Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Emile Norman, RIP

Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco (photo from the SF Chronicle)

It's been a sad week for Bay Area arts. Don Fisher died last week and so did Emile Norman. He was 91 years old and had been living in Monterey, California since the 60's. He was a sculptor, jewelry, and mosaic artist whose most well-known work is the massive mosaic and relief sculpture adorning the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco. He was a pioneer in his art and his life, living as an openly gay man with his partner for life, Brooks Clement.

"But Mr. Norman's independent spirit was always a driving force. In 1961, he summoned up the courage to leave the New York art scene for good, having had several gallery shows there, and he opened a gallery of his own in Carmel. With his life and business partner, Brooks Clement (right, rear), Mr. Norman settled into a house in Big Sur that they built themselves. The home became a never-ending design project. At a time when being out was almost unheard of, Mr. Norman and Clement lived openly as gay men. The fact that they were a couple was also a rarity for the times." Norman's relationship with Brooks Clement lasted 30 years, until the latter's death from cancer in 1973. To friends in Big Sur, the two became one with a single signature, "Clemile," decades before anyone thought gay men would ever be able to get married in California."

Clement died in 1973.

The film on Emile, "By His Own Design," is a tribute to a gentle soul whose followed his own muse with integrity and dignity.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Fisher Collection

Don Fisher's death was quite a shock; I had no idea he had cancer. But I e-mailed the SF MOMA PR people and got an assurance that the art deal will still go through.  Of course, there's many a slip between cup and lip (as they say) so I'm not holding my breath. The new wing still has to be build and numerous hurdles jumped before we can see the art but it sure would be nice if they could have a preview of some selected pieces. That would go a long way towards reassuring informed opinion that the collection is worth the time and effort it will take. But I'm still glad that he didn't get permission to build at the Presidio. The environmental impact would have been horrific. I was watching the new series on our parks up at PBS and was struck by this quote from Teddy Rosevelt "Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

Diebenkorn, Ocean Park No. 67, 1973; oil on canvas; 8' 4" x 81"; Doris and Donald Fisher Collection; © Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Cy Twombly, Note 1 (from Three Notes from Salalah), 2005-2007; Acrylic on wood panel; 96” x 144”; Doris and Donald Fisher Collection; © Cy Twombly

Gerhard Richter, Two Candles [Zwei Kerzen], 1982; oil on linen; 48" x 40"; Doris and Donald Fisher Collection; © Gerhard Richter

Alexander Calder, Three Black Fishtails, 1960; sheet metal, wire, and paint; 60" x 45"; Doris and Donald Fisher Collection; © Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Works from the Fisher Collection will be on view in a new wing that will also include art from the museum's collection. In addition, works from the Fisher Collection will be interwoven in existing galleries with SFMOMA's modern and contemporary holdings. (Segregating private collections, after a while, is almost always a mistake for the institution and the art.)

The Fishers will create a trust, administered in collaboration with SFMOMA, to oversee the care of their collection at the museum, renewable after 25 years. 

Before building the 100,000 sq. ft. expansion, SFMOMA will work with Bain and Company to develop a real business plan to define the impact of the enlarged facility, increased operations, and enhanced programming on the museum's expansion and annual operating budgets.

The business plan will inform both the contributions to the capital campaign and endowment that will be made by the Fishers and the funds that need to be raised by the museum.
All images courtesy of SF MOMA

Tuesday Grab Bag

Wonderful post over at the Asian Art Museum Blog as the curators pack up the Hosokawa collection and get ready for the next show on the art of Burma:

A Book Binder Museum to open in SF: Since I'm fascinated by the book arts, this is very good news; the "bad" news is that it is only open on Saturdays. But better one day than never:

On a related topic, at the Book Club of California is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of M.F.K. Fisher The exhibition represents a selection from the collection of Club member Randall Tarpey-Schwed. Included are first editions, fine press publications, magazines, broadsides, and foreign language translations.

312 Sutter St, San Francisco (Open to the public - and there's an elevator so there's wheelchair access as well)

Friday, September 25, 2009

SFMOMA gets Fisher art collection

Asian Art Museum podcasts now available at iTunes

Some of the discussions around the Art of the Samurai exhibit at the Asian Art Museum have been about the focus of the exhibit. Some have complained that the show didn't represent the full truth of the Samurai. Other criticisms were about the labels, the marketing - you name it, somebody complained.  Baker's recent column at SF Gate about the parody site just threw more gasoline on that particular fire and the Asian knows that there will be more controversy with the upcoming show on the art of Burma (or Myamar). Now, I think that it’s up to each individual to take responsibility for educating him or herself. I see the various shows as a starting point, not the be-all and end all or do I feel that it's up to the Asian to represent my particular politics. But this free option goes a long way toward making a whole range of information available to those who want to take the time and make the effort to learn more. Since we are such a auditory culture, downloading onto your iPod and listening is a painless way to increase your knowledge.

iTunes U is a portal in Apple’s iTunes Store wherein educational institutions can provide FREE, high-quality downloadable content for you to enjoy on your Mac, PC, iPod or iPhone. Important! You will need Apple’s iTunes application to access iTunes U.  To download a free version of iTunes for Mac or PC,  please visit:

The Asian Art Museum’s exciting new site on iTunes U enables the museum to extend its educational mission by reaching further beyond the museums’ walls. The content featured on the site includes a diverse range of multimedia resources on Asian art and culture such as audio guides and videos on the museum’s acclaimed collection and special exhibitions; public lectures by renowned scholars; educator resource packets and art activities; footage from museum performances, events and  demonstrations; short documentaries; and much more!

To begin exploring the Asian Art Museum’s new iTunes U site, please visit:

For an excellent tutorial on how to use iTunes U, see: 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Opening at SOMArts: “Vision, Vitality and Visibility”

The Asian-American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) is celebrating its 20th anniversary by an exhibit, a party and and plans for 20 more years of promoting positive change. Founded in 1989, AAWAA has worked to address the persistent “invisibility” of women artists of Asian/Pacific Islander descent in galleries, museums, media outlets and educational curricula. The organization has promoted and supported Asian American women though exhibits, publications, a speaker's bureau and now, an archive. “We not only provide professional support to emerging and seasoned artists, but also work to ensure that Asian American women artists are rightfully acknowledged by the public, by academia and by art museums/galleries,” says Cynthia Tom, president of the AAWAA board. For instance, the former president (now deceased), Bernice Bing has one of her magnificent pieces in the permanent collection of the De Young Museum (unfortunately it's currently not on display - perhaps this is something that can be addressed during the anniversary celebrations?).

The artists exhibiting in Vision, Vitality and Visibility work with a variety of media – sculptures, drawings, paintings, photography and mixed media. Representing Asian ethnicities such as Japanese, Chinese, Pilipina, Vietnamese and Indian, they encompass first through fourth generation Asian-Americans. 

SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 -  from Tuesday, September 22, through Sunday, October 4, 2009 
Opening Reception, Saturday, September 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Info: Call AAWAA at 415-722-4296, or visit
Image: Cynthia Tom, A Place of Her Own:
Bernice Bing, Memorial Tribute (1999): 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Van Gogh On A Monday

Late in life, Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo: "I almost think that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words." Sometimes it's best to "just" look.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Farewell to the Art of the Samurai

A farewell to the "Art of the Samurai" - almost a prose poem with evocative photographs by Nico at the Asian Art Museum Blog:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday around the bay

Rebecca Kerlin at Muse Gallery:
I confess that I know Rebecca; we share a space at 689 Bryant St. These pieces are exquisite, delicate and creamy colors paired with what she calls “casual documentary imagery.”
Reception September 25, 6-9 PM (Image from her website/courtesy of the artist)

Brian Dettmer’s work is still up at Toomey Tourell Fine Art. His sculptured books are beyond description – with a simple X-acto kife, he cuts into old books to produce work that is a combination of sculpture, layered text and images – a modern Joseph Cornell working outside the box. In fact, why hasn’t our own SF MOMA bought a piece for their collection? (Image courtesy of the gallery).
49 Geary St.,
Today is the annual Park(ing) Day, brought to you by Rebar, in which companies and individuals transform local, metered parking spots into fun and creative green spaces for the day. Look for them on your way to work in the morning or on your lunch break, and the mobile PARKcycle will also be out and about.  
From SF Fist and a link here:
JD Beltran writes about skateboard art in Walnut Creek:
(Nice images which I'm not posting due to copyright issues)

Gallery A440 is showing work from the private collection of Ronnie Grossman, the director of Ames Gallery in Berkeley. A combination of folk art, nineteenth century commercial art (the posters showing the effects of strong drink are classic) and small wooden figures, some maybe toys and others involved in what could be called “compromising” positions, the gallery continues to build a reputation for showing unique outsider art. (image from gallery website)

Tomorrow is the Annual Roadworks: Steamroller Printing Street Fair at SF Center for the Book. 
The event includes dozens of vendors (with books, prints and other handmade items), community artists, music, and amidst it all they will be making prints from large-scale linoleum blocks - carved especially for the occasion--with a steamroller.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodby Mary. RIP

This may have been the first, or one of the first anti-war songs that I ever heard - and on mainstream TV, no less. It's one of the things that changed my life because it showed me that there was another way of thinking, another way to approach the world and that there were many like me "out there." There still are but we don't have a Peter, Paul and Mary to sing about it.

Poignant essay on the "summer of death" from the NY Times:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Open Studios, 2009 - Save the date!

SF Open Studios 2009 Weekend Dates
Gala Weekend:
Studios are not open yet but we invite you to preview the SF Open Studios Exhibition
at these events:
o October 3: Private Preview Gala, SomArts Gallery (a ticketed affair)
o October 4: Exhibition Opening Reception, SomArts Gallery (a free event)
Weekend 1: October 10 &11, 11am-6pm
Bernal Heights, Castro, Duboce, Eureka Valley, Glen Park, Mission, Noe Valley, Portola 
Weekend 2: October 17 & 18, 11am-6pm
Buena Vista, Diamond Heights, Fort Mason, Haight, Hayes Valley, Marina, Mount Davidson, Pacific Heights, Richmond, Sunset, Ocean Beach, Twin Peaks, West Portal
Weekend 3: October 24 & 25, 11am-6pm
Financial District, North Beach, Potrero Hill, Russian Hill, SOMA, Tenderloin, Bayview, Excelsior
Weekend 4: October 31 &  November 1, 11am-6pm
Hunters Point Shipyard

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday picks: Kerri Johnson, Emily Payne and Brian Dettner

 It's nice to have some time to view new work. School started last week and it's been crazy busy so I was glad to have a day to just walk around, see what's going on and find some time to put up some new posts.

"Hoover", Kerri Lee Johnson (SF Moma)
At the SF MOMA rental gallery in Ft. Mason.
Located where San Francisco meets the water at Ft. Mason, the SF MOMA rental gallery promotes Northern California art by hosting eight exhibitions each year, presenting a diverse selection of work.

They are currently showing works by three very different artists, David Ivan Clark, Kerri Lee Johnson and Emily Payne (up through October 9th). I really liked the work by Emily Payne, which was very different than a lot of work that I’ve been viewing by contemporary Northern California artists. It's fresh with an intriguing use of materials, light, open, airy and yet with a tongue-in-cheek humor that's literary as well as artistic.

Some of her pieces incorporate wire sculptures as well as the shadows they cast in paint on paper. Each piece has an ethereal quality, suggesting something more than the immediately visible. Other pieces, on paper, are comprised of gouache layered over an X-Acto knife marks and remind me, as the website says, of ocean waves. . She works with some distinctive media – books, wire, pins and space. Educated at SFSU and Oberlin in both academic and artistic disciplines, her works are unique, fun and thoughtful. Her webpage is well-written, poetic and makes insightful observations about making art and connecting through art making:

On a plane ride to the East Coast, I sat next to a man who was a paper specialist. It was the most stormy and turbulent flight I have ever been on but, like a foodie exchanging recipes with a master chef, I was captivated for one and a half hours talking about paper. He may have been the only person who could understand the incredible satisfaction of folding and tearing a piece of BFK Rives paper with a bone folder or watching paint and water be absorbed on its surface. It was like we were talking about a friend we knew separately but dearly loved.”
Her blog:

Kerri Lee Johnson, like Clark and Payne, is influenced by surroundings, natural and manufactured, historical and fantastical. The figures in Johnson's drawings are part of a fanciful society where ceremonial rituals are performed. They reminded me of a far more sophisticated and intelligent take on the “cartoon” art that is currently so popular.
Images on Flickr:

The latest news is that the gallery has decided to also have a CLOSING RECEPTION on Saturday, October 3, 3:30-5:30 to make up for the difficulties in getting into the city during the bridge closing.

Anna's art picks for Friday are up up at BAAQ :  She includes one of my favorite contemporary artists, Brian Dettmer. The master of the altered book form, Dtttmer carves into his books, one layer at a time. What emerges is a unique form, part sculpture, part book, dreamlike, surrealistic, poetic, a marvel and a mystery.

"Choosing either to excise images or leave them intact is, of course, a binary, digital process, and Dettmer’s archaeological excavation, one page at time, could be diagrammed with a complex decision tree, the final work being the solution. While the process is simple, the results are not. The dead imagery and verbiage of the old books comes alive as the accretions fall away, as pictures stripped of darkened varnish lighten and brighten. The freed elements engage each other in new ways, like the incongruously juxtaposed objects in Dadaist or Surrealist collages. Dettmer: “Images and words … slip from field to field when they are extracted from their original context, and [even] sterile, scientific elements can become very poetic and relevant in new ways when they are exposed in a new context.” The books become microcosms or dioramas – vanished worlds in their glorious plenitude, newly revealed and preserved."

Through September 30th: 
Brian Dettmer's web site:
Images from Toomey Tourell website 
Dettmer's flickr page:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Watercolors by Count Amadeo Preziosi

This is not a local piece but I would love to be able to fly to London and see it - simply gorgeous!
LONDON. - A remarkable sketchbook containing over 80 stunning watercolours by Count Amadeo Preziosi, who left Malta to spend his life in Constantinople (Istanbul), is one of the highlights of Bonhams next Travel and Exploration Sale on 16 September in New Bond Street. The sketchbook taken on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1875 by the watercolour artist, Count Amadeo Preziosi (1816-1882), self-titled ‘Souvenir de mon dernier voyage’ is estimated to sell for £320,000-500,000. The pictures cover many glorious images of Constantinople, Paris and London alongside landscapes and seascapes along the way and studies of colourful locals in national costume. The artist’s appreciation of female beauty is also much in evidence.

Preziosi was born into a wealthy and aristocratic Maltese family, but his father was strongly opposed to his artistic inclinations and so he left the island for Constantinople, where he soon established his reputation as a painter of contemporary Constantinople life. In the days before colour photography, this album documents every stop on what must have been a momentous journey, beginning and ending in Constantinople, but also taking in Romania, Hungary, Germany, England, France, Italy and Malta.

Giles Peppiatt, Head of Travel and Topographical Pictures at Bonhams comments: “ To find one picture by Count Preziosi would be a pleasure, but to find no fewer than 81 of his works in his own personal sketchbook is astounding. The book provides a brilliant insight into a lost world, one that our forbears inhabited just 135 years ago, but a world utterly transformed. Yet one can page through this remarkable document and marvel at images that architecturally are still intact. This is an object that is more than the sum of its parts because of it is one man’s overview of Europe in works of delicate beauty.”

Having studied his art in France Prezsiosi was aware that European painters were flocking to the Gateway to the East, as Istanbul was known. He set out in 1842, travelling to Italy and then on to Istanbul, intending to stay for two years, but he fell in love with the city and its people and hardly noted the passing years.

Istanbul returned Preziosi’s affection, and he was welcomed everywhere and despite his father’s entreaties Amadeo Preziosi refused to return to Malta, where the other members of his family followed ‘respectable’ careers as doctors, merchants and lawyers. He remained loyal to the passionate loves of his life: Istanbul and painting.

As well as Italian, Preziosi spoke French, Greek, English and Turkish. He married an Istanbul Greek woman and the couple had four children. Following a hunting accident in which he was wounded by his own gun, he died and was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Yeşilköy, where his grave still stands today.

This Bonhams sale also includes travel books and manuscripts, atlases and globes, photographs, artifacts and paintings relating to travel and historical voyages and expeditions of famous navigators and explorers from the 17th to the 20th centuries. In addition to paintings relating to early travel, the auction will include topographical pictures by itinerant artists in the Americas, Africa, Australasia and the Pacific and the Far East together with East India Company Trade paintings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thoughtful posts

Browsing the Internet this morning, I came across a couple of very thoughtful posts on art, upcoming shows and arts education in America.

Fung has curated ten collaborative groups to create projects in multiple sites throughout this neighborhood including public venues and community organizations. The project features forty-six artists, including those currently living in San Francisco, and other artists both nationally and internationally located. Wonderland began as a graduate level course taught by Fung at the San Francisco Art Institute. According to the press release, Wonderland is “born of and responds to” the diversities of the Tenderloin. The show’s primary audience is cited as those who live or work in the Tenderloin. Later the press release states that it will transform the Tenderloin into a destination for tourists, opening on October 17th for the duration of one month. Wonderland is sponsored by the North of Market Community Benefit District and several galleries in the area including the 1AM Gallery and Ever Gold Gallery.
Those are the facts: the title, the neighborhood and the project. To be honest, my research about Wonderland has raised a lot of complicated feelings and concerns for me—many of which are difficult to articulate and relate to many broader issues I have attempted to address here on Open Space; questions related to public art, to socially engaged art practices, to gentrification and  specifically to San Francisco’s uneven economic and social landscape.

Should Arts Education Hitch its Wagon to 21st Century Skills?
In most respects this couldn't be more timely, as the upcoming forum of the Arts Education Partnership is focused heavily on 21st Century skills, and features none other than Ken Kay, President of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Mr. Kay is also the CEO and Founder of the E-Luminate Group, which is an "education consulting firm specializing in marketing communications and 21st century skills services." (I have enough on my hands with one job, you have to wonder how Mr. Kay can be the CEO of one company and the President of another...)
Many think the critics of 21st Century skills are overreacting and failing to recognize that the P21 movement has indeed embraced content. Those concerned about P21 see it as something that is untethered from content and therefore disconnected from quality teaching and learning. They also believe that it is nothing new but the rehashing of an old educational fad.
Read more at, including the comments at:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stella and the Brooklyn Bridge

 A clever pun from the SF MOMA BLog: Reports are coming in that the Bay Bridge might stay closed due to a crack. Since this news is less than stellar we wanted to share something bridge related that is, shall we say, very STELLA. Come see the work in person by taking BART (Montgomery Station). 

In 1896, Joseph (born Giuseppe) Stella emigrated to the U.S. to pursue a medical career. He soon changed course, however, and began illustrating immigrant life in New York's slums. These works were essentially of the nineteenth century in both style and social outlook.

Between 1909 and 1912, Stella traveled in Italy and France and discovered the formal and thematic innovations of the European avant-garde. His new work glorified the industrial prowess of the U.S. Foremost among his subjects was the Brooklyn Bridge, rendered as a constellation of lines dramatically receding in space. Many of his pictures derive their compositions from Renaissance altarpieces, but substitute modern architecture for sacred figures. This choice reflects Stella's typically modernist belief that in the future technology would replace the old religions.

Read more about Joseph Stella at the SF MOMA web site.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Fish Wrap: September 5-6

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party: Georgia O'Keefe; SFMOMA website

The bridge may be down but it’s a busy weekend in SF with lots to do – new work up on Market Street, a new exhibit at SF MOMA, a new artist-in-residence at the De Young and plenty of cultural events to enjoy during the Labor Day Weekend.

The Sentinel writes about the new kiosk posters on Market Street
“Wilson-Ryckman begins the Program with Taking In, a series of watercolors exploring the act of looking and the various means by which people find respite or refuge within the urban landscape of San Francisco. The posters reinterpret archival images of people engaged in various activities in the City’s parks, from enjoying a moment of quiet reflection to singular activities such as bicycle riding to finding community, using strong color and abstract shapes that resolve into a recognizable image upon closer examination. On view October 5 to December 31, between Van Ness and the Embarcadero”
At SFMOMA, " Not New Work"
 Local sculptor Vincent Fecteu is invited to curate a show by taking old and/or underexposed out of storage and combining it in intriguing ways. Kenneth Baker is all jazzed about it:
 "On another level, "I'm almost embarrassed by how sexualized the show is," Fecteau said, "but that's one of those things that just happened" when "panning for gold," as he described the culling process. Some of the erotic content comes veiled, as in a Wayne Thiebaud watercolor of two globes of ice cream melting together on a plate. Some of it comes blatant, as in the barely abstracted pudenda of Judy Chicago's glazed ceramic "Georgia O'Keeffe Plate #1" (1979), from Chicago's notorious installation "The Dinner Party."
 Lovely selection of images from SFMOMA’s web site:

at the De Young:
September Artist-in-Residence Susan Freda: Line into Form
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Susan Freda invites visitors to explore the intricate and graceful workings of line. She works by drawing with wire to create two- and three-dimensional environments that refer to the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds. Visitors are invited to bring bits of nature for inspiration and to weave, crochet, twine, and draw with wire to create "ecosystems" based on the forms we find in nature.
Friday Night: September 4, 2009, 5:00 PM - 8:45 PM,
Cultural Encounters: Friday Nights at the de Young presents live Cuban music, featuring the John Santos Sextet, and "Mummies Victorious!," a lecture by Jonathan Elias
Contemporary Jewish Museum: There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak
COMING SOON: September 8, 2009 - January 19, 2010
This major retrospective sheds light on the many mysteries of his life and art by exploring the intensely personal undercurrents in his work; and it does so using Sendak's own words, insights, and remarkable stories.
Film at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: Bigger Than Life (1956). Directed by Nicholas Ray. Starring James Mason, Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau.
The tale of a schoolteacher and family man whose life spins out of control upon becoming addicted to cortisone was a flop when it was first released. It is now seen by modern critics as a masterpiece and an indictment of the conformist 1950’s suburbia.
Sep 10 & 12, 2009, 7:30 pm; Sep 13, 2009, 2 pm
Asian Art Museum: This weekend, you can meet modern a modern samurai and watch Japanese artist Natsusaka demonstrate and present his his original narrative sculpture work “A

Carved Strip,” inspired by traditional samurai stories. Natsusaka mixes contemporary art, storytelling, kitsch images and text to create this crossover art form. Kids of all ages can download a PDF file to create their own comic book character and even make their own teahouse.