Saturday, August 30, 2008

Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF

Letter to the museum: My friends and I visited your exhibit yesterday. I'd been in the entrance of the museum but hadn't gone in so this was a "first time." I was impressed by the depth and breadth of the exhibit. Shor's and Ukeles' pieces were especially touching, profound, and visually beautiful. Your cafeteria is very nice and the service is excellent - in fact, everybody who works at the museum was pleasant and polite (a nice change from my experience at some other BA museums). However, our whole experience was blighted by the noise level - abrasive, banging, booming, clanging sound just blasted us in all directions. While we were trying to listen to your excellent video on Genesis, the sound track was obliterated every other minute by the sounds of an explosion from one of the exhibits. When the docent began to add her two cents worth - loudly talking to be heard over the noise - it was completely impossible to hear the video. The sounds from above even blanketed the gift shop. I realize that this is era of cell phones and iPods and yakkey-yak, blah blah blah, but do we have to have a tidal wave of noise in the museum as well?

Friday, August 29, 2008


A Juried Exhibition of Abstract and Figurative Contemporary Works

Exhibition at California Modern Art Gallery:
September 25th - December 2nd, 2008

My work is up at:

If you can't find it via the link, look under last name of "Ewart."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2 Million Strong

Nancy Ewart, Lemon Drop, Mixed Media on Paper (2000)

"I believe in Michelangelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of colour, the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting; and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed."

— George Bernard Shaw

Yes we are!

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has released a 140-page report on the state of the country's artists, reports the Associated Press. According to the study, "Artists in the Workforce: 1990–2005," around 2 million Americans identify themselves as artists, falling into 11 categories.

The report reinforces the term, and stereotype, of the "struggling artist," as the average income for an American artist is $34,800 — well below the average for professionals. Dana Gioia, the NEA chairman, believes that the solution lies in arts education, telling the AP, "You have underemployed and highly trained musicians, actors, dancers, and other artists who could easily provide arts education to our schools."

The NEA also found that the number of artists in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 1970. The number of designers, who make up almost 40 percent of all artists, has increased to around 780,000 in 2005 from 600,000 in 1990. San Francisco has the highest number of artists per capita, with Santa Fe in second place, while Los Angeles-Long Beach (my birthplace) has the most artists overall (140,000), followed by New York (133,000). The percentage of Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian artists grew from 9 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2005.

Gioia says that the report helps disprove the stereotype of artists as unemployed, marginal, and passive. "If you look at the statistics," he says, "artists represent one of the major occupations in the American economy. These are highly trained, productive, and highly entrepreneurial people."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Karl Benjamin at Brian Gross

When I went to see the "Birth of the Cool" show in Oakland, I fell in love with Karl Benjamin's work. I gained an even great respect for the man when I read an interview via a link that Joanne Mattera so kindly provided. His work will be at Brian Gross through September 5th so you've got about another week to see it. I'd say he is the precursor of a lot of current geometric work, including that by Joanne, Eva Lake and maybe even "our" own Chris Ashley. In any case, it's work by a smart, unique man. You really can't appreciate geometric work until you see it in person; a reproduction doesn't do justice to the colors, forms and the way they interact together. As Ms. Jancar pointed out, the location doesn't do justice to the pieces. Like Pia Stern's work, they are meant to be seen in a far less frenzied and commercial location - but having them up, even in the busy lobby of an office building - is better than not having them up at all.

At the satellite location: #1 Post St. Lobby Floor
Link to interview:

Sol LeWitt deinstalled

Tragedy or cause for rejoicing - you decide. But if you are a fan, you've got less than a month to see them again. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

On September 17th, SFMOMA will be deinstalling the wall drawings by Sol LeWitt which have been on view since 2000 to make way for a new series of commissions for the atrium space.

From the press release:

“LeWitt’s drawings have become landmark works in the museum and we are sorry to see them go,” says SFMOMA Assistant Curator John Zarobell, “but we are happy to announce that new works will be installed in the atrium.” The first of these new works is a pair of sculptures that will be part of the upcoming exhibition Martin Puryear, followed by the first installation of, The Atrium Commission series, a new initiative for the museum. The LeWitt wall drawings will be painted over on September 17 in preparation for the installation of the two Puryear sculptures—Some Tales, 1975–78 and Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996—which are very large and will transform the space of the atrium. The works will be on view, along with the rest of the Puryear exhibition on the fifth floor, from November 8, 2008 to January 25, 2009.

image from website

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maternal Lineage

Maternal Lineage, 8 12” x 11”, 16 pages, collage, paint, ink and color pencil on Japanese paper

In this book, I try to combine two of my interests – small-altered books and mythology, particularly the Goddess. Much of my personal work is an attempt to reconnect in my imagination the sacred aspects of the Goddess, the spiritual mother of the feminine in all Western religions. The cycles of the seasons, rituals, and symbolic images – all have been stripped of their meaning. This piece is made with a pre-constructed accordion book, collage, found images, symbols of birth, death, time, loss and connection to try to evoke a dialogue (unconscious or not) in the psyche. Long before the patriarchal gods of the Greeks or the Gold of the Old Testament, the power of the Goddess was the power that humans looked up to and worshiped. The power of the Goddess is not the romantic or pastel colored. She can be dark and cruel, her mysteries profound and encompassing life and death, creation and destruction. Each page of the book contains traditional Goddess images along with more abstract pieces. It is certainly far beyond the power of one small book to contain, explain and evoke all of her aspects but I think of it as a Psalter for one hour in one day of the service that we owe her.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Omnivore's 100

Posted at:

End of August

A lot of galleries are closed for the month but there are a few interesting exhibits/events worth going to see. The Jancar Jones gallery is so tiny that you have to look hard to find it. Most exhibits are by appointment only but this Friday they will be showing a selection of experimental films. The title “Shapes and Colors” reminds me of the recent exhibit at the Oakland Museum with their showing of early experimental, hand-painted films. Kevin Brown’s studio/gallery space in North Beach ("Live" Worms Gallery) will be showing the works of Alex Styrsky, a fellow student in Glen Miyake’s painting class at Ft. Mason.

Finding Patterns: Paintings by Alex Styrsky
Styrsky uses some unusual media – words and paintings on old LP’s and album covers to make political statements. The show won’t be up for very long but the closing reception is on 8/22/08 from 6-9 PM.

"Live Worms" is Kevin Brown own studio and he also rents out to artists who want to have a show. The space is “old” North Beach with beautifully weathered floors and well lit whitewashed walls. It used to be a hardware store and it still has some of that ambience, a charming mixture of old North Beach and Bohemian.

Experimental Films: Shapes and Colors at Jancar

August 21, 2008, 8pm

Robert Breer, 70 (1970), 16mm, color, silent, 4 min
Jules Engel, Train Landscape (1974), 16mm, color, sound, 3 min
Oskar Fischinger, Squares (1934), 16mm, color, silent, 2 min
Len Lye, Kaleidoscope (1935), 16mm, color, sound, 4 min
Len Lye, Colour Flight (1938), 16mm, color, sound, 4 min
Hans Richter, Rhythm 21 (1921), 16mm, black and white, silent, 2.5 min

(Seating will be extremely limited, please arrive promptly.)
Suggested donation: $5. - $7.

Thursday-Saturday, noon-6pm & by appointment
Jancar Jones 965 Mission, Suite 120
San Francisco, CA 94103

“Live” Worms Gallery
1345 Grant Ave. San Francisco, CA 94133

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Craft as art, art as craft

In a recent post at BAAQ, Anna Conti remarked on some marvelous paintings at Jack Hanley that are made with thread, stitched so finely that you have to get up close to tell what the medium is. One of the things that I love in art today is when the traditional boundaries between art and craft are blurred and artists use "traditional" craft materials to make art that goes beyond craft. In order to do so, they have to have an understanding and respect for their materials which is not that common in today's art world and what they create is truly stunning. There are two such exhibits in SF today - one at the SF Museum of Craft and Design and the annual Pacific Center for the Book Arts exhibit at the SF Public Library (6th floor)

Randy Shull is a North Carolina artist whose work has attracted national attention. He has worked ariety of mediums, including furniture design, architecture, painting, and landscape design. His painted sculptures and wall pieces blur the distinction between painting, traditional furniture, traditional sculpture in a unique way.
“In my life, in my work and in my travels I like the excitement of crossing boundaries. I love the interplay between lifestyle and work and the products that come out of that interaction. Sometimes it is painting, sometimes it is furniture design, sometime it its architecture, sometimes it is garden design, sometimes it is travel."

SF Museum of Craft and Design, 555 Sutter St until September 28th.

BookWorks 2008 - This new exhibition features nearly a hundred contemporary, sometimes sculptural, unique or limited-edition books by members of the Pacific Center for Book Arts. The book arts have a long history--from the first cave drawings, scrolls, illuminated manuscripts and letterpress printing, to more recent forms of visual expression and communication made possible by digital technology. Drawing on past traditions, but free to envision the future, contemporary book artists and craftspeople use a wide range of book forms, materials and techniques to express their concerns as artists and inhabitants of the 21st century. The books on display are distinguished in their design, typography, illustration, hand bookbinding and printing processes and paper. Pacific Center for Book Arts is a member-service organization committed to providing its members opportunities to show their work, socialize with other practitioners of the book arts and learn from their peers. Members include calligraphers, custom binders, printmakers, conservators and many others. For more information, visit

Exhibition: From July 1 through September 26, 2008
Main Library, Sixth Floor, Skylight Gallery
Related Programs: Artist Talks
August 16 and September 13, 2008, 1-3 p.m.
Main Library, 6th Floor, Skylight Gallery,
100 Larkin Street (at Grove)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pia Stern at 455 Market Lobby Gallery

This isn't the best venue for Pia Stern's delicate and introspective art work but at least she's getting a show. Unfortunately, the Lobby Gallery is a busy, noisy place where her sensitive and thoughtful pieces are lost in the hurrying throngs and loud cell phone chatter. She's been with a local gallery for years but has only had one show with them (to the best of my knowledge). I think that's a shame because her work has a meditative beauty which reveals deeper meanings on repeated viewings.

Her works often contain cryptic images - ladders, crosses, animals, boats, bicycles - which draw the viewer in and encourage you, as viewer, to make up your own stories. Stern states, “I view painting as a disciplined activity akin to meditation or prayer.It is something that I must do on a regular basis so as to feel fully engaged with life on a spiritual level.The work depicts a kind of dialogue with myself -a process that reflects a search.Ultimately, I view my paintings as visual interpretations of psychological and philosophical dilemmas that confront me.”

The 455 Market Lobby Gallery is open weekdays; the show will be up through September 5th.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Birth of the Cool: Karl Benjamin

Red, Blue, Pink, 1958
Totem Group IV, 1957
Last Saturday I went to Oakland with several new friends (SF Mike of and Matthew of to see the "Birth of the Cool" show at the Oakland Museum. The day was utterly delightful and, through the show, I was introduced to a whole group of painters new to me. Birth of the Cool invokes a 1959 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum called Four Abstract Classicists, which featured the work of Lorser Feitelson, John McLauglin, Karl Benjamin, and Frederick Hammersley.The show at the Oakland Museum presented a cross-section of art created in Southern California in the 1950, from hard-edge abstraction to architecture, furniture design, animation and jazz. It was an innocent, upbeat time and the work reflected that aesthetic with clean lines, playful yet not too self indulgent. Designers were fascinated with the new uses of plastic and steel and totally oblivious - in architecture - to considerations of economy, energy and space. Matthew pointed out how he had smashed into one of the huge glass sliding doors that were so popular at the time and other commentators on his blog remarked on how cold the Eischer buildings were. Apparently they leaked heat through all those huge glass windows and doors, which would make them far too extravagant for today's economy. America was on top and although McCarthyism laid a dark shadow over parts of the landscape, it doesn't seem to have touched these artists and designers or their rather Utopian vision of how American should, could live.

I had never heard of Karl Benjamin (or the other painters either) and found his work very intriguing. He painted overlapping and interlocking precise forms in startling color combinations that still look fresh. In a 2002 interview (NY Times), Benjamin explains that he stopped painting back in 1995. A bad back, a bad hip and “years of drinking too much,” he said, made handling the canvases difficult. “I started getting too creaky to haul these things around

"A self-taught artist, Mr. Benjamin began painting in 1950 while working as a grade school teacher. His principal started it all by asking him to add 47 minutes a week of art instruction to the curriculum."

“I bought some crayons and paper,” he said. “And the kids drew trucks, trees, mountains. That was boring, so I said, No trucks, no trees. And they said, What should we do? I said the right thing, even though I didn’t have any background in art. I said, Be quiet and concentrate.”

That exercise — ultimately a lesson in “finding the right color to put down next to another” — is not far from Mr. Benjamin’s own sense of composition. As he likes to say, “Color is the subject matter of painting.”

“As an abstract painter, you’re always flying in the face of your country’s values,” he said. “All of a sudden (Morris) Louis is selling a lot, but I’ve never made a lot of money. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting the colors right.”

These are words that ought to be inscribed in letters 20 feet high over the entrance to every art department or art school in the country. Be quiet, concentrate and get the colors right. Thank you Mr. Benjamin!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bay Area Art Now at Yerba Buena

What is Bay Area Art Now?
Saturday, August 2, 2008; 2:00 pm
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street btw 3rd and 4th Streets
For 15 years, YBCA has been championing the work of emerging artists of the Bay Area, in a triennial showcase that has launched many careers, but is the concept of a regional exhibition outmoded? What does it mean to be a Bay Area artist in a world that is both local and global? Moderated by YBCA Executive Director Kenneth Foster, this conversation brings together YBCA’s multidisciplinary offering of BAN 5 artists including Todd Brown, Co-Director of the Red Poppy Art House; performance artist, Dohee Lee; Madeleine Lim, Executive Director of the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP); visual artist Lauren Woods; and a surprise guest. (Free.)