhibition where observers complained that the work was too diverse, I’ve been to plenty where it was criticized for being too similar.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Latin American Art at Gallery 415

I wandered in here during one of our many rainy days in the last two months and was immediately cheered up and impressed. Christina Bosemark, the gallery owner, is both charming and informative and the wealth of art (unknown to me) from Latin and South America is awesome. The group show (that just closed) was full of vibrant colors and fascinating geometric constructions from architect turned artist Anibal Catalan and images from Gerardo Caro that looked like landscapes from space with their richly textures surfaces and layers of color. Guilldermo Bert's sly and glossy painting surfaces contained political commentary that escaped me until it was pointed out by the vivacious Ms. Bosemark. There were a couple of pieces by Claudio Roncoli whose show opens this coming Thursday and it's a first Thursday show that I'm actually looking forward to attending.

60's pop icons, "Fly America " ads, photos of the trendy models from the 40's through the 70's, even Elvis images are combined with digital collages on a vinyl surface to create pieces that seem to glory but actually ridicule and critique our insane consumer culture and contemporary politics. Everybody is young, happy, flawlessly beautiful and then, you are drawn to look closer for the surface of utopia hides some very ugly facets. Beautifully painted and politically astute, Roncoli makes political criticism that's also very fine art.

49 Geary Str. 4th floor | San Francisco, CA 94108 | p: 415.398.2158 | f: 415.341.1137 || Tue - Sat, 11:00am - 5:30pm