Thursday, April 30, 2009

In our Own Pictures

Thursday, April 30 (5:30-7:30) join the SFAC Gallery at the opening reception of In Our Own Pictures and In Our Own Works, an exhibition of work from San Francisco community art organizations, the Sixth Street Photography Workshop and Central Hospitality House.

In Our Own Pictures was created by The Sixth Street Photography Workshop. Residents of Sixth Street were invited to have their portrait taken in full view from the sidewalk, in the Muse/Dekker Photography Studio between Howard and Folsom. Each participant is respectfully represented by a photographer from the neighborhood trained by the Workshop. A collection of photographs were taken and each person who participated was given several copies of their portraits to take with them. These served as a formal document of a moment in time as well as a tool to reconnect with often estranged family and friends.

In Our Own Works is a collection of figurative works from the Community Arts Program at the Central City Hospitality House which is currently celebrating forty years of service. The works on display have been selected from the archives of the open art studio space in the Tenderloin. This organization provides a sheltered place to create and gives support to individuals living in severe poverty who may also be suffering with addiction problems. During studio hours, artists work in a variety of media and are encouraged to explore their imagination and express their feelings and concerns through the creation of works of art.

*Check out The Sixth Street Photography Workshop's latest book, Stories of the City: The Sixth Street Workshop 1991-2005. Support the workshop by purchasing a copy (low income/students: $15, general public: $25).

**Artist and educator Renee Billingslea, along with her photography students at Santa Clara University, worked in collaboration with the Sixth Street Photography Workshop to provide homeless families with professional-quality photographs. An inspiration experiment in art and social justice, this project received some much deserved attention from the Christian Science Monitor.

Reception: Thursday April 30th, 5:30-7:30
City Hall Hours: Monday - Friday, 8am - 8pm

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Bhutanese monks Lopen Neten and Lopen Gyem performing pujas (prayers) at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

MFA Shows around the bay

and for a story far more important than the art du jour, go to Tango Baby's blog and read the story of one homeless woman and her children, fleeing from domestic abuse and finding no room at the inn:
I don't like to get on my soap box too much on this blog because I want it to be about the art scene in the Bay Area. But it has seemed to me for years that something is seriously wrong in our culture when professional athletes and professional politicians make millions (heck, billions) while millions go hungry, when Wall Street theft is rewarded with buy outs and bonuses and war criminals go unpunished while children beg for food on the street. Julie (the owner of the blog) has done a fabulous job of getting resources for this lady and maybe even a bit of publicity on TV but the problem (as we know) is much wider than that. I don't have all the answers except to encourage all of us to be responsible voters, be generous to people and to work toward creative solutions.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Edward Hopper at SF Museums

This piece - The Bridle Path is owned by SFMOMA but isn't on exhibit. When I did a search at the De Young and the Legion, I was hoping to see some of Hopper's iconic, light filled pieces but it looks like they have only (mostly?) graphic works and none of them are on display.
East Side Interior, 1922

For Hopper, the complete separation of the real and the abstract, and the depreciation of realistic representation and the elevation of pure abstraction as the be-all and end-all of art -- its transcendental fundament, so to speak -- was not the advance in artistic wisdom the modernists claimed it to be. It was an unwitting artistic decadence, a dubious Solomon’s wisdom, for it destroyed what Kandinsky called the "welcome complementation of the abstract by means of the objective and vice versa."

The "ultimate ideal," as he said, is their "absolute equilibrium," and we see that in Hopper’s pictures. It is the "ever-varying balancing act" between "the ‘purely artistic’ and ‘objective’," to again use Kandinsky’s words, in Hopper’s pictures, that gives them an Old Master consummateness, suggesting the inadequacy of purely abstract or (social) realistic art. Both are one-sided, and because of that lost their vitality and became self-stereotyping, that is, dead-end mannerisms. Hopper’s pictures are not products of the mass culture industry, which is what a good deal of contemporary abstraction and realism, with their brittle flashiness, seem to be. (Kuspit)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Family Feuds, SF Style

Debt and family disputes continue to whittle away at a tribal art collection, assembled by John and Marcia Friede, that the de Young Museum in San Francisco once expected to own in its entirety. The Friedes promised their 4,000-piece collection to the de Young in a series of agreements completed in 2007. But a battle over the estate of Mr. Friede’s mother, Evelyn A.J. Hall, and a roughly $25 million debt owed by the Friedes to Sotheby’s, have threatened to break up the collection, considered one of the best in the world.

Starting next month, Sotheby’s plans to auction 10 works from the collection in order to pay down the Friedes’ debt; in October, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that Sotheby’s could take possession of 54 works. Seven will go on the block in New York on May 15, including a half-figure of the god Irawáke, from Papua New Guinea, with an estimated price of more than $1 million, and a drum from the Torres Straits Islands, estimated at $300,000 to $500,000. Three other works will be auctioned in Paris on June 17.

Meanwhile, Mr. Friede’s brother and half-brother, Robert Friede and Thomas Jaffe, are pressuring him to pay approximately $10 million he owes them from the settlement of their mother’s estate, and against which he offered the collection as collateral. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that the City of San Francisco, which has taken legal action on behalf of the de Young against the three brothers, will allow 76 works to be sold to pay off the debt to Mr. Jaffe and Robert Friede. The city estimates that the 76 works will bring in $3.5 million.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nick Cave at Yerba Buena

He made his first sound suit in 1992 by making body wearable art out of twigs that he found at the part, making something valuable out of discards

“It was a very hard year for me because of everything that came out of the Rodney King beating,” he said. “I started thinking about myself more and more as a black man — as someone who was discarded, devalued, viewed as less than.”

As soon as the twig sculpture was finished, he said, he realized that he could wear it as a second skin: “I put it on and jumped around and was just amazed. It made this fabulous rustling sound. And because it was so heavy, I had to stand very erect, and that alone brought the idea of dance back into my head.”

He started off learning how to sew at the Kansas City Art Institute and later, became an Alvin Ailey dancer, “I was always interested in movement,” he said, “but I knew I didn’t want to devote myself exclusively to dance. I wanted to bridge dance and art.” He went on to get a Master’s Degree and later taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The sounds suits have become more elaborate – some made for performance, some for the gallery system, some are durable, some more fragile but all are based on the human body and all are made for some version of dance.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bye Bye Crouching Spider

Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs of the San Francisco Arts Commission, announces the removal of Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture, Crouching Spider. On loan to the City since November 2007, the 2 ½ ton monumental bronze arachnid has enjoyed pride of place at the Embarcadero’s Entry Plaza at Pier 14. Louise Bourgeois, at 97, is considered to be one of the world’s most important and influential living artists. The sculpture, which was originally cast in 2003 from the artist’s famous Spider series, was made specifically for display in San Francisco. So, if you've got the energy in this heat, go down to the Embarcadero for one last look.

Viewing the huge crouching dark spider out there on the green lawn with the bay and blue sky beyond beyond was disconcerting. I felt like I was in one of the scarier science fiction movies of the last decade and almost expected to see tons more spiders crawl out of the water and invade SF.

Initially lent for eight months by the artist, courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco and Cheim & Read, New York, the sculpture’s stay was extended due to popular support. On Friday, April 24, Crouching Spider will be disassembled with the greatest of care into ten pieces and transported to a private collection in Houston, Texas.

“Crouching Spider set a new precedent for public art in San Francisco. It has been truly wonderful to have such a magnificent sculpture by a world-class artist placed at the entrance of the City were it was viewed and enjoyed by thousands of people,” stated Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs. “We thank Mayor Newsom for his enthusiasm and support for the public art program. His support reflects his belief that the arts are a vital part of the life of the city, and we look forward to continuing to enrich the community by bringing new works by leading local and national artists to the Bay Area.”

Ms. Bourgeois’ spider sculptures pay homage to her mother, who like a spider, was a weaver and spinner, working in the family business of tapestry repair. For Ms. Bourgeois the spider represents an ideal mother because it is a creature that protects its children while weaving for them a beautiful home. The immense scale of the spider sculptures corresponds to the monumental importance of the artists’ mother to her daughter.


Interesting article plus comments here:

Edward Hopper at Fraenkel Gallery

Frankel Gallery is showing the work of Edward Hopper along with works by photographers who have been influenced by him. You can’t see those landscapes without seeing Hopper because his influence on popular culture has been enormous. The photographs show loneliness and decay, people who are perennial outsiders, the lonely crowd. And yet, Hopper is so much more than that.

The photographers “get” the urban angst and rural desolation but they miss – for the most part – his light that goes beyond their technique. There is one photograph in particular which is of a tumble down clapboard shack, probably somewhere in the South. You can almost see the cockroaches and smell the garbage and greasy food but what you don’t see – what Hopper paints so eloquently – is the inner life of these places and the people in them.

Robert Hughes writes: The word great is crippled by hype these days, and perhaps it merely clouds what it seeks to praise; yet the qualities it suggests—patient, lucid development; the transcendence of mere talent; richness and density of meaning; and a deep sense of moral dignity in the artist's refraction of his own culture—are so evident in Hopper that no other word will really do.

There is one masterpiece in the gallery, Intermission (1963), painted a few years before his death. In Intermission, Hopper again paints a canvas with a solitary figure, a seated woman, preoccupied with her own thoughts, calmly waiting for the play to continue. In any other hands, the spare scene would have been trivial but in his, the diagonal of floor and wallboard are intersected by the vertical lines of the chairs and interrupted by the vertical edge of the stage. Everything is bathed in a luminous off-white light. He does not strive for realism but goes beyond that. Perhaps the woman is a metaphor for us all, waiting for the curtain to rise on the next act of our lives. Hopper takes us beyond the limits of chronological time into a timeless place, an introspective world beyond the fashions of the day and the politics of the time.

Frankel Gallery: through May 2nd: 49 Geary, SF,9171,954589,00.html
Gail Levin: Edward Hopper, The art and the artist

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Art links for Sunday

How to start your Sunday - forget the paper, get the coffee and surf the web. Who cares about dusting when there are interesting articles to read?

New museum of African-American Arts
The NY Times has put up a web page for artists to write their stories about how they are coping with the economic down turn. It's worth reading:
What effect is the economy having on your life and work as an artist, writer, actor, or musician? Tell us your story by commenting below or by e-mailing us at

Another piece worth reading is Liz Hager's piece on Rajani Shettar at Venetian Red

John Haber is writing about Richard Tuttle and abstraction

Sharon Butler writes about the current Squeak Carnwaith show at the Oakland Museum

and Tyler Green has a whole series of links to posts about "Favorite Small Paintings."

Interesting interview by Marissa Nakasome with local artist Megan Diddie

Last - but never least - is a post by the always entertaining and insightful SF Mike of Civic Center about an art show in Palm Springs. Thiebauld gets a ten (go see the show at the reopened Thiebauld Gallery on Chestnut Street for more of his art), Mapplethorpe a four (maybe) and the teenage artists get a home run.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Figurative Work at Dolby Chadwick

Dolby Chadwick is showing some particularly juicy figurative work right now. There are several small pieces by Kim Froshin in their back room with an upcoming show scheduled for May 7th. But the main show features work by Marius Bosc, mostly nudes poised against loosely geometric backgrounds. His paint surfaces are luminous, with brushwork that is inspired by Bay Area Figurative painting but which he has made his own. (Through May 2nd)

Dolby Chadwick Gallery: 210 Post Street, Suite 205
San Francisco CA, 94108
(images from the website)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Leonardo

"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.""Yet the works that we have salvaged remain the most dazzlingly poetic pictures ever created. The Mona Lisa has the innocent disadvantage of being too famous. It can only be seen behind thick glass in a heaving crowd of awe-struck sightseers. It has been reproduced in every conceivable medium; it remains intact in its magic, forever defying the human insistence on comprehending. It is a work that we can only gaze at in silence.

"There has never been an artist who was more fittingly, and without qualification, described as a genius. Like Shakespeare, Leonardo came from an insignificant background and rose to universal acclaim. Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a local lawyer in the small town of Vinci in the Tuscan region. His father acknowledged him and paid for his training, but we may wonder whether the strangely self-sufficient tone of Leonardo's mind was not perhaps affected by his early ambiguity of status. The definitive polymath, he had almost too many gifts, including superlative male beauty, a splendid singing voice, magnificent physique, mathematical excellence, scientific daring ... the list is endless. This overabundance of talents caused him to treat his artistry lightly, seldom finishing a picture, and sometimes making rash technical experiments.

"Leonardo's three great portraits of women all have a secret wistfulness. This quality is at its most appealing in Cecilia Gallarani, at its most enigmatic in the Mona Lisa, and at its most confrontational in Ginevra de' Benci. It is hard to gaze at the Mona Lisa because we have so many expectations of it. Perhaps we can look more truly at a less famous portrait, Ginevra de' Benci. It has that haunting, almost unearthly beauty peculiar to Leonardo da Vinci.

"The subject of Ginevra de' Benci has nothing of the Mona Lisa's inward amusement, and also nothing of Cecilia's gentle submissiveness. The young woman looks past us with a wonderful luminous sulkiness. Her mouth is set in an unforgiving line of sensitive disgruntlement, her proud and perfect head is taut above the unyielding column of her neck, and her eyes seem to narrow as she endures the painter and his art. Her ringlets, infinitely subtle, cascade down from the breadth of her gleaming forehead (the forehead, incidentally, of one of the most gifted intellectuals of her time). These delicate ripples are repeated in the spikes of the juniper bush.
"The desolate waters, the mists, the dark trees, the reflected gleams of still waters - all these surround and illuminate the sitter. She is totally fleshly and totally impermeable to the artist. He observes, held rapt by her perfection of form, and shows us the thin veil of her upper bodice and the delicate flushing of her throat. What she is truly like she conceals; what Leonardo reveals to us is precisely this concealment, a self-absorption that spares no outward glance.

"We can always tell a Leonardo work by his treatment of hair, angelic in its fineness, and by the lack of any rigidity of contour. One form glides imperceptibly into another (the Italian term is sfumato), a wonder of glazes creating the most subtle of transitions between tones and shapes. The angel's face in the painting known as the Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery, London, or the Virgin's face in the Paris version of the same picture, have an interior wisdom, an artistic wisdom that has no pictorial rival.
"This unrivaled quality meant that few artists actually show Leonardo's influence: it is as if he seemed to be in a world apart from them. Indeed he did move apart, accepting the French King Francis I's summons to live in France. Those who did imitate him, like Bernardini Luini of Milan (c. 1485-1532), caught only the outer manner, the half-smile, the mistiness.

- From "Sister Wendy's Story of Painting", by Sister Wendy Beckett

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bay Area Book Artists

Well, after claiming that I'm too busy to post, I post twice in one day. But I love the book arts and this site is full of events and information about an art form that is too often ignored.

Bay Area Book Artists is a group of independent artists bound together by a passion for the book arts. The group meets twice monthly. On the first Sunday of each month we meet for four hours for share studio time and for mini-workshops or demonstrations run by members. On the third Thursday of each month we meet to plan events, exchange information and share books in-progress. Since 1995, BABA has presented exhibitions at local galleries and museums. In 2002 BABA members organized the first Book Arts Jam at Foothill College.

and since I'm writing about the book arts, don't overlook the current exhibit at the SF Center for the Book: Wings for Words: New Bookworks from Korea and Japan

The San Francisco Center for the Book presents an exhibition of bookworks from fourteen professional artists working in South Korea and Japan today. These contemporary bookworks embrace a variety of techniques from altered books to woodblock printing. The artists bring their individual styles to their works, inspired by cultural, natural, and personal themes.

Some of the books, like Ryoko Adachi's bioethical version of Jack and the Beanstalk, have narrative text, other books, like Haran Kim's Striped Dictionary are altered, sculptural works, with the words used as visual texture. Kyung Hee Kim uses bird imagery in Plus & Minus, while Sangmi Chun shows the story of Snow Queen as a snowflake, also reminiscent of flying. In this exhibition, "wings for words" becomes the metaphor for the books themselves; books are the wings, transporting the artists' feelings and thoughts to the readers. The works are in Korean, Japanese, German, and English.

For many of the participants, this will be the first time their works will be shown in the United States. The artists, chosen from recommended lists, have sent their books via air to San Francisco: Ryoko Adachi, Sangmi Chun, Hiroko Fukumoto, Ryo Hamada, Haran Kim, Kyung Hee Kim, Narae Kim, Kahoru Otani, Eunkyung Park, Veronika Shäpers, Kanako Shibata, Hea lim Shin, Mitsutaka Tanimoto, and Young Kil Yim.

Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10am-5pm and Saturdays from 12-4pm.


Art and copyright: what’s at stake

By Simon Stokes

For a long time artistic copyright has been a rather quiet backwater of copyright law, eclipsed by the protection given to literary works, software and music. But recently there has been a much greater interest in how copyright law protects visual art and the rights of artists to prevent others from copying their works. This reflects an increasingly advertising-led visual culture and also a greater awareness by rights holders that they have legal rights they can try to enforce. Cases where artists have sued or threatened to sue infringers are increasingly common, the case discussed in this issue concerning the works of the US artist Richard Prince being only one of a number of such cases. There have also been cases where corporate copyright owners have threatened action against artists—for example Graham Dolphin’s work which reuses magazine covers and in particular Vogue.

As well as giving artists the classic “economic right” exclusively to control the copying and publication/distribution of their works—what is typically called “copyright”—a number of states including the UK also give artists “moral rights”. Moral rights include the right to be identified as author when the work is published (the right of attribution) and the right to object to derogatory treatment of the work (the right of integrity).

Two areas of copyright law have been the focus of recent attention. First, the extent to which copyright law can protect artistic works (in legal terms, what artistic works can be protected by copyright) and second, assuming the work qualifies for copyright protection, what does copyright protect?

What works are protected

In the UK an artistic work can only be protected by copyright if it falls within an exhaustive statutory list (s4 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) of classes of artistic work protected by copyright: graphic works (irrespective of artistic quality), including paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts or plans; engravings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts or similar work; photographs, sculptures or collages (irrespective of artistic quality); works of artistic craftsmanship and works of architecture. (Video works are protected as “films”, a category of copyright work in their own right.) So whether innovative modern works of art (e.g. a “ready made”) would be classed as sculptures or works of artistic craftsmanship become fundamentally important questions. Recent UK case law suggests that where a work does not easily fit into a specific class of artistic work, the judge may well look at the intention of the creator and her status (as an “artist”).

Copyright laws generally protect “original” artistic works. The test for originality varies between states. In droit-d’auteur (continental) countries, a work needs to bear the stamp of the author’s personality and be the author’s own intellectual creation. In the UK, it is sufficient that the work is not a slavish copy of another work and that some, albeit limited, independent skill and effort went into its creation. In US law, the work must possess some minimal degree of creativity.

What does copyright protect?

The right of artists and creators to “appropriate” another artist’s work to produce a new artistic creation continues to be debated. In the UK allegations of plagiarism and misappropriation followed the exhibition in late 2000 of Glenn Brown’s Turner Prize entry The Loves of Shepherds 2000. This was allegedly inspired by Anthony Roberts’s book jacket illustration for the science fiction novel Double Star by Robert Heinlein. This was not the first time an artist has faced such allegations. In 1992 Jeff Koons was successfully sued in the US (Rogers v Koons) for copyright infringement. He had copied a well-known photograph Puppies to produce a sculpture he considered to be a parody of modern society. The Cariou v Prince case looks set to revisit US cases such as Rogers v Koons that deal with the “fair use” doctrine which provides a defence to copyright infringement where the alleged infringer can show, for example, that his use of another’s work is transformative and not in competition with the original work copied. The UK does not have a broad fair use defence so the Prince case is primarily of interest from a US copyright perspective, although it raises issues that should be debated in the UK about the scope of the so-called “fair dealing defence” in UK law and whether this should be broadened along US lines.

In proving copyright infringement, the test in the UK is whether the defendant has copied all or a substantial part of the work in ­question. UK copyright law also recognises the so-called “idea/expression” dichotomy—“copyright protection shall extend to expressions and not ideas” (see Article 9.2 of the Agreement on Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). A recent trend is for advertising agencies to make use of the ideas behind the work of innovative artists. It is the idea/expression dichotomy that is central to a number of such cases involving photographic and film works being used by advertisers. For example, the 1997 Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing has in the past complained that her works have been the inspiration for car and computer game advertisements. Whether this amounts to copyright infringement is problematic. There may be no copying of a substantial part of the original work: just the style or “idea” is taken, rather than the detailed expression of the idea, and the law has to set boundaries between what is and is not protected. Films pose particular problems as they arguably receive less protection than artistic works—the law here primarily focuses on the piracy of films and frame-by-frame copying rather than protecting the subject matter of a film as an artistic work in its own right, although there have been cases where the door has been opened to protect films by categorising them as “dramatic works”.

If a copyright claim is not going to work then other legal remedies may need to be considered (for example, the tort of passing off or some other act of “unfair competition” on the grounds there is a misrepresentation leading to confusion between the two works). But these are usually difficult claims to make and rarely succeed.

Getting the balance right

Artists involved in copyright cases tend to fall into two categories—those who find their work misappropriated (often in a commercial, advertising context who find the law may not protect them) and those who appropriate and recast others’ works to create new artistic expressions, such as Richard Prince, who may find the law over-­protective and not benefit from fair dealing or fair use defences.

Copyright has to be a balanced system—strengthen protection in one area and you erode the public domain, that is, the freedom for others to use the work of others as inspiration for their work or even in parody. Art is created in a cultural context where appropriation is inevitable—strengthen the law here and one artist’s gain may be another artist’s loss. But weaken the law here by a broad fair use defence and you remove the right of one artist to prevent the misuse of their work by another artist. That is why cases such as Cariou v Prince, which test the boundaries of current copyright protection, generate much interest and excitement in art law circles.

The writer is a partner with the law firm Blake Lapthorn in London and heads its art law practice. He is the author of Digital Copyright: Law and Practice (2009).

©2009 The Art Newspaper

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Layoffs at the San Francisco Art Institute

This is sad news indeed but as a former buyer and numbers cruncher for UC, I'd love to look at their budgets to see where the money is going. I remember back when I worked at UC - there was a lot of money spent for things that could have been foregone to make money for the important things. I also remember when that huge "modern" addition to SFAI was built back in the late 60's and early 70's ; the school took on a huge debt load and tuition starting going up by leaps and bounds. Tuition now is sky high and since all levels of society are suffering from the economic downturn, I wouldn't be surprised if the kids (or their families) decided that taking on a huge loan or paying beaucoup bucks from the trust fund is not a wise idea in these times. If you've got that kind of money, a degree from Berkeley or Stanford or Harvard is better value. I also think that if they'd stayed art focused and humble as they did in the "good old days," there would be plenty of students because they'd be able to pay the tuition. But now - every school has to have high-paid administrators, fancy state of the art electronics and all sorts of expensive play toys. Whatever happened to making art? In these days, even the rich can't afford that - plus there ARE NO JOBS when they finish their expensive degree.

From the Internet:
On February 6, an executive committee of the Board of Trustees and a small body of senior Administration, declared SFAI to be in a state of "financial exigency". Financial exigency is defined by SFAI's faculty union contract as "the critical and urgent need for the Institute to reorder it expenditures in such a way as to retain solvency," and essentially indicates that SFAI is in a state of extreme financial distress. Concerns have been raised about what such a declaration means for the future of the school, its reputation, accreditation, and ability to deliver a high quality education to its students.

On February 17, the layoff of the following nine tenured faculty members was announced:
Charles Boone (13 years of service to SFAI)
Stephanie Ellis (11 years of service)
Stacy Garfinkel (10 years of service)
Robert Johnson (29 years of service)
Pat Klein (25 years of service)
Jon Lang (16 years of service)
Janis Crystal Lipzin (31 years of service)
Suzanne Olmsted (17 years of service)
John Rapko (12 years of service)

"In addition to the concern that many students have for these faculty members as individuals, concerns have been raised about the specific way in which the layoffs were done and the impact they will have on the curriculum. Specifically, concern has been raised that the layoffs disproportionately affect those who have been vocal critics of SFAI's current administration, that they were carried out without discussion or transparency, and that the manner in which they were carried out violates of a number of provisions of the faculty contract."

Here's the web page about the layoffs - you'd think that kids who are paying $30,000* a year for art and design classes could do a better job - This is strictly amateur! (I've been corrected on the tuition - it is $30,138 a year. The anonymous poster commented that SFAI is not a design school but as one of the fields of study is design and technology, they could have done a much better job of designing the web page. For comparison, Stanford's tuition is $24,000 a year.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Rambles

There's a great essay on Thiebaud by Tyler Green up at Modern Art Notes which makes some very astute comparisons between Thiebaud and Rosenquest with a seque into American consumerism:

Meanwhile, back at the Thiebaud: Just as Warhol's paintings about painting don't need brushes (or knives) to make their points, the Thiebaud doesn't need to go out of its way to play in Rosenquist's or Lichtenstein's game. All three of those '60s stars used or referenced commercial painting techniques so as to tweak painting. Thiebaud has never been interested in jabbing his medium in the eye. Instead, Thiebaud's paintings have always been about the allure of paint, about the temptation of something sweet, familiar and seemingly facile. (Thiebaud certainly tends toward Morandi, but Thiebaud's subjects are more important on their own than Morandi's ever were.)

Over at the Art News Blog (, there's a rather unhappy post by a gallery owner on the rise of the Internet and the artist's ability to directly reach the public, without going through the gallery and paying their fees and commissions. While I am sympathetic to the plight of honest gallery owners, my experience (and apparently that of many of the posters) has not been a happy one. In fact, as a working artist, I'm as unhappy with galleries as thls lady is with the artists who bypass her store. Every gallery that I've been involve with expected me to front all sorts of costs- shipping, framing, insurance, advertising and, in more than a few cases, the cost of the opening reception. Then, they expected -and did - take a 40-60% cut. Now, these weren't "name" galleries and most of them are no longer in business but many of my fellow "no-name" artists have had the same experience. In any case, it's a sign of the changing times for the majority of us who don't belong to the galleries that really do promote our art but still expect the larger share of the pie. Read the comments; it's an education - for those not in the art world - in the reality of the business of art.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Elaine Bagley Anroux at the Old Mint

One week only-Portraits by Elaine Badgley Arnoux at the Old Mint (4th and Mission)
San Francisco: Faces of the City
Friday April 3 through Tuesday, April 7, 2009, Noon to 5 PM

The show will be open to the public between the hours of 12 noon and 5 PM Friday through Tuesday, April 3 through 7. A $10 donation will be requested at the door.

You can learn more about Elaine from this wonderful video. I've known her since 1985 when she ran an art school (EBA) at SOMA Arts where I (and 40 + other artists) now have studios. She had been involved with so many progressive arts causes, including the Shopping Cart Show which sought to bring public attention to the plight of the homeless in SF. As the creator of the video so accurately says, her life is a love affair with art.

Shadow And Light is about the life and art of Elaine Badgley Arnoux. The film examines seminal moments of her life; from her childhood traumas; two early marriages, moving to France at age 50 with her 27 year old lover and finally meeting the man of her dreams to grow old with.

The enormity and scale of her life and art projects are revealing to the nature of the artist herself. She lives large and paints large with an appetite for life beyond the boundaries of her canvas and the walls of her studio. Making art is elemental to her being, and is a valiant attempt to come to terms with her own personal history and integrate it into her esthetics . "I had a very dark childhood, I was very old when I was young, I wasn't young until I was old".

What drives Elaine Badgley Arnoux, a gifted San Francisco artist, in the twilight of her years, to work relentlessly to convey her vision of the people in her community through portraiture and the creation of paintings documenting the political upheaval of our time?

Through the lens of a camera we come to understand Elaine's story is a love affair with life. Art is the vehicle that has driven her process of self discovery and delivered her lost youth in old age.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thiebaud Gallery Reopening

This is indeed good news. After a long hiatus, the Thiebaud Gallery (formerly on Columbus) has moved into the space that used to be the Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery. It's a beautiful, two story building with much more room for shows and a lovely garden out back. To celebrate the gallery opening, they will feature recent still life compositions of food by Wayne Thiebaud, an on-going theme in his decades long career. According to the press release, all of the works in the show were painted from memory. The sketchbook drawings are included to demonstrate how compositional exploration from memory allows such a richness of possibilities over the years. "This signature style of Thiebaud's paint handling - the rich, smooth dragging of paint across a surface or around a shape in a way that both proclaims the luscious texture of oils and often transforms itself into the very material being depicted, from frosting or whipped cream to metal - is referred to by the artist as "object transference." Its origins can be traced not just to Morandi but also Thiebaud's interest in the bravura effects of such artists as Joaquin Sorolla, clearly apparent in the transitional Beach Boys of 1959, the work of Willem de Kooning, and the Bay Area Figurative painters Richard Diebenkorn and David Park.

"Thiebaud's language can be decidedly low-key and limited in its formal agendas, but even then, his objects say a lot about the people who make them and enjoy them. They also comment on the abundance that is part of American society and the longing or desires that go with it: desserts lined up in rows stretching far into the distance like trees in a landscape but held separate from the viewer by the glass of window or case. The tone, however, is celebratory, not negative.

For Thiebaud, "[My subject matter] was a genuine sort of experience that came out of my life, particularly the American world in which I was privileged to be. It just seemed to be the most genuine thing which I had done."

"Commonplace objects are constantly changing, and when I paint the ones I remember I am like Chardin tattling on what we were. The pies, for example, we now see are not going to be around forever. We are merely used to the idea that things do not change." In an time of change and uncertainty, it's a joy to revisit these delicious confections and to honor the artist who made - and still makes paintings that celebrate abundance. And afterwards, you can walk down the street to Stella's and have a delicious pastry and celebrate another facet of San Francisco's diverse cultures.

Steven A Nash, in "Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective"
WAYNE THIEBAUD: CONFECTION MEMORIES at 645 Chestnut Street (Between Columbus and Mason)
April 1 through Saturday, June 27th.