Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, August 29th, 2008

To bring this back to art, I wonder what this will mean for the future of art collecting? Edward Winkleman's blog (as always) has interesting questions with equally interesting dialogue.

In fact, Winkleman's blog is the only one that I've found that discusses the current economy and what it means for artists. I realize that the motto "art saves lives" is one that is near and dear to many artists' hearts but the truth is that poor artists can't pay their bills unless they have a day job. I predict that the fall out in the arts will be as painful as the fall out on Wall Street. Those on the margins, both financially and artistically, will go under. What survives is anybody's guess.

I read on a blog today that AP reported that the Democratic and Republican candidates spent $94,000,000 dollars in August. That’s $94 MILLION dollars in one month. What did they spend over half of this money on? I'll give you three guesses and none of them are art. It's Advertising (which is a sort of bastard form of art, I guess). Here’s a quote from that AP report: “Their campaign finance reports, filed before Saturday's midnight deadline, shows that more than half of their $3-million-a-day spending rate was devoted to advertising that became increasingly negative during the month.”

I guess I should be glad that all this money is flowing around, keeping ad agencies, TV and radio stations and other forms of the media employed. It's a good time to be on some political somebody's staff - at least you'd have a job and probably a well paid one at that. I can't help but think of my studies of the last days of the Roman Empire, when the Imperial government's minions, bloated with money and power, taxed the hard-working peasantry out of existence. What the peasants didn't pay in taxes, they paid in manpower as the Imperial army press ganged men for the army. And guess what - the Persian Empire (aka Iran and Iraq) and religious bigotry were the downfall of the late Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. A survey of archaeological sites in Egypt show that there were hundreds of good-sized villages that just disappeared between the 3rd and 4th century CE. The supposition is that that they were taxed to death while the Emperor and his corrupt court lived the high life. That sure sounds familiar.

The times are too dangerous and the issues too pressing for it to be business as usual. We can't base our vote on who looks good in a suit or how stylish the hair cut is or the latest clever political spin. We truly are looking into the abyss. I'd like to think of a nice, elegant sentence to wrap this post up but I just can't. All of us have lost - some sons and husbands to the insane war "over there," some their life savings and hope of retirement, some (many) our belief in our system of government. I guess I lacked imagination because I never thought it could get this bad. Like a lot of us, I'm frightened - well, not crazy scared - but deeply deeply concerned. Round and round it goes and where it stops, nobody knows.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman: RIP

Dragline: "Oh Luke, you wild, beautiful thing. You crazy handful of nothin'." (from "Cool Hand Luke")

Paul Newman: In memory

September 27, 2008

By Roger Ebert

Paul Newman, a sublime actor and a good man, is dead at 83. The movie legend died Friday at his home in Connecticut, a family spokeswoman said. The cause of death was lung cancer. Newman reportedly told his family he chose to die at home.

He lived a long and active life, encompassing acting and directing for stage and screen, philanthropy, political activism, auto racing, and the "Newman's Own" line of foods.

After serving in World War II as a tail gunner, including missions in the Pacific from an aircraft carrier, Newman studied acting at Kenyon College and quickly found stardom on the stage. His Broadway career began in 1953, co-starring in the hit play "Picnic," and as recently as this spring he was planning to direct a summer theater production of "Of Mice and Men," until illness prevented him.

In 1954, he made his first film, "The Silver Chalice," for which it amused him to to apologize, and for more than 50 years, Newman ruled as one of Hollywood's most-loved stars. There was scarcely a time when he did not have top billing. He was one of the heirs of Marlon Brando and the other late-1940s Method actors, but his acting seemed more naturalistic and less stylized. In mid-career, he played more anti- heroes than heroes. He made the transition quickly from a young heartthrob to one of the aristocrats of his profession.

He made some 60 films. He was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won for "The Color of Money" (1986). He also won the Academy's Honorary Award in 1986 and its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994. His Oscar came for playing the character Fast Eddie Felson, a pool hustler. He was also nominated for the film that introduced the character, "The Hustler" (1961). He made five films as a director, including four starring his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward. One of them, "Rachel, Rachel" (1968) won Woodward a nomination for best actress and her husband one for best director.

In addition to acting, Newman found success in auto racing, food retailing and political activism. His last work as an actor came this year, appearing in the INDYCar series season preview. Ironically, this most graceful of actors called racing "the first thing I found I had any grace in." He started racing professionally in 1972, was still racing in 1995, and was anything but a gentleman amateur: In 1979, he finished second at Le Mans.

In 1982, he began a line of food products under the label Newman's Own, starting with his own recipe for a salad dressing and adding spaghetti sauce, salsa, and of course popcorn. "The embarrassing thing is that my salad dressing is out-grossing my films," he told the Times of London earlier this year. "All profits, recently passing the $250 million mark, went to charity. They helped him and Woodward to establish the "Hole in the Wall Gang" summer camps for sick children. There are now camps in Connecticut, Ireland, France and Israel. His company's motto: "Shameless exploitation for the comon good."

An outspoken liberal, Newman placed 19th on Richard Nixon's "enemies list," and cited that as one of his proudest achievements.

How can you choose Newman's best roles? He almost always had his choice of films, working with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet, Martin Ritt, Richard Brooks, Otto Preminger, Arthur Penn, Alfred Hitchcock, George Roy Hill, Robert Altman, and the Coen brothers.

He had a huge hit in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), co- starring with Robert Redford. They teamed again in "The Sting" (1973). His acting nominations came for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "The Hustler," (1961), "Hud" (1963), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "Absence of Malice" (1081), "The Verdict" (1982), "The Color of Money" (1986), "Nobody's Fool" (1994) and "Road to Perdition" (2002).

Other important performances were as Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), as Billy the Kid in "The Left-Handed Gun" (1958), "Exodus" (1960), "Torn Curtain" (1966), "Slap Shot" (1977), "Fat Man and Little Boy" (1989), as Huey Long in "Blaze" (1989), with Woodward in "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge" (1980), and the Coens' "The Hudsucker Proxy" (1994).

His last major film role was in "The Road to Perdition" (2002), filmed in Chicago. He played a mob boss, co-starring with Tom Hanks, who told me he was intimidated: "Oh, lordy! You can't have a history of going to the movies and noit be. Seeing his movies was a big time for me. So to be there on the set with him ... No. 1, he's much taller than you think he's going to be. And No. 2, those eyes. The first take
on the first day, I'm not thinking about my work, I'm thinking, 'Holy cow! I'm in a movie looking into Paul Newman's eyes. How did this happen?'

He did some TV work and voice-overs for animation before announcing his retirement from acting in 2007, telling ABC: "You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me."

I met him several times, most memorably in 1968, on the set of "Butch Cassidy." Yes, his eyes were blue. Very blue. He was genial, relaxed; it felt more like hanging out than doing an interview. Between scenes, he held court in his trailer, sometimes sipping a beer. He was not closed-off and self-protective like many superstars, not seeming overly impressed with himself. One reason he and Woodward lived in Connecticut, he often said, was to have a more normal life than was possible in Hollywood.

It was that sense of accessibility that audiences responded to. In a reconsideration of "Cool Hand Luke," I observed: "Could another actor than Paul Newman have played the role and gotten away with it? Of the stars at the time, I would not be able to supply one. Warren Beatty? Steve McQueen? Lee Marvin? They would have the presence and stamina, but would have lacked the smile. The physical presence of Paul Newman is the reason this movie works: The smile, the innocent blue eyes, the lack of strutting. Look at his gentle behavior in the touching scene with his mother (Jo Van Fleet). Both know they will never see each other again, and in a way are apologizing." The movie's hardened character Dragline describes Luke as "you wild, beautiful thing." Could he have described Marvin that way?

Newman was born in 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. From 1949 to 1958 he was married to Jackie Witte. They had a son, Scott, and daughters Susan and Stephanie. His son died of a drug overdose in 1978, and in his memory Newman started a drug abuse center. He married Woodward in 1958. They had three daughters, Elinor, Melissa and Claire.

In a book about the actor, the writer Lawrence J. Quirk quotes Newman: "I'd like to be remembered as a guy who tried - tried to be part of his times, tried to help people communicate with one another, tried to find some decency in his own life, tried to extend himself as a human being. Someone who isn't complacent, who doesn't cop out."

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia.com. Both "The Hustler" and "Cool Hand Luke" are in the Great Movies collection at rogerebert.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dana Frankfort: Aurobora Press

Faith / Yes / Blah Blah :
New Works on Paper by Dana Frankfort
September 2 - October 11
Without experimentation, no discovery;
Without discovery, no regeneration

Aurobora Press is one of my favorite galleries. Formerly a turn-of-the century firehouse, it's been beautifully crafted into a marvelous space to view contemporary prints, many of which were made there.

As a calligrapher and former commercial lettering artist, I found this work extremely exciting. I have just started to incorporate text into some of my art work and seeing her pieces got me thinking in all sorts of new ways. Her letters are printed, printed over and handwritten to create pieces of calligraphic complexity. It's not easy to do something new with letters, to create pieces that use text in a painterly way and not have it degenerate into neo-calligraphy loops. By letting go of the form of the beautiful letter, and focusing on shape and texture, Frankfort moves text into new realms.

147 Natoma, T: 415.546.7880; Open: M-Sa: 11AM - 5PM
*Images and motto from the Aurobora website

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bruce McGaw at SFAI

Bruce McGaw: Paintings and Drawings, a Solo Exhibition, to Open at SFAI
Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Tuesday, 23 September 2008, the opening reception for Bruce McGaw: Paintings and Drawings, a solo exhibition of work by longtime SFAI faculty member Bruce McGaw, will be held from 7:00 to 9:00pm at the Walter and McBean Galleries on SFAI’s 800 Chestnut Street campus. Free and open to the public (Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 11:00am to 6:00pm), the exhibition will be on view from 23 September to 4 October 2008 at the Walter and McBean Galleries.

“For over five decades, Bruce McGaw’s paintings have explored and embraced his keen interest in the grand history of European painting, an interest often expressed through a carefully modulated deployment of three related elements: figure, color, and ideas of pictorial architecture. After 1990, though color remains a significant element that entices and rewards the eye, it is the figures and their narrative implications that come much closer to the work’s pictorial and philosophical foreground.”

—from SFAI faculty member Mark Van Proyen’s exhibition essay, “Picturing the Life of Color: The Art of Bruce McGaw

Images from: http://www.natsoulas.com/html/collection/beat/bruceMcgaw/bruceMcGaw.html

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Visits and Revisits

I've had a very busy couple of days. First of all, today I met Julie, the delightful owner of a great blog called TangoBaby. We walked up and down Valencia Street, stopping frequently while she photographed all the signs of urban life. I had my camera but decided that I would learn from a master photographer (mistress?) and just watch what she chose to shoot. One of the great joys of blogging is the ability to meet people of like minds and I certainly had a great time. I like seeing what other people chose to photograph. I'm working on some new paintings which incorporate text, lettering and images and seeing how those items are incorporated in street art - sometimes in an artless way and some times in a completely conscious way was fascinating.


Friday was just about the last day of Women Impressionists at the Legion. I went with my friend Judy and while the place was crowded, I did get to revisit several old favorites and refresh my memory about pieces that I had forgotten. It was a pleasure to "explain" painting to Judy who doesn't know very much about art or technique. I'm afraid that I held forth in quite the opinioned way; in fact, at one point, I had a bit of an audience. Some thought I was a docent but I had to beg off and say that I was just sharing my views which were informed by my current struggles with oil. I now notice texture against canvas and individual brush stokes. The pastels just amazed me (again). Pastel is a very difficult medium and her variation of texture and stroke is simply marvelous. The flesh areas are carefully worked but not overworked and there's a joyous bravura in the treatment of the background and the clothing. Later, we went for lunch at Burma Star - making this another multi-cultural day in San Francisco.

Yesterday, I revisited the Ming exhibit at the Asian. Like the exhibit at the Legion, this would close on the 21st and there were crowds but I knew what I wanted to see. I've been reading about Wang Hui, one of the most prolific and talented painters of the late 17th century and a star of the Ming period. I thought that there were one or two examples of his work at the show. I particularly wanted to reexamine the amazing large hanging scrolls, which are filled with the most exquisite detail. I found myself wondering about the process of painting something this large. I know about the materials, the ink, the silk and the paper but I could not find any information on how long the process took. I couldn't see any area which showed obvious breaks that can happen in any water based media. Yet, the wall paintings were so complex that it's impossible to imagine that they were painted in one session.

I thought about how tragic it was for China's future that she was not able to develop further her early scientific and geographic discoveries. Zheng He made seven voyages all over Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean in the name of the emperor. Yet, upon his death, the emperor closed China to further exploration. China was able to live on past glories for a couple of centuries. Had China been allowed to develop further, she might have been able to avoid the long disaster of the 19th century, the opium forced on her by British military superiority and the loss of so much territory to Japan and the European powers. Given China's tragic history vis-a-vis the West, I don't blame her current crowing over our misfortunes. I don't like it but I do understand.



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Robert Hughes on Damien Hirst

Now that I've looked back on my days at the SFAI, I understand better the roots of my disgust at much of the contemporary art world. Hatofsky, Stiegelmeyer, Deshays, and Getz believed that making art yourself mattered, that being a better artist was what you strove for and that honesty toward yourself, your peers and the world was of prime importance. They taught me that the hand of the maker needed to be present on your artwork and that if you signed your name on it, you had actually made it. Robert Hughes says it better than I can:

By now, with the enormous hype that has been spun around it, there probably isn't an earthworm between John O'Groats and Land's End that hasn't heard about the auction of Damien Hirst's work at Sotheby's on Monday and Tuesday - the special character of the event being that the artist is offering the work directly for sale, not through a dealer. This, of course, is persiflage. Christie's and Sotheby's are now scarcely distinguishable from private dealers anyway: they in effect manage and represent living artists, and the Hirst auction is merely another step in cutting gallery dealers out of the loop.

If there is anything special about this event, it lies in the extreme disproportion between Hirst's expected prices and his actual talent. Hirst is basically a pirate, and his skill is shown by the way in which he has managed to bluff so many art-related people, from museum personnel such as Tate's Nicholas Serota to billionaires in the New York real-estate trade, into giving credence to his originality and the importance of his "ideas". This skill at manipulation is his real success as an artist. He has manoeuvred himself into the sweet spot where wannabe collectors, no matter how dumb (indeed, the dumber the better), feel somehow ignorable without a Hirst or two.

Actually, the presence of a Hirst in a collection is a sure sign of dullness of taste. What serious person could want those collages of dead butterflies, which are nothing more than replays of Victorian decor? What is there to those empty spin paintings, enlarged versions of the pseudo-art made in funfairs? Who can look for long at his silly sub-Bridget Riley spot paintings, or at the pointless imitations of drug bottles on pharmacy shelves? No wonder so many business big-shots go for Hirst: his work is both simple-minded and sensationalist, just the ticket for newbie collectors who are, to put it mildly, connoisseurship-challenged and resonance-free. Where you see Hirsts you will also see Jeff Koons's balloons, Jean-Michel Basquiat's stoned scribbles, Richard Prince's feeble jokes and pin-ups of nurses and, inevitably, scads of really bad, really late Warhols. Such works of art are bound to hang out together, a uniform message from our fin-de-si├Ęcle decadence.

Hirst's fatuous religious references don't hurt either. "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever", the sale is titled. One might as well be in Forest Lawn, contemplating a loved one - which, in effect, Hirst's embalmed dumb friends are, bisected though they may be. Consider the Golden Calf in this auction, pickled, with a gold disc on its head and its hoofs made of real gold. For these bozos, gold is religion, Volpone-style. "Good morning to the day; and next, my gold! Open the shrine, that I may see my saint!"

His far-famed shark with its pretentious title, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, is "nature" for those who have no conception of nature, in whose life nature plays no real part except as a shallow emblem, a still from Jaws. It might have had a little more point if Hirst had caught it himself. But of course he didn't and couldn't; the job was done by a pro fisherman in Australia, and paid for by Charles Saatchi, that untiring patron of the briefly new.

The publicity over the shark created the illusion that danger had somehow been confronted by Hirst, and come swimming into the gallery, gnashing its incisors. Having caught a few large sharks myself off Sydney, Montauk and elsewhere, and seen quite a few more over a lifetime of recreational fishing, I am underwhelmed by the blither and rubbish churned out by critics, publicists and other art-world denizens about Hirst's fish and the existential risks it allegedly symbolises.

One might as well get excited about seeing a dead halibut on a slab in Harrods food hall. Living sharks are among the most beautiful creatures in the world, but the idea that the American hedge fund broker Steve Cohen, out of a hypnotised form of culture-snobbery, would pay an alleged $12m for a third of a tonne of shark, far gone in decay, is so risible that it beggars the imagination. As for the implied danger, it is worth remembering that the number of people recorded as killed by sharks worldwide in 2007 was exactly one. By comparison, a housefly is a ravening murderous beast. Maybe Hirst should pickle one, and throw in a magnifying glass or two.

Of course, $12m would be nothing to Cohen, but the thought of paying that price for a rotten fish is an outright obscenity. And there are plenty more where it came from. For future customers, Hirst has a number of smaller sharks waiting in large refrigerators, and one of them is currently on show in its tank of formalin in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Inert, wretched and wrinkled, and already leaking the telltale juices of its decay, it is a dismal trophy of - what? Nothing beyond the fatuity of art-world greed. The Met should be ashamed. If this is the way America's greatest museum brings itself into line with late modernist decadence, then heaven help it, for the god Neptune will not.

The now famous diamond-encrusted skull, lately unveiled to a gawping art world amid deluges of hype, is a letdown unless you believe the unverifiable claims about its cash value, and are mesmerised by mere bling of rather secondary quality; as a spectacle of transformation and terror, the sugar skulls sold on any Mexican street corner on the Day of the Dead are 10 times as vivid and, as a bonus, raise real issues about death and its relation to religious belief in a way that is genuinely democratic, not just a vicarious spectacle for money groupies such as Hirst and his admirers.

It certainly suggests where Hirst's own cranium is that his latest trick with the skull is to show photos of the thing in London's White Cube gallery, just ordinary photo reproductions made into 100cm x 75cm silkscreen prints and then sprinkled (yay, Tinkerbell, go for it!) with diamond dust, and to charge an outrageous $10,000 each for them. The edition size is 250. You do the maths. But, given the tastes of the collectoriat, he may well get away with this - in the short run. Even if his auction makes the expected tonne of money, it will bid fair to be one of the less interesting cultural events of 2008.

* Robert Hughes
* The Guardian,
* Saturday September 13 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Julius Hatofsky (SFAI)

I'm still working through my flood of memories. I went looking for Google references to Julius Hotofsky and found (alas) that he's passed away and on January 1st, my birthday. But I remember my classes with him very well. He was the teacher for my first life drawing class. When "confronted" with my first nude, I froze and think that I drew everything in the room BUT the model. It was very bad. When Julius came by, his only comment was "first time?" I remember nodding dumbly but even more determined to master the complexities of drawing the human figure. It was an exciting day when the class was allowed to graduate from using only pencil to using other media. I fell upon ink, conte crayon, different grades of charcoal and brushes like - well, a starving person upon food. I remember the feeling when I got it right, when the combination of ink, goache and paper coalesced into a decent image, the almost sensual feel of paint slathered over the figure, the joy of putting down images and patterns and beginning to discover my own path to making the work move out beyond the edges of the paper. I dug up some of my drawings that I still have and think - well, not bad, not bad at all. Thank you Julius. I still keep the faith.

Obit from the Chronicle
Sunday, January 22, 2006

Until his death earlier this month, Julius Hatofsky may have been one of the greatest living artists that nobody ever heard of.

Mr. Hatofsky, an Abstract Expressionist and a longtime instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute, died at the age of 83 without ever gaining popular recognition of his immense talent. "I had long thought Hatofsky one of the most unjustly neglected painters on the American art scene,'' wrote Hilton Kramer, the prominent and difficult-to-please art critic, in a 1994 New York Observer review of an exhibit. "But now suddenly I realized he was a real master whose work almost nobody knows."

It was partly by choice. He refused, said those close to him, to kowtow to the fickle trends dictated by art critics, museum curators, gallery owners, dealers and housewives needing something for the wall to go with the couch.

"He was totally incapable of any kind of self-promotion,'' Kramer said in a phone interview.

"Had he sought publicity, he would have been one of the canons of the art world, the kind you see in art history books,'' said Susan Hillhouse, chief curator of the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, where he had his last show. "He was more interested in art-making than art-marketing."

Mr. Hatofsky not only didn't chase the limelight or the easy buck, but he turned down offers from museums and galleries that he felt wouldn't justly represent his work, said Hillhouse.

"Julius was very much his own person,'' said his second wife, Linda, his companion for more than 30 years. "When he was supposed to say 'yes,' the word 'no' always came out of his mouth."

Hillhouse felt pessimistic when she approached him last year to invite him to exhibit. To her surprise, he said yes. The show, his first in a decade, coincidentally closed on Jan. 1, the day of his death after a long battle with cancer.

Inspired largely by William Blake -- the 18th-century poet, painter and engraver whose artwork was also unappreciated during his lifetime -- Mr. Hatofsky's oil paintings are notable for their rich color palette and an internal structure contrary to the improvisational style of contemporary abstract painters. The size of his canvas was also remarkable, with several 12 feet by 30 feet.

Mr. Hatofsky's art, Kramer wrote, "resembled that of no other living artist."

Though Mr. Hatofsky's vast oil canvases were unique, his is also the classic story of the struggling artist.

"There are many, many accomplished artists who you never hear about," Kramer said.

Who "makes it" in the competitive art world is often more luck than talent.

"It's a roll of the dice,'' he said. "A lot depends on fate: who you meet, if the media happens to notice you ...."

Which is not to say that Mr. Hatofsky died in anonymity, a neglected Vincent van Gogh tucked away in his home in Vallejo.

For 33 years, Mr. Hatofsky taught painting and figure drawing to generations of aspiring artists at the San Francisco Art Institute. He befriended many, treating them to a round of drinks and a good cigar at the pub, and inviting hundreds at a time to standing-room-only parties at his 5,600-square-foot SoMa loft. He rented the loft for decades, until the dot-com boom of the mid-1990s pushed him and his wife to a Victorian house in remote Vallejo, the nearest town to San Francisco where he could afford to buy a house.

"He was like a friend who was a teacher,'' said Philip Govedare, a student of his in the late 1970s who is now an associate art professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. "He had a real big following with students. They could feel he was the real thing.''

Tall, handsome, modest and soft-spoken, Mr. Hatofsky exuded a quiet charisma and kindness that made him a magnet for students, said a former colleague, Bruce McGaw, who has known him since the mid-1960s. When Mr. Hatofsky retired in 1995, alumni contributed $20,000 to publish a catalog of his work. And dozens flew in from across the country to see the show at the Triton, gushing to Hillhouse what an inspiration he had been to them.

"He imparted a real passion about art, a vision about the magic that can come out of something you create,'' Govedare said.

Though unwilling to play the politics and make the compromises required to make it in the art world, Mr. Hatofsky was not such a saint that he didn't resent the sight of mediocre paintings hanging in museums or a hack's work selling out at galleries, said Bill Scharf, an artist and close friend for more than 50 years.

"There's an awful lot of awful art around,'' Scharf said. "We had a lot of good times laughing'' at it.

"I guess the choice could have been made to make a lot of money,'' he said. "It's a different kind of caring ... . Jerry and I wanted vitality and beautiful color and strength in a painting. That's different than what a gallery dealer would think is salable."

Back in the 1950s when Scharf and he met, Mr. Hatofsky went by the first name Jerry, a nickname given to him by his aunt because he was so industrious, a "Jerry on the job," said his wife. At the time, Scharf and Mr. Hatofsky were in New York City just starting their careers but working for food and rent as museum security guards, Scharf at the Museum of Modern Art and Mr. Hatofsky at the Whitney, then located next door on 54th Street. It was one of many odd jobs Mr. Hatofsky had since graduating from high school and giving up a college scholarship to work to support his family.

He was born on April Fool's Day 1922 in the upstate New York town of Ellenville and grew up in the historic Astoria neighborhood in Queens. His dad died when he was a child, so his mother took in sewing to support the three children.

After high school, Mr. Hatofsky worked on the docks and sold men's socks at Saks for several years before enlisting at age 20 in the Army to fight in World War II. A foot soldier later promoted to sergeant, Mr. Hatofsky was part of the 82nd Airborne Division, landing by glider behind enemy lines in the invasion of Normandy, and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

Upon returning to New York, Mr. Hatofsky enrolled as a student at the Art Students League, attending classes during the day while working nights as a police officer until his graduation in 1950. As an officer, he told Scharf, he never wrote a ticket, never cuffed anyone and never drew his gun.

Though he didn't get the attention he deserved in life, Scharf said, his commitment to his art never wavered.

"He was not rich or famous,'' said his friend. "But he was successful because his art is going to live on."

image from the Chronicle

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

San Francisco Art Institute

Back before God was a child, I went here. I haven't been back in years and I wasn't prepared for the flood of memories and feelings that my visit last week called up. I remember my first time here. I was with my parents who did not approve at all. But then, they didn't approve of me anyway so that was nothing new. A woman came out of one of the corridors; she was dressed in paint splattered jeans and smelled of turpentine. I knew immediately that this was the life for me- that was the look and smell of freedom. I loved the place, worked nights to attend classes in the day and have always regretted that I never found any advice or direction from any of my teachers. It was certainly a pre-feminist place where women, if they couldn't be decorative or subordinate, weren't very important. And I wasn't very important. These were the days of art for art's sake and making a living from art - if you were a woman - was something that few did. Some did, of course - the mega talented like Jay De Feo and Joan Brown. But they also had men who supported and helped them. I didn't fall into that category. It's funny to come back to a place that meant so much to me and yet, gave me so little. Of course, I was young and ignorant but not so ignorant that I didn't see the traps laid out for women. I avoided some of them, not all. The one trap that I couldn't get around was lack of money. When I first started at school, the tuition was $50 a semester! But the Board of Directors hired a fancy and expensive Italian architect who had big and expensive plans for the place. I don't remember what the tuition was during my last semester. All I remember is that I could no longer afford it. If SFAI had a counseling department then as it does now, I might have been pointed in the direction of SF State and gotten my teaching credential. I always wanted to be a teacher but by the time I got all my classes in - many years and a life time later -- it was too late. It wasn't too late in 1969 but no body told me that. Sometimes trips down memory lane are bitter sweet. I think that this one is more bitter than sweet.

But I am still painting. I never gave up.

San Francisco Art Institute

I remember this room very well and the room across from it. I spent my happiest hours in those rooms, learning to draw and paint. I'm looking over my transcripts and I didn't get very good grades my first semester. But by my second semester, I was pulling in A's and B+ and I was so proud. The rooms haven't changed much - maybe a new coat of paint and a hell of a lot more noise from various boom boxes around the room. I remember us working in silence which is the way I still work. Autre temps, autre mores.

I would have made a good teacher, instead of a good but rebellious and bored administrator/buyer, whatever. I was fired or on the verge of being fired from almost every job I had in the last XXX years because I was the wrong person in the wrong place. I always did a good job but my supervisors hated me and I returned the hate and didn't have the skill to hide it. But then, I think that I really am an artist and have that kind of temperament which never fits well in the world. It's taken me a lot of years to realize that and to believe myself when I say "I am an artist." For a women of my generation and with my upbringing, that's been no easy task.

San Francisco Art Institute, Take 2

None of this was built when I was here. The whole back yard was a overgrown, charming garden of huge trees, wild grasses, interspersed with student built structures. I heard that some students camped out during the year, I don't doubt it.
Behind and below this part of the new, modern concrete structure was the old sculpture shed; nothing fancy. I remember a ramshackle, open ended room with two bins, one for plaster of Paris and the other, a tangle of wire to be used for armatures. One student worked on a continually changing, evolving piece the whole time I was there. I wonder if he went into the video game business because his wild animal forms would be a perfect match for mutant alien life forms.
I remember the old cafeteria which is probably hidden by the new concrete building. We would walk through a couple of rickety French doors onto the back yard. I was young and lost, working nights and getting no help on what to do with my life, how to make a living or how to continue being an artist. It was even more difficult in those pre-feminist days. But confusion and concern about the future are not limited to the 20 year old that I was in 1965. When I was leaving, a young man, having heard me tell my friend that it had been 40 years since I was here, asked me how I survived. I gave him a very abbreviated version of my life and how I paid the rent. He did not seem very optimistic about his future and was not too joyous about his experience at SFAI. The world is hard on artists and is probably going to get more so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures in oil painting

I'm continuing to explore oil painting and try my version of more traditional styles. I am not that unhappy with the results but I know that I have a long ways to go before I really know what I'm doing. I like working with figures and I have a loose conception of doing a series around my photos of restaurants and Chinatown. I've already done a couple of pieces but I'm constantly amazed at how long each one takes. The longer I paint, the slower I get and the more revisions each piece goes through. I remember back when I was working when I would "turn out" a piece a week. Now I look at those pieces -mostly abstract - and realize that I was just flinging paint on canvas, using painting as a way to keep from going postal in a very difficult job. Now, I still fling paint but I also stroke, dab, smear, scrumble and in between, do a lot of swearing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Linda Fong" at Ratio 3

Ratio 3 is a new gallery (to me) and I enjoyed the current show. The recent exhibit at the Oakland Museum and Joanna Mattera's work have made me more appreciate of geometric work, even though this work skirts the edges of that style. The end wall pieces, with their bright colors and geometric forms, worked particularly well in the narrow space. Standing in the middle of the various colored geometric pieces was rather like revisiting the 60’s sans the psychedelic drugs. The edge to edge wall installations gave the pieces more presence than I think they would have if shown individually.

However, I’ve seen a lot of SF hipster art and while the narrow gallery space buzzed with the geometric pieces, I found the SF hipster attitude pieces more than a bit – dare I say – boring? Painted surfboards, cartoons, video art. Ho hum, been there, seen that.

However, it turns out that I’ve been hoaxed. When is a Linda Fong not Linda? Well, apparently, when she’s a he - a "hoax" right in the best SF trickster tradition.


“Add Lydia Fong to the list of pseudonyms used by San Francisco artist Barry McGee. A solo exhibition A Moment for Reflection: new works by Lydia Fong opened stealthily at Ratio 3 on Fri, Sept. 5. Up until two week ago the Ratio 3 website had the show simply listed as ’something by somebody’.”

A Moment for Reflection:
new work by Lydia Fong: September 5 - October 18, 2008

1447 Stevenson Street • San Francisco • California • 94103 USA
Wednesday - Saturday, 11am - 6pm and by appointment: http://www.ratio3.org/show.
images from website

Friday Grab Bag - a bit of everything

Kenneth Baker (SF Chron's art critic) actually reviews some art. Of course, none of it is from local painters. We aren't good enough for His Highness but it's better than nothing (I guess). The galleries are busting with new shows but Kenny Boy only condescends to review three - one woman (living in NY), one male (dead), another male (German). Gee whiz - am I sensing a trend here?

Eva Lake continues her exploration of being a contemporary artist with marvelous video interviews:

SF Gate has an article on hidden art spaces - interesting article, resourceful artists, (mostly) crappy art: (oh well.)

New reviews up at Bay Area Art Quake

This is depressing: apparently, I'm a cross between Ray Liota and Jamie Lee Curtis as she is today. (link via blog RIghtReading)

My horoscope says that "At this time of year, you will become more concerned with personal matters and less with the world at large." I can't say I agree as I'm watching the poll results between Obama and McCain with mounting horror.

Binnur's Turkish Cookbook has a recipe for strawberry compote that I might try.

One of my favorite food blogs has a recipe for figs and cheese that has me drooling on my keyboard: http://zoomiestation.blogspot.com/

New age instrumental music (via Free Albums Galore)
The best of the three is his latest CD, Point of No Return. It is a many layered work that works best on tracks like “Pyraminx” which evokes a cinematic sound

For those who like classical vocals, Charlie Handelmania has a gorgeous selection of Richard Tucker's singing up at:

Election HQ up at Harvard University Press Blog: http://harvardpress.typepad.com/

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th

Blowin' In The Wind

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Copyright ©1962; renewed 1990 Special Rider Music


image via SFMarty

Sunday, September 7, 2008

First Thursday's Offerings

Guillermo Bart at Gallery 415 (49 Geary)

Chilean born artist Guillermo Bert's signature style is beautifully executed artworks with harsh political messages. The opulent finishes of gold and glossy jewel colors against the stark and hard edge laser cut barcodes with their blunt irony are a perfect example of the dichotomies he explores.

Julie Heffernan at Catherine Clark (through September 27th). Her work combines Bosh, surrealism and an ironic look at modern life to create works that are disturbing and beautiful

Other New Shows @ 49 Geary:

1) Brian Gross Fine Art (fifth floor): New work by Roy Thurston; work by Anna Valentina Murch

2) Gregory Lind Gallery (fifth floor): "Beacons, Floaters and Lost Objects," works by Sarah Walker.

3) Haines Gallery (fifth floor): "Gold Mountain," sculptures by Zhan Wang, "Library of Dust," large-scale photographs by David Maisel.

4) Mark Wolfe (suite 202): "Waiting for the Water," sculptures by Jeremy Mora.

5) Robert Tat Gallery: "Pictoral Modernist," photographs by Karl Struss.

6) Steven Wolf Fine Arts (suite 411): "Let's Pretend," works by Charles Fahlen.

other gallery openings:
1) Cafe Royale: 800 Post; "When is Now," paintings by Christina Empedocles and Leah Rosenberg.
2) Dolby Chadwick: 210 Post; Paintings by Emanuel Bernstone.
3) Frey Norris Gallery: 456 Geary; "Experimental Studio," three projects by Shen Shaomin.
4) Hang Art: 556 Sutter; "Colorfields, Colored Skies," new paintings by Addie Shevlin.
5) Hang Art Annex: 567 Sutter; "Intentionally Unintentional," new works by Hang Art artists.
6) Jenkins Johnson Art Gallery: 464 Sutter; "The Figure Today," group show.

7) Marx and Zavaterro: 77 Geary; "In God We Trust," works by Andrew Schoultz.This looks particularly interesting as Schoultz takes on America, George Washington and the War in Iraq

8) Meridian Gallery: 535 Powell; "Art of Democracy: War and Empire," group show.
9) 111 Minna Gallery: 111 Minna; "Golden," Recent work by Serena Cole and Tahiti Pehrson.
10) Rare Device: 1845 Market; "Sleep Walk" new work by Amy Earles.
11) Rena Bransten Gallery: 77 Geary; "New Work," photographs by Matthias Hoch. "Leave it on the Dance Floor," paintings by Joseph Park.
12) Trogonon Gallery: 77 Geary, second floor. "Transitions, Transformations, and Transcendence Hybrid," works by Xuchi Naungayan Eggleton; "Adventure Art II-XIX," by Terra Fuller.

images from gallery websites; list from the Examiner; comments my own.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Banned and Recovered

Banned & Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship

an exhibition at two venues

An exhibit that is quite relevant, given our politics
It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. — Judy Blume, children's book author

Curated by Hanna Regev, the exhibit features work from more than 60 artists working in a variety of media. With most artists interpreting a banned book of their choice, the project provides a unique forum for visual artists to respond to the suppression of literary art. The exhibit, with different work on display at each location, will run through November 26 in San Francisco and December 31 in Oakland. Participating artists include Enrique Chagoya, Sandow Birk, Mildred Howard, Emory Douglas, Naomie Kremer and many others.

Books that have been suppressed constitute a shockingly wide selection, ranging from colonial-era novels to acknowledged contemporary classics—books such as Fanny Hill, Tom Sawyer, The Color Purple, and the Harry Potter novels. "What's most troubling," says AAMLO chief curator Rick Moss, "is how arbitrary the process is. In keeping with the missions of our two organizations, we all felt this was the most thought-provoking and appropriate way to explore this issue, while dovetailing with the ALA's 2008 theme 'free people read freely.'"

Curator Hanna Regev works with many Bay Area cultural organizations and art galleries, producing public programs in history, art, and museum practice. Regev serves on the board of the First Amendment Project, and is a past president of the Northern California Council of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Regev’s view is that: "Collectively, the work initiates an important undertaking—the recovery of fragments of our censored history. We felt that the pairing of visual and graphic artists with these banned and threatened books was a natural one. After all, what better group to interpret suppressed works than visual artists, who are already so attuned to the threat of censorship. The show is a powerful reminder of the fragility of our freedoms, many of which are being chipped away by the Patriot Act. It is a powerful testament to the irrepressible creative spirit."

Public programs in conjunction with the exhibitions

Four panel discussions have been designed specifically for the exhibit, addressing a variety of topics. All are free to the public.

Sept. 28, 2 pm, San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium: Dispelling Dirt: Sex, Gender and Censorship
Artists Kara Maria, Nigel Poor, Jan Wurm, and Alejandra Chaverri

Oct. 18, 3 pm, AAMLO: Mark Twain and the Censors
Victor Fischer, editor Mark Twain papers, Bancroft Library; artist Milton Bowens

Nov. 22, 3 pm, AAMLO: Literary Works on Trial
Jan Wurm moderator; David Greene, Director, First Amendment Project; artists Richard Kamler, Eileen Moderbacher, Justin Hoover, Barbara Milman

Dec. 6, 3 pm, AAMLO: African American Writers and Censorship
Jeanne Powell, poet; artists Emory Douglas, Favianna Rodriguez, Bryan Keith Thomas

Two Locations:

San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro St, San Francisco: From Aug. 15-Nov. 26, 2008 And African American Museum and Library at Oakland
Sept. 5-Dec. 31, 2008
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat, 12-5:30

images from SF Center for the Book

There are a ton of new shows opening this week and I hope to review a couple of them - once our heat wave breaks!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fifth Annual Roadworks Steamroller Prints

It’s time for the Fifth Annual Roadworks Steamroller Prints. Come to SF Center for the Book and see an real steamroller make prints and enjoy all the great art and wares from local vendors. Brave our recent heat wave and support the Center and the local book making community.

Local artists and members of the community convene at this annual free street fair to create unique large-scale linoleum block carvings printed with a three-ton steamroller.

Roadworks: Steamroller Prints will bring together 6 local artists, Patricia Curtan, Emory Douglas, Jason Jagel, Rik Olson, Favianna Rodriguez, and San Quentin State Prison students of Katya McCulloch with Art Hazelwood, will create original linocut prints to be pressed by the steamroller. You can find out more about the artists and see some of their work here.

In addition to steamroller printmaking, there will be free children's activities, music and dozens of book arts vendors selling their wares. At the Roadworks: Steamroller Prints street fair you can buy a "little lino" steamroller print; chose from an array of handmade books, gifts and prints; get a bite to eat; take a tour of the SFCB gallery and pull your very own letterpress print.

Potrero Hill's street fair will take place Saturday, September 20, 2008, 12 noon to 5 pm, on De Haro Street between 16th and 17th streets.

When you are there, visit the exhibit in the Center on censorship. Given the Republican choice of VP, if they win, we can look forward to more censorship, book banning and maybe even book burning.

Banned & Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship
an exhibition at two venues

Books that have been suppressed constitute a shockingly wide selection, ranging from colonial-era novels to acknowledged contemporary classics—books such as Fanny Hill, Tom Sawyer, The Color Purple, and the Harry Potter novels. "What's most troubling," says AAMLO chief curator Rick Moss, "is how arbitrary the process is. In keeping with the missions of our two organizations, we all felt this was the most thought-provoking and appropriate way to explore this issue, while dovetailing with the ALA's 2008 theme 'free people read freely.'"

San Francisco Center for the Book
Aug. 15-Nov. 26, 2008
Public reception Fri., Aug. 15, 6-8pm
Gallery hours: Mon-Fri, 10-5; Sat, 12-4

African American Museum and Library at Oakland
Sept. 5-Dec. 31, 2008
Public reception Fri., Sept. 5, 6:30-9:00pm
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat, 12-5:30

Support your local artist..

SF Gate has a long article up about alternative spaces in SF. It's what a lot of us do in order to get our art seen...

"These spaces have the kind of intimacy that allows for a lot of experimentation," says Aimee Le Duc, associate director of the nonprofit art organization Southern Exposure. It has been a leader in supporting such projects; most notably, its Alternative Exposure grant (started in 2007) has this year given $50,000 to 18 galleries, including Invisible Venue, the Spare Room Project, 667 Shotwell and McCaw's space....

Many of the gallerists are artists themselves or have experience in the formal art world, and are frustrated by the available venues.

The range of work shown in these places is wide. Ventures like the Garage and Invisible Venue focus on more ephemeral, performative and emphatically non-salable work, while places like the Partisan Gallery have stuck to traditional art-on-the-wall presentation.

Although some of the house galleries operate strictly by word-of-mouth, many maintain Web sites and post event notices online. For more information on the Southern Exposure grant, go to www.soex.org/alternativeexposure.

Here is a partial list of underground galleries:

Invisible Venue: www.invisiblevenue.com

The Spare Room Project: www.thespareroomproject.net

667 Shotwell: www.667shotwell.com

The Garage: www.justinhoover.com/garage/index.htm

Bathroom Hallway Gallery: www.hallwaybathroomgallery.com


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shirley Shor at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Well

Multimedia installation
Commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum
Courtesy of the artist, Moti Hason Gallery, and Gallery Paule Anglim

I am not normally a fan of video art but this piece is astonishing - which is why I was so sorry that the noise level prevented me from really looking at it. Like the other exhibits, this was set within its own recessed space and there was some sort of sound track which was, unfortunately, obliterated by the noise coming from the other pieces in the exhibit. Shor set up search engines that mined Hebrew and English Internet sites such as blogs and social networks to search for texts that used the biblical phrase “In the beginning,” from Genesis. She also mined the Internet for the phrase “Thou shalt not,” as its proscriptive tone is a counterpoint to the possibility inherent in the words “In the beginning. The piece is shaped like the mouth of a well and the words circle around in an endless stream of combinations and colors. “In this piece,” notes Shor, “the Bible and the Internet function as The Well, a physical and virtual meeting place. The Well becomes a source of knowledge both sacred and mundane; both perfect and flawed.”

She is also currently showing at (through September 7th) at Gallerie Paule Anglim; well worth seeing.
Artist's home page: http://shirleyshor.com/bio/bio.htm
image from their CJM website