Saturday, January 31, 2009

Avoiding Super Bowl Sunday

If you are not a football fan, there are many delightful ways to spend Sunday. Instead of being glued to your TV set, watching sets of grown men, pumped up with steroids and padded into behemoth tanks chase a tiny ball around a muddy field, try some of the following at the Asian Art Museum (and it's a free Sunday!). Celebrate the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Ox at the Asian Art Museum with free admission to a whole series of events from Chinese classical dance and music to a storytelling tour of the galleries.

Then, be sure to check out the small but exquisite exhibit of the Islamic cultures of Asia. This exhibition of approximately sixty paintings, manuscripts, ceramics, textiles, metal wares, historic photographs, and even puppets highlights their superb artistic traditions. My only criticism is that I wished for more historical information on the manuscripts. For instance, I would have loved to read translations of the poetry and an explanation of the various calligraphic styles. Since I am a calligrapher, I am fascinated by the calligraphy of different countries and the manuscripts were in obviously different styles - from script that must have been written with a one-haired brush to other ones that were bolder and more stylized. But it's a small quibble; go and be amazed at the skill and the beauty.

AND then, if you still have the energy, watch the ongoing demonstrations of Japanese Bamboo arts (Thursdays through Sundays, January 29 through February 8, 2009 from 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm, North Court). The third floor of the museum has a small but perfect display of bamboo baskets.

If you walk down the corridor a bit, you come to one of the most overlooked parts of the museum. The piece is easy to miss as it's in back of a partial wall, at the entrance to one of the bridges linking two wings of the museum. The wall creates a rectangular alcove and in the middle of this alcove is a simple, rough black rock sculpture with a shinning surface. The surface is not glass or polished rock but is created by water, slowly pumped through a hidden opening. I always sit at the wooden bench build into one end of the small room and breathe in peace.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Diebenkorn at Berggruen

One of the many wonderful things about this show is how you can trace Diebenkorn's trajectory from abstract painter to figurative and back into abstract imagery. The show is a lesson in a painter's path, encapsulated in a few well chosen pieces. His early abstractions include his Berkely series began in 1953 with their loose, organic imagery and intuitive style

His surfaces tell you much about how he works. He leaves in the revisions and corrections, leading to a multi-layered canvas of deceptive simplicity which reveals its underlying complexity when you look more carefully. "Getting it right" was Diebenkorn's chief objective and he did not mind revising things to realize a composition where everything is essential -- nothing is left out.

Diebenkorn was particularly stuck by the pentimenti (traces of underlying pigment) in some of the Matisse pictures, and, Livingston wrote, “These visible traces become an indispensable part of the viewer’s experience of immediacy and lend the work a king of provisional (though never unfinished) quality.

But the abstracts came to him too easily and he was concerned about creating beautiful but empty surfaces. So, he (and other like minded painters) began to return to figurative and objective painting -- straightforward, objective studies of scissors, cups, books, and other everyday items while retaining his painterly surfaces and variations on geometric design motifs.

With figuration, he said, "a kind of constraint came in that was welcomed because I had felt that in the last of the abstract paintings around '55, it was almost as though I could do too much, too easily. There was nothing hard to come up against. And suddenly the figure painting furnished a lot of this." On another occasion, he said, in regard to this specific constraint, "The figure ... takes over and rules the canvas."
In Woman in a Window (1957), the figure sits with back to the viewer, deep in thought. The shapes are simple, vivid, unified by geometric elements, simple but not simplistic.

At Stanford University, Diebenkorn fell in love with the work of Edward Hopper: “I embraced Hopper completely….It was his use of light and shade and the atmosphere….kind of drenched, saturated with mood, and its kind of austerity….It was the kind of work that just seemed made for me.” In his figurative work, shown at the gallery, he could lay claim to being far more than a disciple of Hooper but his logical successor and, in significant ways, a better painter.

Reflections on the Painting of Richard Diebenkorn: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, Gregory Eanes
Danto, Arthur Coleman. "Richard Diebenkorn.(Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York)." The Nation 266.n1 (Jan 5, 1998): 29(5).
Livingston, Jane. The Art of Richard Diebenkorn. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York University of California Press, 1998.
images from Berggruen website

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Back to School or no room at the inn

In my quest to keep brain and body alive, long time readers of my other blog will remember that I returned to college when I retired waaaay back when. It's been an interesting saga and I won't bore you with a repeat of the good, the bad and the just plain terminally dysfunctional. But this week at SF State was a new low in mega-mess.

The budget was cut to the bone while tuition has been increased by 10 percent. There were some protests last year but most kids really didn't get it. Well, now they do. Students and instructors reported to SF Weekly of chaotic daily scenes taking place as spring semester commences; roughly 75 lecturers teaching 290 classes have been cut for budgetary reasons in the past two semesters alone, and students - many of them needing just a few more classes to graduate - are packing the hallways, sitting in the aisles, and attempting to cajole and wheedle their way into classes that have doubled or tripled in size. Good luck on that!

Now, I can't complain about the cost. I got in under a special program for the over-60 crowd, so my fees are minimal. However, my class selection has dwindled from minor to zero; all art classes are reserved for full fee paying, graduating seniors. No exceptions allowed. I'm not complaining that it's young people only. I feel sorry for them. This is where the budget crunch hits home and I suspect that those who survive the coming economic firestorm won't be so cavalier about higher education in the future - assuming that higher education, as we know it, actually survives.

"You want to see bedlam? Come to my class," said anthropology instructor Sheila Tully. Her course on sex and gender is capped at 140 students with a 10-student waiting list. Nearly 200 people showed up for the first day, and three quarters of them were seniors who needed her class as a general education requirement. "The whole concept of a four-year college has been thrown out the window," added Philip Klasky, an instructor in the American Indian Studies Department. "In my department, students have 30 percent fewer courses to choose from this semester. They can't matriculate, they can't graduate. My classes are capped at 50 and I have 20 [more] students trying to add each one. What am I supposed to do as a teacher? Add 20 students and have them sit on the floor?" In every class I went too, the teacher made it perfectly clear that there were no exceptions, no additions. What a world!

But getting required courses has become something of a luxury for students - many are happy just to get any courses. Students must keep up a certain courseload to be eligible for scholarship money (much of which isn't coming, anyway, along with promised work study jobs), grants, or health care. Unable to get into any of her desired classes, senior Honora Keller said that "paying a state school tuition has gotten to be like a really expensive gym membership. The only classes open end up being kinesiology. You end up taking, like, three of those just to make it to 12 units."

Junior literature major Samantha Adame was lucky enough to get into her preferred lit class - but found 100 fellow students in the room along with her. In the past, that class would have been capped at around 30. There's only one instructor and one grad student, by the way.

But wait - there's more! In the midst of finals last semester, the J. Paul Leonard Library was closed for retrofitting. The notion of shutting the campus' main library during finals week angered students - but not as much as returning to campus this semester and discovering that our current economic morass had frozen construction (construction that was estimated would last until 2011, even during better times). As a result, a handful of books and some computers have been moved to a large, military-like tent "annex" a few blocks off campus at Winston and Lake Merced.

Now, this (unfortunately) exceeds my worst expectations. When I found out last semester that the library was going to be closed for retrofitting, I crossed my fingers that they (1) had a good plan, (2) had an alternate place for both books and students and (3) actually, you know, have ENOUGH money to see the plan through.

Maybe I should have crossed my fingers harder because what I saw fit none of the above. The second hand book store at SF State is in the basement of the HSS building. The second, smaller "library annex bubble" is located there. I saw noisy, crowded rooms, no place to sit, few computers and a whole horde of confused students. In fact, while I was looking for second-hand books, many students came into the bookstore looking for computers, xerox machines, pay cards and more questions than the poor bookstore person could possibly handle. I took several foreign students over to the administration building because (1) they didn't know where it was and (2), that's where they could get some of their questions answered and some needs met.

But what's truly bizarre is that, in order to obtain needed books, students must submit requests to the school 24 to 48 hours in advance and then return later to pick them up. Any university student lucky enough to have the benefit of a great library knows that you often find five useful books for every one you ventured into the main stacks to seek. Truly, SFSU's current library situation sounds abysmal.

"We have to pre-order the books a day in advance - and that doesn't include weekends. You can't even get books on weekends," says Dillon Martin, a junior anthropology major.

That sounds like a lot of work. No wonder students needed to pay 10 percent more.

I have been going to classes just to check the teachers out. Some of the art teachers have been too busy to meet with me in the past so this is a good way to see if it's really worth it to continue in my current low-fee category or bump up to paying full tuition just to get access to classes. I already taken most of the requirements for the art history major and I might just decide to get that degree and call it a day. So far, NONE of the studio art teachers have appealed to me.

Would you want to take classes from teachers who are described in the following ways (on the official website no less?)

P...makes paintings, drawings, and installations that are concerned with a prolonged preoccupation with the nature and tragedies of masculinity. He is known for imagery of brutish males such as boxers and wrestlers. (men only need apply?)

and a priceless example of art speak:

. More broadly, my research focuses on issues of artistic agency, the intersection of modernist aesthetics in the colonial and postcolonial world, and the visual culture of contemporary Asia.

This is the description another teacher's work....elemental, primordial quality about much of his work that suggests a particularly strong affinity to an environment born of volcanic processes. (Me man, You woman? Let's go make volcanic love).

Some of the other descriptions are less pretentious but really - what a shame that art has borrowed the trappings of pseudo intellectualism. But if the budget cuts continue, there won't be an art department.

Reference: SF Weekly

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bay Area Abstract and Figurative Art

This is the one, must see, most stunning exhibit in SF right now. These are the artists that broke with the prevailing canon of 1950's art that abstract art was the be all and end off of art. They developed their own unique style which combined the bravura stroke of abstract art with a focus on shapes, people and things. One of the artists, Richard Diebenkorn, will probably go down in the pantheon of 20th century art as one of the greats but he wasn't alone. The show at Berggruen includes seminal work by Elmer Bischoff, Theophilus Brown, Richard Diebenkorn, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira, David Park, Wayne Thiebaud, James Weeks, and Paul Wonner. Many of the works included in Abstract and Figurative are on loan from museums and private collections and have rarely been exhibited to the public

The "movement" (if you can call it that) began 1949, when a young painter by the name of David Park “gathered up all his abstract-expressionist canvases and, in an act that has gone down in local legend, drove to the Berkeley city dump and destroyed them. When Diebenkorn, who was in New Mexico at the time, saw Park's first painting in the new style (Kids on Bikes, 1950), his initial impression was that he was retrogressing, that he had chickened out.

But little by little, the twelve, who could be considered to constitute a movement, began using the free brushwork of Abstract Expressionism with new ways of engaging with the object in the world and putting their vision on canvas. Furthermore, the new focus would also take into account the Bay Area's (and California's) sense of place. For Park, the acceptance of external subject matter brought a new freedom.."With subjects, I feel a natural development of the painting, rather than a formal one." He pioneered the way for the Figurative painters to "exploit the metaphorical possibilities inherent in the human form and in representational imagery generally." Their work stands aside from the egotistical posturing that abstract expressionism can fall into and celebrated the ethos of struggle and self-discovery in engaging with the visual world in a new way.

Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area 1943 to 1980
at the Berggruen Gallery: January 8 – February 28, 2009

SF Museum of Arts and Crafts

Origami Demonstration
with artist Linda Mihara
Saturday January 24, 2 PM

Be an original valentine this year! Join world-renowned origami artist Linda Mihara as she demonstrates the wonderful world of origami, and leads participants through a hands-on workshop to create your own origami heart. Free with Museum admission. Open to all ages, but children under 10 must have adult supervision. RSVP required for participation.
Please call 415.227.4888 Ext. 10 to RSVP, or email
Other lectures and events:
Artists Discussion: Re-Forming paper: Contemporary artists consider their relationships to traditional paper crafts
Thursday February 5, 6 PM

Artists from the exhibition come together to discuss the use of paper in their artwork, and its relationship to traditional craft. Artists include Reed Anderson, Mike Arcega, Adriane Colburn, and curator Mike Bianco. Free Admission.

Want to learn even more about the exhibition?
Join us for docent tours! They are held on the first Tuesday and second and fourth Saturday of every month. The following dates are the last few tours for The Shape of Things. All docent tours are free with Museum admission.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A day in North Beach

We’d been trying for ages to have a walk though/photo shoot so I was delighted when she e-mailed me with the date. It was a drizzly day when I met up with Julie at City Lights (you can read her account here plus enjoy her fantastic photos:
It was a bit early for lunch so I suggested that we go to Coit Tower and walk down the hill, exploring the side alleys and looking for whatever old houses are left. Fortunately, the 39 Coit Tower came around right away so we didn’t have to toil up that hill. I have a friend who lives on Greenwich and I know from personal experience how difficult it is to trudge endlessly up one steep hill after another.

We got on the bus going in the wrong direction but felt like we were having our own personal tour. Our bus driver was a delightful and protective Asian gentleman who made us get off and wait until he finished his break because we might not be safe inside the bus. He made me smile so I teased him that we were certainly the types who would hijack the bus and drive it to Reno.

When we got off at the top of the hill, I was a bit disoriented. I hadn’t been there in ages and I still have very powerful memories of the way it was back in the early 70’s. My ex-husband’s aunt lived in one of the tiny, wooden cottages on the bay side of the hill. I remember walking down endless steps, picking the wild anise for her to make into candy. Most of the small cottages then were modest, inhabited by long-time residents of the hill. There were poets, musicians, some beatniks and fishermen; G’s aunt worked at a local factory and wrote poetry in her spare time. The wooden steps are no longer there and you really have to look hard to find any of the modest homes. But all are not new and soulless condominiums. Julie pointed out to me an incredible piece of Art Deco architecture, complete with silver bas-relief and a cutout of Humphrey Bogart in the window. Apparently it had been used in the 1947 movie, Dark Passage and hasn’t changed much since then.
By now, we were carefully walking up and down the slippery wet stairs and side alleys, trying to find the source of a whole lot of parrot screeching. After a few false starts, Julie had the good sense to walk up a tiny, obscure alley where we found a whole flock of them devouring the red berries of a Pyracantha tree and conducting a whole opera in parrot. Go check her blog out for far better photos than mine!

Later we walked back to Columbus Ave down Union Street, exclaiming at all the city views, the architectural detail and the general ambience of the area. A lot of it has been gentrified but you can still fell what it must have been in the 40’s and 50’s. We stopped for lunch at my favorite café in North Beach – the Original US Café. Well, it’s not the true original; that was in an oddly shaped space up the street and was forced to move (after being in the same location for 80 years) by obscene rent increases. But the restaurant reopened and still serves the same delicious and homey food. Julie sprang for the Pappardelle Boscaiola, which is homemade wide ribbon pasta with bacon, onion, and mushrooms in a tomato cream sauce, and the Spaghetti Bolognese (tomato meat sauce). She gave me a bit of her pasta which was cooked a perfect al dente. I had grilled lamb chops and pasta a pesto which is one of my favorites. Julie took a menu and vowed to eat her way through it, which is a vow that I completely agree with. We didn’t have desert here because I wanted to introduce her to Stella’s, the best Italian pastry shop in North Beach. It’s another honey, nondescript store that’s been around for ages and for a reason. The pastry is fresh, with clean flavors from good ingredients. You won’t get soggy or stale pastries here. We split a cannelloni and danced out of the store on a sugar high.

Afterwards, we walked down Montgomery Street, sharing views on art, dance, history, politics and more things than I can remember. We stopped to photograph the old advertising piece on a wall, which was exposed, prior to City College building its Chinatown Campus. The perfect day ended with a ride on the F Line where Julie was going to see Bud Cort and I was going to take a nap!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Andrew Wyeth - dead at 91

Andrew Wyeth, who died this week at the ago of 91 had long presented a troublesome problem for the critics. Widely popular and enormously successful but critically disparaged, his art doesn't seem to fit within the 20th century art canon or art historans time line of the progression from post-impressionism to abstract expressionism. Critics have derided his work for sentimentality while the public loved it for its realism, easy to understand when surrounded by all the confusing artistic "isms" of the last century.

He was born in Pennsylvania in 1917, the son of the painter and illustrator N.C. Wyeth whose illustrations graced the covers of most of our childhood books - Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robin Hood. The elder Wyeth was demanding character who early decided that Andrew was the most talented of his children and trained him as an artist. Richard Lacayo of Time postulated that Wyeth's spare, technically demanding work was a reaction against the his father's bravura paintings of pirates and outlaws. His father also marked Wyeth's life strongly in one other way. In 1945 the elder Wyeth, along with his 4-year-old grandson by Andrew's brother Nat, was killed when his car stalled on a railroad track. It was an event that Wyeth's biographer, Richard Meryman, says split Wyeth's life in two, so that he spent the rest of it "processing the first 28 years — a long, unraveling of love and guilt and rage." (Lacayo, Obit from the Times)
His works inhabits the imaginary landscape of a pastoral America (one which Wyeth most assuredly did not inhabit with his wealth and popularity). It's an inward, somber world, saturated with melancholy and presented with virtuoso skill in two of the most demanding mediums an artist can work in - watercolor and egg tempera.

In the late 1930s his brother-in-law, Peter Hurd, taught him to paint in egg tempera, a medium which predates oil paint. It's a demanding medium; the pigments, mixed with egg yolk thinned with water, dry quickly, so reworking is difficult.

An artist who uses this technique uses small brushes to make tiny strokes, which results in a smooth, seamless picture surface. This suited him perfectly; as he once explained, "My aim is to escape from the medium with which I work, to leave no residue of technical mannerism to stand between my expression and the observer." (Obit from the Philadelphia Inquirer).

Yet, for all his images of a bleak Maine countryside and icons of rural farmers, he was no country rube. He could have given Koons and Hirst lessons on manipulating publicity. The whole fracus over his nudes of Helga Testoff turned out to be a clever and successful financial marketing campaign. For those who value abstract art or all the less-traditional arts of our tumultuous time or look for the newest hot thing, the popular artist under 30, it's easy to underestimate Wyeth and dismiss him.. Yet, one shouldn't. Within his self-chosen narrow range, his best work leads you into an introspective, melancholy and quietly emotional world. In an art world full of bravura wann-be superstars, that was no small thing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Girl Project

Yesterday I got an e-mail from Liz Hagen, the owner of Venetian Red – a fellow artist, writer, blogger and neighbor! The e-mail told me about the Girl Project, the idea of Kate Engelbrecht, a photographer, who is sending disposable cameras to girls in the US, collecting the photos, and then curating them for an exhibit/installation. Humans have long been fascinated with female adolescence. The promise and hope behind their eyes… the purity and romanticism youth represents, the razor thin line between immaturity, maturity, innocence and rebellion. (The Girl Project Statement)

I've seen some of the photographs she has received and selected so far and it is very moving and thought-provoking to see what the girls choose to portray about their lives.

All girls 13-18 living in the US are eligible to receive a camera. Kate is looking for as wide a range of girls as possible -- rural, urban, different ethnicities, racial backgrounds, interests, etc.

In today’s world it not only piques our curiosity—it feeds our insatiable need for drama. The supposed lives of teenage girls have become modern entertainment. Our ideas about them grow from what we read about Lindsay Lohan in The New York Post or what we saw on last week’s episode of The Hills. We learn what they like, buy and wear and what they believe, think and do… and just as quickly as we get our fix, we fail to understand the complexity and truth behind the very group we obsess on.

With the hope of reintroducing them to us, The Girl Project explores the lives of American teenage girls through images they create themselves. Using the raw, honest qualities of photography, girls reveal their self-perceptions in a daring act of intimacy- both behind and before the camera.

—Kate Engelbrecht, The Girl Project statement

If you know some girls who might be interested or people who work with girls who might be interested in learning more, here's the website and blog information.

courtesty of Liz Hagen:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Art Saves Lives

Fellowship (I Ching Series, 2008)
Joanne Mattera has two excellent essays in her blog on topics that are hot buttons for artists – one on pricing and one on “where is the bailout for the arts? She’s allowing anonymous comments and most of the posters so far have been (or seem to be) artists that are carried by a gallery. This is what I posted:

I'm not carried by any gallery so I have complete freedom to set my prices as I please. Plus, I don't make my living from my art - retired from another profession - so, while that doesn't give me any cachet in the art world, it does give me some degree of financial security. In any case, I decided to price my small pieces very very cheaply. In some ways it galls me to sell them so cheap but as I don't have access to a wealthy clientele, it makes sense to charge what the market can bear. My strategy paid off; during SF's Open Studio last fall, many of my studio mates sold nothing. But I sold a heck of a lot, almost more than anybody else. Selling small pieces for low prices and being willing to negotiate meant that I made my expenses and then some. Given our economic climate, I think that's a victory. Sometimes I think that it's just better to be realistic than hold the line and hope for the best. But this is SF, not NY and our art market is smaller with few sales for local beginning and mid-level artists.

Which brings me to her next post:

“So the automakers and all those big banks are getting help from the government. My tax dollars, from income earned as an artist, are helping them out.”

“Where’s the bailout for the arts?”

“I’d been thinking about this ever since the banking industry began receiving some $700 billion in bailout money—and promptly started giving it away as multimillion-dollar bonuses to the guys who brought the industry to its knees in the first place. (And to think that the NEA was once upset over the "obscenity" of smeared chocolate on a naked body? Ha!).”

There’s more, including an on-line petition (linked from another site) that Obama create such a thing. I have no idea if the petition will make any difference but I signed it anyway. I was thinking off all the cuts in the arts that we have endured in the last decade – cuts in public education, cuts in public TV, cuts in grants to the NEA. I’d be more than pleased if some of the money – hell, ALL of the money in pre-inflation dollars that’s been cut would be put back. It would provide jobs for a whole raft of creative folk but equally as important, it would start putting the soul back in education.

When I do Open Studios or any other art event, I’m saddened by the lack of knowledge about art or art history that so many people make. And it’s often generational. My generation – let’s say the over 50 crowd – mostly had access to a solid four years of English, History, Literature, Math and Sciences. We had decent libraries and time to read in them. I’m not saying that this is true across the board but, by and large, education was valued. But it’s been cut, cut, cut for the last decade with the arts – all the creative arts – being the first to go. Painting, music and theatre were considered unnecessary and if you don’t expose kids to them in school, it’s an unusual child that will go and seek that knowledge out. I have a button that says “Art Saves Lives.” It still does. It still can but only if the arts are there when the lives need saving.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Allow me to paraphrase Viktor Frankl, the holocaust survivor: “We can take any what if we know why.” Well, now you know the astrological “why,” why the world is seemingly falling apart at its seams. This is part of the natural order of things. Pluto and/or Uranus, the two most transforming archetypes we know, are involved in all three of the major cracks that are expanding. I recently heard an interview on National Public Radio with an editor of a Chinese newspaper, a man who constantly walks the fine line between writing about what he sees as the truth and imprisonment. He said that he saw three things happening in the media in his country: Control, Change and Chaos. The more a myriad of modern media are infiltrating people’s lives (astrologers call this the Uranus factor, as in technology and Internet) the less control the government has and this has led to a huge change, and ultimately to chaos which he welcomes. It is impossible to control chaos and out of chaos new forms of order appear. This is a good metaphor for what is happening in the world.

Allow the old to break away in whatever way you can. Question everything you believe in and dig a hole in the ground around your own foundations. Break up everything you feel you have needed for your safety. Then, begin to wonder what you might do with this hole in the ground, this new vessel and womb that reeks of earthy fertility and yearns to be seeded by your creativity. Finally, look around and notice just how many fellow humans are doing the same. Depending on what actions you take, for yourself and those around you, the next several years can be the worst of times or the best of times.
image: nej: The Big Dipper

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Book Arts in SF

San Francisco is very fortunate to have a wealth of book and book-related organizations. This may be left-over from when SF was a mecca for small, independent presses; I worked for a few of them in my early days here in the city. Most of the small printing companies are gone but SF still has a flourishing book arts community and at least two great places to study the book arts.

This Friday, the SFCB will be presenting an artist's talk with Ala Ebtekar onThe Art of Stepping Through Time

Join 2008 resident artist Ala Ebtekar for a presentation about the process of creating the most recent publication in the Center's Imprint program. The edition consists of 30 signed and numbered copies, published by the Imprint of the San Francisco Center for the Book.

Later in the month, they will be exhibiting bookworks from fourteen professional artists working in South Korea and Japan today. And they have an ebay store where you can buy works from the Center - anything to help the arts in these difficult times.

San Francisco Center for the Book
300 DeHaro Street (entrance on 16th Street)
San Francisco CA 94103

On Monday Night, The Book Club will be having it's opening reception of "In Love with Words and Type" - a showcase of the works of the Heyeck Press.

The press has been printing and publishing fine limited editions of contemporary poetry and books on paper marbling since 1976.
"Awash in Color" marbling demonstration by Robin Heyeck | 6 pm

Book Club of California - Opening Reception on Monday, Jan 12, between 5-7 PM
312 Sutter, Suite 510 | San Francisco 94108

Got a spare 3.5 Mil?

Somebody still has money OR huge illusions - from Curbed SF:

Here's something you don't see every day. The "artist’s home" at 1417 15th Street is zoned "non-conforming use", designated "creative" -- all 8,200 square feet of it. "Possibilities are endless" with three bedrooms, 5 baths, super-high ceilings, skylights, hardwoods, fireplace and two-car garage. Move the start-up into the massive space or start that art gallery you've always wanted to -- if you've got the trust fund for it. 1417 clocks in at $3.295M.

Zoned RH3 with a non-conforming use designated as Creative. Buyers are advised to check to make sure they plan is in agreement with the city. Perfect for a creative Start Up endeavors, also a photography studio w/infinity wall, possibilities are endless. High quality finishes-beautiful kitchen and baths, wood burning FP, high ceilings, skylights. 2 Parking, 12Ft roll up door. Separate living quarters. Great for art collector or artist’s home. 2 Full and 3 half baths, many sleeping areas.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Artists as optimists AND activists

The cliché of the depressed artist, isolated in the studio, is belied by the optimism and creativity of artists across the USA, who did not rest for the New Year.

I don't think western civilization or even America is going down the tubes indefinitely, but I do think that crises are opportunities. And that there are some legitimate crises on deck. And that we are in for a really messy, really total shift in worldview.

This really freaks me out. But I'm just going to try to keep making art, and keep letting all this information in, even though what I really want to do is jam my fingers into my ears and take up permanent residence at the Piplotti Rist show at the MoMA. And I will try not to rant or worry here or anywhere else about how we are all falling off a cliff.


Either something great's going to happen that I could never have discovered any other way, or I'll have to throw away a few hundred pounds of Irredemable Ugliness in a couple of months and start over.

Kudos to Eva Lake for her efforts to raise money for education regarding the mentally ill:

Currently in production and directed by Brian Lindstrom, Alien Boy tells of the life and the death of James Chasse. A couple of years ago my online diary was full of his story: an artist on the forefront of the Portland punk scene, a maker of fanzines, a singer in a band and someone who struggled with schizophrenia. He died in police custody after an altercation with them and they probably should not have been dealing with him anyway
So I’m organizing events, house parties and finding ways to unite people so they can verbalize their concerns, get to action - and help us finish this film! We’ve already had some powerful success and Brian Lindstrom has a beautiful track record.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Beyond the tumult of the daily headlines

In the tumult of today’s world, we need a language to understand it as well as escape from it, Zen tranquility as well as Wagnerian force. Picasso, according to Dore Ashton, is supposed to have once asked (rhetorically), “What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes of he’s a painter, ears if he’s a musician or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he’s a poet.” And then he answered his own question, “Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, passionate or pleasing events in the world…”

Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings are part of a painterly series that portrays a world without darkness, conflict or disaster. It represents a world possible in sunny, peaceful, affluent Southern California. They can be can be seen as the achievement of the “pleasing” part of Picasso’s quote. Kiefer, growing up in the ruins of post-war Germany, had no such refuge. He holds up a mirror to Germany, and, by extension, to the world, showing us our wounded body and broken spirit, and reminds us of the suffering that we have both caused and experienced. His works are secular altarpieces from a 20th century Gruenwald with the body of history’s suffering victims nailed to the cross of war, rather than the body of Christ. His landscapes evoke the battlefield after the war, barren, with mysterious fires burning in the muck but with the distant hope of redemption through a search for our place within the cosmos.

1. Dore Ashton. (Ed). Picasso on art. A Selection of Views (New York, Viking Press, 1972), 149.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lecture on Eric Gill at the Book Club

Come to The Book Club at 5pm this Monday - January 5 - at the beginning of our regular hospitality hours for another of our free Library Talks
conducted by Book Club Librarian Barbara Land.You won't want to miss this talk:Ms. Land will be showing us the Club's holdings
of the work of the influential 20th century designer, Eric Gill.



image: The Book Club

Saturday, January 3, 2009

After Tapies

Sheree of mentioned how much she liked Tapies - who is a also a favorite of mine. In an example of artistic synchronicity, I saw this wall this afternoon; it's not a painting but what was underneath a billboard after it was torn down. Sometimes life does provide us with artistic surprises and I'm going to consider this a good omen for the new year.

I've also been researching writings about poetry and painters, the similarities, the things that are not similar, the visual vs the verbal and found this site of poems about painters and art. This part of a poem on Morris Graves also seem to speak of Tapies and his mysterious iconography of signs:

two streams
which are the twin streams
of oblivion
wherein the imagination
turning upon itself
with white electric vision
refinds itself still mad
and unfed
among the hebrides
from: the wounded wilderness of Morris Graves by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Arrives

Chien - The Creative Power

Ku'n - The Receptive Mind