Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Sky In Motion

túrána hott kurdís by hasta la otra méxico! from Till Credner on Vimeo.

Explanation: Still need to come up with a good new year's resolution? Consider one appropriate for 2009, the International Year of Astronomy; just look up -- experience, learn, and enjoy the changing sky. This 4-minute, time-lapse video is composed from a series of 7,000 images highlighting much of what you could see. Arcing through the sky in a stately reflection of planet Earth's own rotation are Moon, Sun and stars. But the sequence also features satellites and meteors streaking overhead, clouds moving along the horizon changing in a beautiful iridescence, and beaming crepuscular rays.

Found elesewhere but with my answers: I ask myself the questions from the end of Inside the Actor's Studio, which came from two French television shows by Bernard Pivot, because I like to follow how the answers change over time:

What is your favorite word? Creativity followed by compassion.
What is your least favorite word? Torture, followed by politician's lies
What sound or noise do you love? The sound of the sea
What sound or noise do you hate? The music/noise from the upstairs neighbors
What turns you on? Art. Friendship.
What turns you off? Ignorance. Cruelty.
What occupation would you like to try? Dancer.
What occupation would you least like to try? Any of my former ones.
What's your favorite curse word? Shit.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you reach the pearly gates? Welcome. Listen to the silence of the spheres.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So Long 2008

On the last day of the year the transiting Sun hits my natal Sun, which sits at the nadir of my chart and opposes my natal Saturn. As a result, I’m not one for going out and raising hell on New Year’s Eve. Of course, the whole world celebrates my birthday so there's plenty of celebration to go around.

In my younger days, I worked all the weird shifts in admitting or the emergency room, and inevitably I’d not only have to deal with the the most obnoxious patients around, I'll also get sick.

I got the message: I’m supposed to have a contemplative New Year’s Eve, and I generally do, now that I’m older and wiser. That is, I have as quiet a New Year's Eve as my neighbors will allow.

I like the Japanese custom of cleaning house on New Year’s Eve so you can start the New Year with a fresh slate. Today I cleaned house, straightened up my studio and tomorrow I'll be at the Asian, ringing in the New Year Japanese style (see below). I'm going with a couple of friends and we will ring the bell together and send up fervent prayers for a better 2009.

Then, I'll be spending New Year's Eve with a friend, both for the company and to escape the louts that live above me and will certainly be partying until dawn. May they have the mother of all hangovers!

This year, it’s not just me who’ll be feeling Saturn’s influence on New Year’s Eve; the whole world will, as Saturn will be making a station at 21 degrees 45 minutes of Virgo before going retrograde.

So long, 2008; it ain't been fun to know you.

Ring in the New Year - Japanese Style

23rd Annual Japanese New Year

Bell Ringing Ceremony

A unique, fun, and family friendly way to ring in the new year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
FREE with museum admission
Children 12 and under always admitted free!

10:00 am–2:00 pm: Art Activities
11:30 am: Bell Ringing Ceremony

Everyone is invited to participate in the auspicious Japanese tradition of striking a temple bell. This popular event offers the community a memorable opportunity to reflect peacefully upon the passing year.

As in past observances, a 2100-lb., sixteenth-century Japanese bronze bell originally from a temple in Tajima Province in Japan and now part of the museum's permanent collection will be struck 108 times with a large custom-hewn log. According to Japanese custom, this symbolically welcomes the New Year and curbs the 108 bonno (mortal desires) which, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind.

It is hoped that with each reverberation the bad experiences, wrong deeds, and ill luck of the past year will be wiped away. Thus, tolling heralds the start of a joyous, fresh New Year.

There will be a short performance of Japanese folk songs preceding the ceremony. Then, Zen Buddhist priest Gengo Akiba Roshi will conduct a blessing and begin the bell ringing. Akiba Roshi is director of the Soto Zen Buddhism North American office. He is also Zen teacher at Oakland's Kojin-an Zendo.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shows to catch before the end of the year

Femina Potens: Oh oh oh Christ! Religious Iconography
Artists who glorify beauty with religious iconography in their photography, paintings, and mixed media artwork.

Triangle Gallery: Three artists who work on Paper

The Shape of Things: Paper Traditions and Transformations at the Museum of Folk and Craft.
The history of cut, folded and molded paper

A Tribute to Bruce Conner at Gallery Paule Anglim

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nancy's Lists

Best Art Videos:

Best Coverage of Art Miami

Art Fag City's Top Five to top everybody else's top ten:

Best science project on line: Colossal Squid Exhibit + Build Your Own Squid (After you build your squid, you can follow her or her adventures. Mine is called Juno and she's now 4 days old. The "adventure" interface page is a little boring with the same old creatures up every time but the whole site is simply fantastic. More about squids than you ever knew.)

One of the better economics blogs out there:

Most powerful documentary on line (and this was a hard one to chose): A Walk to Beautiful: PBS's documentary on the women of Ethiopia, crippled by childbirth injuries and their struggle for reconstructive surgery:

One of the Best Non-Religious Christmas Songs ever - and a tribute of Ms. Kitt who has left us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Seasons' Greetings

A mother. A child. One of the oldest images we have of protection and tenderness. May you be protected. May you be treated tenderly. Namaste!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Franz Kline at Thiebaud in North Beach

This small but marvelous exhibit shows the roots of Kline's larger black and white paintings. The father of black and white painting came from a background that was as grim as any in Dickens'. Orphaned as a boy, a poor student, crippled by a bout with rheumatic fever which caused his early death, he led a brutal, hardscrabble life for years. His breakthough came in 1950 with a show at the Egan Galley of the work for which we now know him for -the stark, dynamic and large scale dramatic paintings. These small spontaneous pieces on old phone books - given to Thiebaud as a gift - encapsulate in minature that raw force. Franz Kline once said, "If you meant it that much when you did it, it will mean that much."
Yes, it does still mean that much.
April Kingsley, "The Turning Point." p. 372

Roland Petersen at Hacket-Freeman

Semi-abstract backgrounds intermingled with geometric forms, all slathered with thick paint like icing. As a painter, I found myself wondering whether he used any mediums to thicken his paint; as a critic, I was seduced by his clean bright colors and skillful handling of landscape and figuration.

A rare selection of early paintings and works on paper by Roland Petersen.

To December 24th.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Best Christmas Present Ever

Yes Virginia, there is art in schools - Project fully funded! YES!

Winter Solistice

Spinning as the year turns..

One of my favorite essays on spirituality comes from Amy Martin. Here is how it begins:

. .we are spinning. like the sufi mystic who whirls as a spiritual practice, this planet rotates on its axis. we see this every morning, as we spin toward the sun and it appears to rise, and in the evening it appears to set. the moon spins on it's axis and orbits around us, and we spin together as we orbit around the sun. the sun spins on its on majestic axis as it orbits around the black hole at the center of this magnificant galaxy we call the milky way.

....and at the most elemental level are the spinning atoms that coalesce to make all of matter, including you.

.....circles inside circles inside spirals in the sky. all of it, supported by the dark.

.....from darkness we come to darkness we go. billions of years ago, the universe exploded into being. it is still racing into the infinite, as the red shift attests. the big bang, the great push that happened when another cosmic cycle began, full of all the potential of the universe- just like the winter solstice moment of light being reborn. the big bang, the sound of the universe, the om, the gong, the heartbeat of the drum. the big bang, sperm and egg meeting in the dark feminine body to create you, full of all the potential of the universe.

.....we are stardust, you and i, made of the same matter that begat the universe. our bodies sanctify spirit, giving this loose conglomerate of molecules a place to spin and coalesce out of the dark womb, into light, before returning to darkness again.

.....this is no mere metaphysical musing. it's the most basic tenet of physics, the first law of thermodynamics: matter and the energy that infuses it is never created, nor destroyed, but only changes forms.

.....breath now and inhale the very same molecules of air that jesus, buddha, and allah did hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

.....i invite you to stand beneath the infinite sky some night this season. breathe deep of the night air, and be not afraid. look into the immeasurably vast cosmos and know that your soul's energy is a forever piece in this intricate celestial matrix of light and dark.

thanks to amy martin for this piece.
please check out her site.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Umbrella: The End of an era

Umbrella was one of the best alternate book publications out there - either on line or off. But the sad news came through the Book-Arts mailing list; the editor has cancer and has gone to a hospice to wait for the end. I'm am stricken by this news; Judith was one of the first to publish my altered books, had the most interesting mail art shows, the best reviews and an editorial eye that seldom made a mistake. The whole archive is now up on line and when you go there, send a prayer of gratitude to Judith for all her hard work in the arts for the last 31 years. Instead of locking down her website, she's offering the archive up as a free resource. May her passing be peaceful and pain-free.

From the Editor

To my subscribers, institutions, collectors, artists, friends:

One would not have imagined a disease chasing me down the end of the road, but it happened in August, diagnosed in September, analyses were done by experts, and I came home on the first of October to hospice at my home. To say that I was in a state of shock would be a euphemism. It all came too fast.

As soon as I walked into the house, my life completely changed. I was no longer a writer, editor, publisher, traveler, choc-o-holic, insomniac; I was a cancer patient. I have acute myeloid leukemia. And in the interim between October 1st and as I write this, I have been organizing my archives, throwing things away I never would have otherwise, and preparing myself for the last journey. This is the most difficult editorial I’ve ever written to you, and it will be my last.

In the past, you have learned about alternative spaces all over the world, itineraries of trips that I have taken that have led me to exotic and creative places. You never bargained about learning about Fluxus, mail art and archives, video art, sound art, performance art, rubber stamps, and so much more that was fecund in those early years.

Frankly, it took a lot of work, a lot of reading, a lot of traveling, but the task was as fruitful for me as it was for you. With the technology we went from Composer I to Composer II, to computer. It was a learning curve for me, but I always wanted Umbrella to “look good.” When you saw that light blue issue in the mail, you knew what it was. The whole field of artist books became my life and I wanted to share it with all of you. Although marginal at the beginning, it has grown into a movement, a new chapter in art history, one which is recognized by art historians, artists, and all of you. It has become almost too much now, with so many conferences, book fairs, and symposia to attend. And as usual, it has spread globally.

Obsessed with umbrellas and parasols, it allowed me to create a huge collection of “umbrelliana” which has overwhelmed both my domestic and storage settings. I learned more about textiles, fashion, kitsch, marketing, performance art, multicultural innovations with the object umbrella, encountering artists who used the image to intrigue me as well as to whet my appetite. It has been an easy image to collect in paper ephemera as well as almost 200 three-dimensional umbrella objects. From a tiny Chinese lace umbrella to a 19th century silk parasol, from 333 antiquarian books to countless artifacts, the collection has grown over the past 30 years.

In the ensuing two months I have been in hospice, I have missed sharing with you all the art news, umbrella news, and mail art news for this issue. With this issue I say goodbye, knowing full well that you can always read back issues, do database research in all the issues from vol.1 no. 1, with Umbrella being a free journal for all to read, from 1978 through 2008. This has been made possible for posterity thanks to Indiana University and Sonja Staum-Kuniej at IUPUI.

It is with heartfelt thanks that I recognize all the contributors, even those who sent just snippets of information that I could use for the next issue. Interviews with intriguing artists have been Googled as number one under the artist’s name. Perhaps that is because I chose obscure artists, but why not? And we went from no covers to spectacularly beautiful color covers as the technology allowed us. The printers took extreme care in making Umbrella a handsome and readable publication. No less gratitude is due webmaster, Jim Hanson, who made the electronic issue of Umbrella clear and well-designed transition to the new technology.

Through the years, from the beginning, I have depended upon all the libraries, colleges and universities, public libraries, private collectors, museums, and galleries that supported me in this 31-year endeavor. But it is also the artists, friends, and colleagues, who have allowed me to produce Umbrella. Without you, it could not have happened.

— jah

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

They say it's your birthday!

Happy Birthday, Beethoven

End of the year riches

Islamic art at the Asian
Franz Kline show at Thiebauld
Roland Petersen at Hackett-Freedman
Hartman at Triangle Gallery

I fell like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland - must rush or I will be late! More later!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Phone Controlled Art in San Jose

From SFist - but too much fun not to repost (I just wish there was a better photo). The 88, a luxury highrise in San Jose (how adorable!) has a piece of public art outside its building, one that you can control using your mobile communication device.

The piece, created by Jim Conti and found at San Fernando and Second Streets in Downtown San Jose, is called Show Your Stripes. Because it contains lots of neon-ish stripes in it. According to CBS 5, it works like this.

To try it out, first call 408-287-0128. After the tone, enter any three digit combination including "#" and "*". Then, press "0" and hang up.

Here are some of the codes:
*25 - Xmas Dance
*14 - Valentine's Day Beat
*88 - The 88
*** - Ship's Wheel
168 - Green with Red Bolt
182 - Happy
193 - Rainbow Chase
194 - RGB Down
197 - Rainbow Sweep
228 - Yellow Sweep

268 - Brackets Out
311 - Cyan Sweep
323 - Red Pulse
341 - Slow Easter Sweep
486 - Arrows Going Down
555 - Green Warp
526 - Red with Blue Sweep
541 -Easter Sweeps
565 - Green Pulse
766 - Snow Falling
919 - Blue Flutter
927 - Mom's B-Day
931 - Rainbow Left to Right

The piece was officially dedicated last month, so we're late to the game on this one. But still: Show Your Stripes and... well, actually, that's the only thing would move us to take a trip down there. Kudos, San Jose! But seriously, South Bay, this is a great way to generate some attention to your downtown skyline.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Support the arts


Teachers ask for classroom project materials.
You choose a project to bring to life.
Students learn and thank you with letters and photos. is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.

Proposals range from "Magical Math Centers" ($200) to "Big Book Bonanza" ($320), to "Cooking Across the Curriculum" ($1,100). Any individual can search such proposals by areas of interest, learn about classroom needs, and choose to fund the project(s) they find most compelling. In completing a project, donors receive a feedback package of student photos and thank-you notes, and a teacher impact letter.

Locally: Holiday Fair at SF Center for the Book
Fri Dec 12 6pm-8pm - Sat Dec 13 12pm-5pm
Do your holiday shopping at the Center. We'll have gifts for sale by a wide variety of printers, bookbinders, book artists, and other craftspeople, as well as 2009 calendars from members of the Pacific Center for the Book Arts. Browse the artist's books and journals, handmade and decorative papers, calligraphy and book making supplies, holiday cards, and lots more. See below for a list of participating vendors. Vendor tables are sold out for this event.

From Greg Dewar's N-Judah Chronicles: Holiday Bazaar

If you take the N down Irving Street, by now you've noticed the "Yes We Can" house. Now, the mural alone is cool, but even cooler is the fact that the folks who own the house have sponsored some really nice community events this year.

Earlier they had a fun "Summer Solstice" celebration, and now, for the holidays, they are hosting an "Underground Bazaar" with crafts made by local artisans on Sunday, December 14th, from noon to 5pm.

Not only can you find some potentially fun handmade items to give away for the holidays, you can also meet some of your neighbors and enjoy a fun Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood. Here are the details:
Underground Bazaar December 12th from 12pm to 5pm
25+ Talented Artisans offering their Personal, Hand-Made Treasures!
Pillows, Clothing, Jewelry, Toys, Notebooks, Painted Shoes,
Note Cards, Soaps, Wall Art, Accessories, Candles ... ALL hand made!
*NO charge to attend*
Complimentary Mulled Wine, Hot Chocolate & Cookies

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More from the Simon Collection at the Legion

This should be a "must see" for the holidays. The show compasses two millennia and three continents in a few small rooms. Each piece is not only exquisite but historically important. The show features about 150 works, ranging from ancient Mesopotamia to 19th century France. This is only a small selection the collection which is going to be housed in a new museum on Berlin's "Museum Island" later in the decade.

Head of Nefertiti Egyptian, Tell el Amarna, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten, ca. 1345 B.C. Limestone, H 28.7 cm Gift of James Simon, 1920 Egyptian Museum, Berlin
Lion Relief from the Processional Way in Babylon, Neo-Babylonian, King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 B.C.), 6th century B.C. Colored, glazed clay bricks, partially in relief, glazed additions G1. 306. Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst Munich, German. 1.18 x 2.42 m

The Priest Nichiren in the Snow on Sado Island, from the Life History of Nichiren Series, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi––the majority of James Simon’s Eastern art collection was lost at the end of World War II. Happily, the collection of Ukiyo-e was saved and remains in Berlin. This woodblock print, circa 1831, reveals Kuniyoshi’s brilliant sense of color and design and is one of a series of ten prints created in honor of activist priest Nichiren.

The Gold Medallion with Portrait of Alexander the Great (3rd Century A.D.) was part of a rich treasure trove uncovered by archaeologists northeast of Alexandria in 1902. The circular pendant portrays the Hellenistic ruler Alexander the Great (r. 336-323 B.C.) brandishing a spear and protective shield.

Queen Tiye, the mother of Akhnaton. The reproduction does not do justice to this piece. It's about the size of my thumb but carved with astonishingly realistic detail. Unlike other periods of Egyptian art, the Amarna period allowed artists to individualize their portraits beyond the canon and in this tiny but powerful piece, the Queen's forceful personality still speaks across the intervening centuries. The original bust of Nefertiti is too fragile to handle but the replica is beautifully done.
Eduard and James, who made their fortunes as cotton purveyors, gave one-third of their sizable annual income to charity, supporting both social causes and the museums of their city. In all, they gave about 20,000 objects to the State Museums of Berlin, among them important ancient artifacts from excavations that James supported in Egypt and Babylon.

James Simon, who was a patriotic German as well as a Jew, died in 1932, a year before Adolf Hitler came to power. Simon belonged to Prussia’s Jewish community which was destroyed by the Nazis. In addition to its incalculable human cost, the Holocaust also obliterated knowledge of the key role Jews played in enriching German cultural institutions.

Simon also played a key role in developing Berlin’s museum landscape. He had a close relationship with Wilhelm von Bode, the museum director largely responsible for bringing the museums of the German capital to a position of worldwide eminence. To raise Berlin to the level where it could compete with museum centers like Paris and London, Bode systematically used a combination of public funding and the generosity of private patrons, many of whom were prominent Jewish art collectors.

In 1916, Simon approached Bode again and said he wanted to donate his entire collection. Simon’s second endowment, which he completed in 1920, was a rare event. In the tumultuous period following the war, few patrons were willing to part with as much of their art as he was. All in all, he gave the Berlin Museum over 20,000 pieces and thankfully for us, most of it survived both the Nazi "purge" of anything they deemed Jewish and the violence of WW II.

Thanks to James Simon, the Berlin Egyptian museum has one of the world's richest collections of ancient Egyptian art from Tell el Amarna, and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin has a world-famous reconstruction of the Babylonian Ishtar Gate and its processional way. In addition to the model for the bust of Nefertiti, the Legion of Honor show includes clay brick fragments assembled into the form of lions that led the way to the Ishtar gate. It's hard to believe that this was the work of one individual. His generosity and insight into saving the art of the past have given all of us a priceless gift.

References: Sacramento Bee, 11/28/2008
Atlantic Times, December 2006
SF Sentinel, Nov 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Not a happy Monday

Steven Winn leaves the Chronicle: Another sign of the times; I always enjoyed his writing. Now, the only regular critic we have left is Kenneth Baker.

The other art news of the day is that the Presidio Trust's "revision" of the Fisher Museum at the Presidio is just as much of a fiasco as the older plans.

The Trust’s newest proposal would still place a huge contemporary art museum at the center and top of the historic parade ground on the Presidio’s Main Post and leave the Trust’s massive, upscale hotel and movie theater plans largely unchanged.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The National Endowment for the Arts has just issued Women Artists: 1990-2005 : , a 17-page study about the status of women in the arts. The title of the report is mildly deceptive, in that Women Artists really tracks the challenges faced by women across all the creative professions -- including, among other things, "actors," "writers and authors" and "announcers." Also unfortunately, "visual artists" are inexplicably lumped together in the survey into a single category with "art directors" and "animators." However, the report does make some valuable points:

* The category of "art director, visual artist or animator" is the closest of all the creative professions to achieving gender parity -- it is 47.4 percent female. For the curious, the field with the lowest concentration of women was "architect," with only 22.2 percent. By far the highest concentration of women was to be found among "dancers and choreographers," at 75.9 percent.

* The median annual earnings for women listed as "art directors, fine artists and animators" is $29,000. Median earnings are $36,000 for men in the same fields. Thus, on average, women in the visual arts earn 81 cents to a man’s dollar.

* Despite being equally represented in the field, female "art directors, fine artists and animators" are far more likely to have only part-time employment. According to the NEA’s findings, close to 40 percent of women are part-timers, as opposed to just about 20 percent of men.

* Women Artists reports that earning discrepancies increase for older women -- quite substantially so. "In 2003-2005, women artists aged 18 to 24 earned $0.95 for every $1 made by young men artists. This ratio fell to $0.78 for artists aged 35 to 44, and to $0.67 for 45-to-54-year-olds. Women artists aged 55 to 64 earned only $0.60 for every dollar earned by men artists in that age group."

* The median age of women working in the "art director, visual artist or animator" category is 41 -- five years younger than the median age for men, which is 46. Strangely, the trend among architects is the opposite: The median age for women is 38, six years younger than the median age of 44 for men. (A guess would be that this is due to the relatively recent inroads females have made into architecture, having increased their representation by nearly seven percent in the brief time span covered by Women Artists.)

* The percentage of what women artists earn relative to men varies regionally. In the report’s words, relative to what men make, "female artist earnings were highest in New York and New Hampshire (85 percent in both states), followed closely by Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, where the ratio was 84 percent."

* And yet, perhaps the quirkiest generalization from Women Artists is the following: "women artists tend to concentrate in low-population states." As percentages of the total, the number of women artists is highest in Nebraska, where it approaches 60 percent, followed by similar high concentrations in Iowa, Alaska, New Hampshire and Mississippi. The percentage of woman in the creative labor pool is lowest in California (42.6 percent), Michigan (42.9), New Jersey (42.9), Florida (43.3), Texas (44.2) and New York (45.8).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Grab Bag

Demise of the critic per Roger Ebert:

A newspaper film critic is like a canary in a coal mine. When one croaks, get the hell out. The lengthening toll of former film critics acts as a poster child for the self-destruction of American newspapers, which once hoped to be more like the New York Times and now yearn to become more like the National Enquirer. We used to be the town crier. Now we are the neighborhood gossip.

The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it….

Good take from Roger Ebert (makes me even more glad that there are so many good internet sources to read). But what makes me not so glad is to see the celebrity culture alive and well in the art world. Essay by Linda Yablonksy on just that issue:

With excellent commentary by Edward Winkleman:

The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA is in deep financial trouble. The NY Times thinks that it’s because they put “art ahead of money but maybe it's just because they were poorly managed (sound familiar?)

Tyler Green of Modern Art notes has been reporting on the situation for some time

Liz Haber at Venetian Red has a great article on Goldsworthy’s “Spire” at the Presidio. After reading her article, I think I understand the piece a lot better. She’s also got a good essay on the current hot topic du jour – the return of plundered art.

John Haber on Gilbert and George at the Brooklyn Musuem in NY. I sure wish we had a critic of his caliber looking at the art scene in SF. I always learn about new ways to look at an artist after reading his reviews but even Mr. Haber can’t make me want to go to any of G&G shows.

To end on a non-art note, here's a report of a joyous impromptu concert on our often joyless N Judah line.

*Image of the Eleven Headed Avolokiteshvara from the current exhibit at the Legion

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Leonardo and Mantegna at the Legion

It's not often that we have two exhibits of this quality in the same place and at the same time.

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings form the heart of the Renaissance master’s artistic legacy and continue to fascinate and challenge viewers today. A select group of eleven drawings, as well as one of his most celebrated notebooks, the Codex on the Flight of Birds, is on view at the Legion of Honor from November 15, 2008, to January 4, 2009. Previously exhibited at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, marks the first time that this remarkable group of drawings has been loaned to a U.S. exhibition by the Biblioteca Reale (Royal Library) in Turin, Italy. This small-scale traveling exhibition presents the first opportunity to view these drawings together, outside of Italy. (from the press release)

"The shadow of a great genius is a peculiar thing. Under Rembrandt's shadow, painters flourished to the extent that we can no longer distinguish their work from his own. But Leonardo's was a chilling shadow, too deep, too dark, too overpowering." (Sister Wendy Beckett).

The exhibit of drawings is small but exquisite and a reminder - if we needed reminding - why his work is still looked at today with equal parts of appreciation and reverence. To study his delicate but sure line line, his luminous faces, even the way the most casual sketch is positioned on the paper is worth a year of graduate work in the most prestigious art school.

This other exhibition honors the cultural legacy of James Simon, perhaps the most important patron Berlin has ever known. Over 100 works, borrowed from nine separate museums, spanning from the 3rd millennium BC to the 18th century AD, grace the special exhibition galleries at the Legion of Honor from October 18, 2008, to January 18, 2009. Highlights include the Egyptian, New Kingdom bust Queen Tiy, a lion relief that once lined the Processional Way in ancient Babylon, Andrea Mantegna’s The Virgin with the Sleeping Child, and a 19th-century woodblock print by the great Ukiyo-e master Utagawa Kuniyoshi titled The Priest Nichiren in the Snow on Sado Island.

The The State Museums of Berlin and the Legacy of James Simon
October 18, 2008 — January 18, 2009
Leonardo through January 4th, 2009
SF Legion of Honor

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beach Towels?

Sign of the times or a new use for art images?

For only $50 you can buy a beach towel with an image by Alex Katz, Wiley, Elizabeth Peyton, Jeff Koons (now that does not surprise me), Ed Ruscha, et al.

Actually, the Alex Katz towel doesn’t look half bad and once I read that the proceeds from sales will support Art Production Fund's mission to support major civic artwork projects, while half of all proceeds generated from sales of Koons' towel will also support the Koons Family Institute, a resource of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, I decided to be less snarky.
After all, Renaissance artists painted marriage chests and produced Madonna's to order with the patron specifying the quality of lapiz lazuil and how much gold leaf should be used. What we are producing is along the same lines, although far more transient.