Saturday, November 7, 2009

Open Studios - the last weekend.

By the time the last weekend of Open Studios came around, I was exhausted. Doing my own open studios the week before had been exhilarating but the drain on my energy was enormous. Still, I was given a chance of a ride to Hunter's Point, thanks to Anna Conti and Sandy Yagi (see BAAQ for Anna's piece on Sandy) and I was not going to pass that up. Most of my friends with cars are artists too and by the time Hunter's Point weekend comes around, we all just want to veg out. Hunter's Point really is accessible only by car. One could take the 19 Polk but that's a long, long ride and not something I want to do. It's a shame that the city hasn't provided better public transportation out there. But, all that aside, it was a beautiful day and I was happy to go along for the ride. There wasn't even that much traffic and Sandy was able to get a good parking spade at the side of Building 101. I mention this because when we went it, she immediately saw Richard Bolingbroke's studio which turned out to be one of the highlights of our visit.

They are friends and so I got to listen in on two other artists talk about technique, inspiration, pricing (his large watercolor pieces cost about $1000 to frame which is why they aren't framed!)  and all the things that "us" artists do talk about. But I am never tired of shop talk and looking at Richard's watercolors and monoprints could keep me entertained for hours. I was stunned by his facility with watercolors since I've taken a couple of classes and know how extremely difficult the medium can be.

His watercolors are exquisite but powerful - no wimpy washes here. The older pieces are patterns of flowers and other symbols combined into intensely colored pieces of depth and complexity. His new work is deceptively simple - less flowers and more "real" objects which present their own technical challenges. The simpler the image is, the less room you have to make mistakes. His new pieces have a more subdued and delicate palate but are beautiful meditations on "ordinary" objects, combined into extraordinary compositions. He is also a master draftsman and opened drawer after drawer, full of drawings, portraits and in one case, drawings of skulls that left me speechless. There's been an interesting discussion on the Asian Art Museum blog about skeletons and skulls and I couldn't help thinking that Richard's pieces were a superb addition in a long tradition. I wanted to pry him with questions about paper, materials and technique but the studio was filling up with (hopefully) eager customers so I will hold off for another time.

SF has lost so many artists' communities in the last decade so I was happy to hear that 101 Hunter's Point is now a historical site. That gives the artists some protection against ruthless eviction and development hell. Richard said that they had just spent thousands of dollars on a new roof, windows and painting so the old place looked quite spiffy. I was also pleased to revisit some of my older favorites such as Linda Hope, Thea Schack and Elizabeth Tana. As always, I saw too much good art to take it all in. It would be wonderful if there were some way for "us" artists to have a space, centrally located, where we could have a version of Open Studios every week. Art in storefronts is a start but I would like to see the city open up one of those shuttered downtown buildings and let us hang a different show every month of the year. Maybe we could draw lots to see who goes first but it would be a way to show art from artists who often only get the chance to show one weekend of the year. Packing in hundreds of good artists into a month long exhausting art event just doesn't do justice to the richness and complexity of our community.

Older interview with Linda Hope about Hunter's Point and issues around development:
Richard Bolingbroke:

1 comment:

Zoomie said...

I remember seeing Bolingbroke's work in Union Square at a show in the middle of the square when I first arrived in CA and admiring it immensely even then. Really, really like some of the new work, too.