Monday, August 31, 2009

Terra Bella

Pam (of the great food blog: Zoomie Station) just left a remark that "exotic" features were popular images on the labels. That's certainly true, although the de Young doesn't seem to have too many of those images in its collection. But what's also true is the portrait of California as an earthly paradise - the promised land where lemons and oranges rained down from the trees and the sun's beams illuminated the earth's bounty. The country was suffering the worst drought in recent history, a killer hurricane on the East coast in 1939 and an economic depression. Thoughtful people could see war from both East and Western horizons. So, it's probably no accident that the anonymous artists of these highly colored labels focused on all things "bright and beautiful."

Labels from Sunny California: The art on the produce box

Slapped on wooden boxes and shipped around the world, the bright and bold graphic designs on California fruit boxes eventually attracted attention  as much for the for the art as for the produce. A good label, said a 1924 edition of Blue Anchor Magazine of the California Fruit Exchange, was one that would “dignify the pack” — it must catch the buyer's attention, bringing the product to mind.

Nearly all paper labels were produced by San Francisco's tremendous lithographic industry, the first labels being created by superimposing up to six, even 12, separate colors, one after the other, to form a single image. The images in the De Young collection date from the 1930-1940’s. Created by anonymous artists, the designs still represent some of the best advertising art of the last century. They presented California as the golden state, overflowing with Nature’s bounty, warm, healthy and prosperous. During the cold and fearful years of the depression or the storms of the dust bowl, California must have seemed like Paradise.

Images from the De Young image base – all items part of the Auschenbach collection
More images up at:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Abraham Anghik Ruben: De Young Museum

 Made of calcite, caribou antler, musk ox horn and commericial cotton fiber, this "Passage of Spirits"" by Ruben is one of the most beautiful and mysterious pieces in the show. The sea goddess Sedna, sits at the bow of the boat, guiding the rowers over the dangerous ocean. The small sculptures in the boat are half human and half animal; features are indicated with minimal and elegant carving. The caribou antler sails could represent the swirling firmament or the smoke that issues from lamps, lighting the way in a dark universe. 

Most of the objects on display are of historical importance and show how Eskimo and Inuit peoples rose to the challenge of their difficult environment. Using scarce materials, they created utilitarian items that are both functional and beautiful. But contemporary Native Peoples have had to deal with an economy and a culture that pose even more problems than the harsh winters and dangerous animals of the Far North. European influence, starting with the Russians in the early 19th century brought whiskey, racism, overpriced material goods and disease. For a long time, the actions of the US government weren't much better. Now, the Eskimo and Inuit peoples are facing the destruction of their traditional hunting areas due to global warming along with the high cost of food and other items. At the gallery opening, Susie Silook mentioned that milk costs $10 a gallon. For artists like Silook and Ruben (among others) to affirm their traditional spirituality while creating works of great artistic value is nothing short of miraculous.

image courtesy of Andrew Fox/FAMSF

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Susie Silook and Abraham Anghik Ruben

One of the delights of the new collection at the De Young is the opportunity to see the work of Eskimo and Inuit artists who are using the traditional materials, respecting the spirituality of their native traditions but producing art works that speak to the current issues confronting native peoples in a fresh and beautiful way. Susie Silook is a Yupik/inupiaq writer, carver and sculptor from St. Lawrence Island. Traditionally sculpture has only been done by men; not only has she broken with this part of the tradition but her carvings and sculptures depict women, rather than men and animals as had been done in the past. Her themes are the issues confronting contemporary Alaskans including high unemployment, alcoholism and violence, especially violence against women.

In this piece, "Sedna with Mask" (1999) Susie portrays the goddess Sedna with a shaman's mask, reaching into the soul. It's a haunting piece, speaking to the healing of the wounded female soul through reconnecting with the ancient goddess of her people. (Walrus tusk, sea mammal whiskers, baleen, wale bone, metal and pigment, 1999). There are two other stunning pieces in the current display, "Inside my mind" and "Looking into myself." Both pieces utilize traditional materials of bone and ivory but in a completely unique way.

The exhibit opens with a piece by Abraham Anghik Ruben which I don't have an image of. Titled "Passage of Spirits," it's a boat containing both human and animal forms. The sea goddess Setna sits at the bow of the boat whose antler sails represent the swirling firmament or perhaps the smoke that comes forth from lamps, lighting the way in a dark universe.

Article on Susie Silook:,2649,270368,00.html
Images courtesy Andrew Fox/FAMSM

Art from the Far North

The De Young just opened a new art gallery devoted to Eskimo and Inuit art. The artworks on view are all gifts to the museum from the Estate of the late Thomas G. Fowler (1943-2006), a multitalented artist, designer, collector and businessman. During his lifetime, he made many trips to Alaska, creating a comprehensive collection of rarity and scope that is unique in the Western United States. He started his collection in the 1970's and his passion for the Far North lead to the founding of the Inua Gallery and the 400-piece collection which is now the basis for collection now on display at the De Young.

The installation includes nearly 80 objects from approximately 3rd century B.C. to the contemporary era, representing both the aesthetic and the utilitarian sensibility of Arctic life. Objects include figures, baskets, bowls, tools, pipes, boxes, snuff containers, snow goggles, kayak models, cribbage boards, animal carvings, dolls, and stone sculptures in a variety of materials, such as ivory, whalebone, walrus tusk, sea mammal intestine, wood, fiber, and stone.

Yua, Spirit of the Arctic presents intriguing pieces whose original uses range from ceremonial to recreational. One notable object is a model of a Kashim, or dance house, with eleven dancers and musicians performing to maintain the balance of the community against the uncontrollable forces of nature and spirits that govern their survival.

This small wooden box with human and animal figures was made in Greenland, around 1890. The materials used are wood, bone and ivory. The tiny figures are fixed to the box with even smaller ivory nails. The top row of figures is male/female couples; their headdress can identify the women. The bottom row alternates images of seal and walrus, the animals so fundamental to Inuit and Eskimo survival.

This mask, from the Yukon (Central Alaska/Anvik tribes) is made of wood, sea mammal intestine and pigment. Probably worn by a shaman during a ceremonial dance, it is one of many items in the collection that reflect the ongoing spirituality of a people living in a bleak and difficult environment.

All images courtesy Andrew Fox/FAMSF

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Black teabowl, raku ware, by Hosokawa Morihiro (born 1938), Japan. Heisei period (1989–), 2007. Glazed earthenware. Collection of the artist, H2. © Shinchōsha Publishing Co, Ltd. Photo by Nonaka Akio.

Essay up at:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Way of Tea; Tea Bowls at the Asian

Tea may be the oldest as it surely is the most constantly congenial reminder of the West's debt to the East - Francis Rose Carpenter. introduction to The Classic of Tea

A sincere heart is at the center of the tea ceremony. Suzuki, the great Zen master and teacher, said that chanoyu brings things together - purity, harmony, respect for nature and self-knowledge. Three centuries before Suzuki, tea master Sen Sotan (1576-1658) gave his own definition of chanoyu:

If asked
The nature of chanoyu,
say it's the sound
of windblown pines
in a painting

Shen Nung, mythical emperor and father of traditional Chinese medicine stopped to rest underneath a tea tree. While carefully boiling water to drink, a tea leaf floated into the pot of hot water. When the leaf colored the water, Shen Nung guessed that something magical was happening. After cooling the colored water, he took a careful sip. His being was infused with a sense of peace and calm and the art of drinking tea was born. Or so the story goes.

"A samurai whose only attribute is strength is not acceptable. He must use his leisure time to practice poetry and understand the tea ceremony. "
The tearoom becomes a world unto itself, where continuity of ordinary space and time, dependent on our physical existence, ceases to exist. Within such a room, one is a disembodied spirit, unencumbered by material limitations. In such a room, there is no absolute time, only the ever changing now.

For further reading: Beatrice Hohenegger. Liquid Jade. The story of tea from east to west.
Okakura Kakuzo. The Book of Tea

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New work at the studio

I've been working with oils for about a year now and I think I'm finally beginning to get comfortable with the medium. I love the buttery texture and the way you can mix and blend colors. I also have no idea where these new pieces came from but all of a sudden, I'm simplifying my composition to a central figure, surrounded by color and light. I like them a lot and I'm curious as to how others might see them.

Boring? Interesting? Intriguing? Minimal? Mysterious? Anybody?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ugo at 555 Mission

One of my goals this summer was to walk both Market Street and Mission Street and take as many photos of public art as I could. I expected the more traditional work but I didn't expect the fun, innovative/crazy or even interesting pieces that I came across. I didn't even know the Arneson pieces were there (see earlier post); unfortunately they, like the monument to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade are hidden by the huge bulk of the Villiancourt Fountain which is hated by most of SF but loved by pigeons, seagulls and skateboarders.

These pieces, by Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone, are at the plaza outside 555 Mission. I almost didn't get to take the photos as the security guard was very suspicious of me and my camera. Beware of 60+ grey haired ladies with cameras; who knows what evil lurks...Titled "Moonrise Sculptures: March, October, and December", the trio of mottled aluminum heads are goofy and frightening. Furthermore, they don't look like any month I've lived through.
Read more:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fish Wrap, August 15-16

Cartoon Art Museum: Once Upon A Dream: The Art of Sleeping BeautyOpening Reception with Disney Artist Ron Dias

Saturday, August 15, 2009, 7:00-9:00pm

Please join the Cartoon Art Museum for a reception celebrating our latest exhibition, Once Upon A Dream: The Art of Sleeping Beauty on Saturday, August 15, 2009, from 7:00 to 9:00pm. Special guest Ron Dias will be present to discuss his career as an animation artist and illustrator, with a special focus on his role in the creation of the Walt Disney classic Sleeping Beauty.

Once Upon A Dream explores the creation of one of Walt Disney Studios’ most enduring films, from pencil art and model sheets to animation cels, color guides and behind-the-scenes photographs of the cast and crew

This reception is free and open to the public

The cartoon museum also offers cartooning classes on Saturday afternoon For a minimal fee ($5) , The classes cover a wide variety of skills with subjects ranging from character design to storyboarding to creating their own mini-comics. These classes are recommended for students from 8-14 years old.

Classes are scheduled for August 15, 2009 and 22, 2009

For the most up to date scheduling information, please contact CAM Director of Education Diane Shapiro Sommerfield at or by telephone at (415) CAR-TOON [227-8666], ext. 303.

Emerging Artists:

Cuneo Brothers at Fort Mason: Museo ItaloAmericano: Building C

The Cuneo brothers were part of an early 20th century emerging artistic community in San Francisco that was influenced by European post-Impressionist art movements. The Museo exhibit is the first time the work of all three brothers appears together

"Cuneo: A Family of Early California Artists" is on view July 14-September 27, Tuesday through Sunday from Noon–4:00 p.m. Admission to the Museo is free. For more information, visit

Jewish Musum: Drop-In Art-Making: Gouache on Paper - Sunday, August 16; 1-3PM

Investigate the differences between watercolor and gouache paints and create your own beautiful paintings!


Precita Eyes does Kerry Marshall and then, stick around for a viewing of Dr. Strangelove, the definitive anti-war movie of the 60's and one of Peter Seller's best roles: Phyllis Wattis Theatre at 3 PM

Lindsay Wildlife Museum: Daily programs feature live, native California animals. Hands-on activities for children, changing art and natural history exhibits. A nationally recognized wildlife hospital treats injured and orphaned native animals.Free Admission Day: Saturday August 22

National and International:

More discussions on the Elgin Marbles:

Tyler Green reports on a new acquisition at the NGA. I often wonder how we will view these sculptures in 20 years or more).

Yale Press Forbids All Images Of Muhammad In Book (so much for freedom of the press)

Yale University Press has banned not only the "notoriously controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad" from its fall title, "The Cartoons That Shook the World," but also "any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children's book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante's 'Inferno' that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí." The New York Times 08/13/09

U-Penn Focuses on Art (How Refreshing!)

News Art Blog:

Twomby has style?

Koons has 120 “assistants” ( makes you wonder who really makes his “art”)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deborah Butterfield at 425 Market St.

Encouraged by mentor Manual Neri, Butterfield began making horses 30 years ago as self-portraits expressing feminist and anti-war concerns. Over time, her love of horses trumped other issues and concerns. "She uses the horse as a figure for the other, the unknown that defines human experiences of curiosity, empathy and understanding." (sign at site).

When her early stick-and-mud horses deteriorated, Butterfield developed a new, faux-wood method. Tiring of a secondary "veterinary art restorer" career, and using the services of the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington State, she developed a unique method of casting bronze. In the labor-intensive solution she documents and disassembles her wood horses, makes a mold for every stick, burns out the wood and pours in molten bronze. After casting, the artist reassembles the metal parts according to the original photograph and allows patinas to restore the natural hues to give the sculptures their faux wood appearance.

"My work is not so overtly about movement. My horses' gestures are really quite quiet, because real horses move so much better than I could pretend to make things move. For the pieces I make, the gesture is really more within the body, it's like an internalized gesture, which is more about the content, the state of mind or of being at a given instant. And so it's more like a painting...the gesture and the movement is all pretty much contained within the body." - Deborah Butterfield (American, 1949 - ).

Baker reviews Butterfield at Gallery Paule Anglim

Curated by Casey and Associates. Artwork courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim. Photographs by Nancy

Monday, August 10, 2009

New acquisitions and upcoming shows

While most of the hype in the papers has been about the Tut exhibit, the De Young and the Legion have continued to add to their collections. Some of the items, like the Sèvres tea service, are not to my taste but are superb examples of the art. Other pieces - like the Rivers and Redon paintings- add much needed depth to the 19th and 20th century art collections. The upcoming show on Amish quilts will be an exciting look at an art form that only came into its own in the last decade.

The seventeen-piece Sèvres tea service, Déjeuner chinois reticule, was originally made on the orders of French King Louis-Philippe in 1842. Inspired by Chinese porcelain, enamels and lacquer, this sumptuous French work of art complements the fine collection of European 19th-century paintings, decorative arts and sculpture at the Legion.

Music plays a large role in Senufo ceremonial and secular performance, just as musical instruments are central to the story of African art. The acquisition of a West African harp (korikaariye) by FAMSF contributes to the illuminating breadth of work by the Senufo people on view at the de Young. The harp is also the first stringed instrument in the African collection.

The Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions at FAMSF made possible the acquisition of The Last Civil War Veteran, 1961, by Larry Rivers (1923–2002). Rivers—artist, musician and filmmaker—is widely acknowledged as one of the earliest and most influential pioneers of Pop Art in the United States. His cycle of Civil War veteran paintings, including The Last Civil War Veteran, was the most ambitious extended series of his career,

FAMSF now owns a striking floral still life painting by French Symbolist master Odilon Redon (1840–1916). A Vase of Flowers, 1901, handsomely represents Redon’s belated interest in the brilliant colorism characteristic of flower painting.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Way Of Tea

The Way of Tea: Tea Gathering and Tasting
Japanese tearoom, Japanese Galleries

Watch and learn about the Japanese "Way of Tea" as you are served you own tea sweet and bowl of whisked green tea. Utilizing the museum's traditional tearoom, Bay Area tea people host these tea gatherings, which feature seasonal themes.

Saturday, August 8

1:00 pm and 2:30 pm (pick one seating)

Hosted by Shozo Sato, Dai Nippon Chado Gakkai

Friday Fish Wrap for August 8th is up at:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Max Klinger at the Legion: About A Glove

Max Klinger, German, 1857 - 1920
Penelope, 1895
Color etching and aquatint
18.9 x 30 cm (image)
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts 1963.30.1556

New post up at the on the current show at the Legion of Honor on Max Klinger, the symbolist artist who influenced painters like De Chirico.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rotations at the Asian: Samurai, Part Deux

Light sensitive objects must be rotated to prevent damage. The list of sensitive objects includes paintings, textiles, lacquers, and most other objects composed of organic materials. The Asian is being careful with the mid-point rotation of the Samurai exhibit to fit objects into the existing thematic content and flow of the exhibit. When possible, they try and rotate objects of similar type, function, and subject.

Portrait of Hosokawa Shigekata (1720-1785) (left) will be replaced with a Portrait of Hosokowa Tsunatoshi (right). © Eisei Bunko, Japan.

With so many unique objects, sometimes no direct substitute is available. In such situations they choose replacement objects that support the theme considered in a particular part of the exhibition. For example, the leisure activities of the Daimyo are represented by a Go game board and go stone containers in the first rotation (left), and an Incense ceremony box and implements in the upcoming rotation (right). © Eisei Bunko, Japan.

Some rotations involve objects with similar functions but different forms, such as this Commander’s Baton (saihai) (left) used by Hosokawa Narimori (1804-1860) being replaced by a Folding Military Fan (gunsen) (right). Both objects are used to communicate on the battlefield. © Eisei Bunko, Japan.

Some objects rotate without ever leaving the gallery. For The Book of Five Rings (Gorin no sho), they will change each of the five scrolls to display a new section of text. Rolled up, the previously displayed sections will be safely protected from continued light exposure.

Because they prefer not to close the galleries during the exhibit, the rotations will be done after house. As a result, the rotation will be spread out over several days. Over the next week or so, you may notice that some galleries have been rotated and others are still waiting their turn. You may even find a case to have a temporarily vacant spot. Don’t worry, it won’t be empty for long!

Because of the extreme delicacy and importance of many of these treasures, the rotation process needs to be undertaken slowly and deliberately. They are scheduled to have completed the rotation by the time that the museum opens on Tuesday, August 11. On that date, be prepared for a fresh look at Lords of the Samurai.

From the Asian Art Museum Blog:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Three resign from the Arts Commission

I'd really like to know the real story behind this....

Peter DaSilva/Special to the Chronicle

Three arts commissioners have submitted their letters of resignation. Dede Wilsey, Alexander Lloyd, and Jeannene Przyblyski, wife of Eric Jaye, who until last week was Newsom's longtime political adviser. ....

Przyblyski's describes in great length her frustration with Supervisor Chris Daly's recent move to require far more financial disclosure of arts and film commissioners, moving from requiring disclosure only about income related to the arts or city business to all income.

"While I am confident that my disclosure statements would continue to be complete and correct - and my husband's clients are already publicly disclosed under the rules regulating his business, I cannot help but fear that this is an attempt to open the door for new opportunities to harass me in an attempt to 'get' my husband," Przyblyski's resignation letter reads. (It is unclear whether her resignation has anything to do with Jaye parting ways with Newsom.)

P.J. Johnston, president of the Arts Commission, said both women have served on the visual arts committee for years and their resignations are a huge loss to the commission. He said he hasn't heard of any of the other 13 commissioners leaving, but that the new rules will make it far harder to recruit new members - who are unpaid for their service.