Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer's almost here !

The two shows ending this week show the wide range of what's available for viewing in SF's galleries - Delicious at the Studio Gallery is a tiny space, crammed with work from local artists and Gallery Paule Anglim is, well maybe not much bigger, but downtown and with a focus on well established internationally known artists.

work inspired by food & drink
May 5th - June 6th, 2010

Gallery Paule Anglim
Louise Bourgeois

May 6 – June 12, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Looking at the Elgin Marbles

A friend of mine returned from a visit to the UK with some marvelous photos of the Elgin Marbles. I have also admired Anna Stump's images, inspired by Greek statues and drapery. So, I got inspired in turn. They are all done on very coarse water color paper, using charcoal and various forms of water based inks and paints. I think that the texture and energy that I was after show up, even in my amateur photographs.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Hollywood History of the Abs

Or abs we have seen, sometimes laughed at, sometimes lusted over and always (almost) enjoyed watching.

Some days you just have to go with the flow and today is that day. It's chilly, windy, raining off and on. My upstairs thug neighbor has started his afternoon serenade of really really boring and loud music and I just want to have some peace and quiet. So, I went looking for fun stuff to cheer me up

From the website "Go Fug Yourself"...(photos at the link to protect the innocent..but who could resist one of Butler in all his CGI/airbrushed glory)

"Hollywood's latest sword-and-sandal epic Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens Friday, and while the draw is ostensibly fancy action sequences and video-game tie-ins, there's a reason we and likely many others are privately referring to it as Not Without My Abs: The Jake Gyllenhaal Story. In fact, Jake's foray into shirtless beefcakery so overshadows the rest of the film that it inspired us to study all the sandaled studs who've come before, so we can appreciate it not just hedonistically, but also historically. Through the following intensive, exhaustive, courageous examination of the male torso, we've one vital conclusion: The loincloths may remain the same, but the abs, they are a-changin'."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design

Something's Happening Here: The San Francisco Rock Scene

The Charlatans, 1966 @ Herb Green (courtesy MPD)

 San Francisco's neighborhoods are full of little known but interesting spaces. To me, one of the more fascinating is the Museum of Performance and Design. Tucked away on the 4th floor of the Veterans Building (401 Van Ness Ave) and in part of the space formerly occupied by SF MOMA (before its move to 4th Street), the current exhibit is of particular interest to those of us who came here in the 60's.

We were drawn by the promise of a new way of living (aka, sex, drugs and Rock and Roll). Rod McKuen's poetry about Stanyan Street became a best seller, almost everybody was drenched in patchouli oil, draped love beads around their necks, believed in free love, thought that we were going to change the world forever -  and listened to the music. The Avalon Ballroom was in its heyday and music promoters like Chet Helms were pioneering psychedelic light shows, the forerunners of today's music videos.

Before rap, before heavy metal, heck before disco, SF's music scene blossomed with bands like The Beau Brummels, The Charlatans, Country Joe and the Fish, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. We could hear Janice singing in funky little dives and Grace Snick was the ice princess for a whole generation of young men (and maybe even a few women). Men wore their hair long, we all got into Indian religion and transcendental meditation, spoke of peace and love even while the Vietnam War was raging. It was sometimes silly, sometimes innocent, certainly naive and it was over far too soon.

Co-curators Melissa Leventon and Alec Palao evoke this rich era using a wealth of rarely seen footage, posters, images, and costume from private and public collections and from the artists themselves. Visitors are able to sample extremely rare audio and video clips, some of them drawn from the important archive of recordings from San Francisco’s KSAN that are now in MPD’s permanent collection.

Just a few of the key original items on display include:

Costume pieces worn by Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, and others
the full-sized original painting featured on the Grateful Dead’s Anthem of the Sun album cover
The famed “Captain Trips” hat worn by Jerry Garcia
original posters from classic Bay Area venues, including the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium
Rare letters, documents and one-of-a-kind ephemera from the Bay Area's 1960s rock'n' roll heyday
Iconic and previously unseen photographs from the archives of photographers such as Baron Wolman, Herb Greene, Bob Seidemann, Bill Brach, and Elaine Mayes
Musical instruments used by John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service), Merl Saunders, Dan Hicks, and others

The exhibition will be open to the public September 25, 2009-August 28, 2010.
Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5.
Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 12:00-5:00 pm.

401 Van Ness Ave, 4th Floor
Thanks to David W. Summer of the Museum of Performance and Design for his invaluable help on this.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

San Francisco Art Institute MFA Show - Redux

JD Beltran over at SF Gate (one of the city brights writers) thinks that the MFA show was just great.  She's the SFAI Chair of the Post-Baccalaureate Program - where students pay upwards of $30,000 + year tuition for 12-15 units a semester. So maybe she's reluctant to criticize this work. However, I shouldn't try to second guess her. Some of the comments are (for once) intelligent. Of course, this being SF Gate, they veer into the snark, the insulting and the irrelevant pretty quickly. Now, I find that Ms. Beltran's essays are often insightful and illustrate work that I don't know much about. I am always glad to learn and I enjoy challenging myself but I must respectfully disagree with her on this one.

"The 2010 MFA graduates of the San Francisco Art Institute have their final exhibition up at Fort Mason this week until tomorrow, Saturday; earlier this week, I spent a day wandering through the installations. It is impressive. And full of surprising things - I can't really think of a better word than "things" - that you've just never seen before.

If there was a common thread that I could detect in the mood, it was that the artists at the San Francisco Art Institute work very, very hard at having fun with their ideas. I definitely could detect the aura of experimentation and pushing boundaries that decades ago inspired the Beat Movement artists at the school - and, fifty years later, I imagined these recent grads sitting in their studios, conjuring grand schemes to create things just for the hell of it, and thinking, "Hmmm. Why not?"

Read more:

As for me, I think that the first image (not put up on my blog for copyright issues) pretty much covers the "why not." Now, she's included a painting by Percy Cannon whose work I liked but I find that local artist, Kristina Quinones, has done that and done it better. To be fair, I should have included Mr.s Canon's work in my first review but I was overwhelmed by the rest of the show - and not in a good way. At least, Ms. Beltran didn't list the plant/spotlight installation among her choices, so thank heavens for something. I did not watch any of the films she mentioned, so I can't comment on that.

I have wonderful memories of SFAI, of my time there and most of my teachers. If I could change anything, I would wish that the school had provided better counseling for life after art school but this was the 60's and it was pretty much "art for art's sake." One of my blogging buddies, Pam of of the food blog, Zoomie Station, was a counselor there some years ago and I know that she gave the students good advice. That's certainly an improvement over the panic and "oh my god how am I going to make a living" that I and my classmates faced. But in those days, tuition was $50 a semester and you could rent an apartment for $75 a month (complete with Murphy bed)! I lived on $300 a month - which was pretty much what most of us made by working full time. Prices were low but so were salaries. Today's students, unless they have a major trust fund, will graduate into one of the worst economies in recent decades, carrying a whole truck load of debt.
But I still think that for a school whose alumni include artists from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead to Enrique Chagoya, Manuel Nieri and Annie Lebowitz, this is a pretty sad showing.

Oh, and I should add that name calling and insulting anonymous comments won't be published. You are free to disagree with me. I appreciate discussion but just stating that I'm full of " it" does not make for intelligent commentary.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pearls on the Ocean Floor- a new documentary by Robert Adanto

Sometimes when I go from a post on traditional art to a post on entirely different art form (different media even), I fell like declaiming like the announcer on Monty Python, "And NOW for something entirely different." I liked Adanto's previous documentary on contemporary Chinese art so when the press release for his new film dropped into my in-box, I wanted to get the word out. I've lived in the Middle East, have distant Lebanese ancestors and am fascinated by their history while being extremely grateful that my grandfather emigrated in the 1890's!

Robert Adanto’s new documentary Pearls on the Ocean Floor features interviews with some of the most highly regarded Iranian female artists living and working in and outside the Islamic Republic. The film is screening Sunday, June 13th at 2:00pm in conjunction with Taravat Talepasand: Drawings, curated by Thien Lam.

The televised images of brutal security forces cracking down on demonstrators in Iran garnered global attention throughout the last twelve months. Last June all eyes were on the Islamic Republic of Iran as its citizens took to the streets to protest the results of a disputed election. Thirty years after the overthrow of the Shah, Iran's streets filled with demonstrators, protesting another rigged election.
As artist-activist Shirin Neshat so aptly put it, “This is not an ideological war, like it was for those who demonstrated during the Islamic revolution of 1979, it is a loud and clear cry for basic human rights: freedom, democracy and justice… The silver lining — if there’s any — is that Iranians inside and outside of Iran have been united and mobilized. If this energy is suppressed, will we ever find the strength and hope to come back together as a nation to fight for democracy again?”

 It is women who have born the brunt of an oppressive regime and the bias of a western media that has repeatedly constructed one-dimensional images portraying them as humorless, repressed, second-class citizens in black chadors. But, given the lack of unsupervised access to women living in these countries and the lethal consequences for them should they be open, honest and critical of their government, that's to be expected. Adanto interviews Iranian women artists, most of whom have escaped from Iran and whose lives and liberty would be at risk should they return.

Professor Hamid Dabashi recently wrote, “a much more patient reading of the visual and performing arts of this generation is needed before we know what in the world it is doing.” The younger generation is struggling against the rigid religious ideology of the current regime, trying to create a more democratic state for the 21st century.

Photographer Shadi Ghadirian explains that her work “touches upon our struggle to hold on to our parents’ and grandparents’ traditional values and practices while experiencing the benefits of modernity without getting caught up in its vices… Change is an inevitable process,” she says.

Well, I'm not sure I share such optimism. Change is inevitable but it's not always change for the better. Nevertheless, such films are an important window into a country which is now viewed as a rogue state. It gives voices to women who would otherwise be silenced or forced to parrot the current Islamic party line.
Images @ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Also see current review in NY TImes of work by Iranian born artist, Shoja Azari

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gustave Caillebotte

 The Floor Scrapers. 1875. Oil on canvas. H. 102; W. 146.5 cm © RMN, Hervé Lewandowski

This painting is one of the first representations of urban proletariat. Whereas peasants (Gleaners by Millet) or country workers (Stone Breakers by Courbet) had often been shown, city workers had seldom been painted. Unlike Courbet or Millet, Caillebotte does not incorporate any social, moralising or political message in his work. His thorough documentary study (gestures, tools, accessories) justifies his position among the most accomplished realists.

The perspective, accentuated by the high angle shot and the alignment of floorboards complies with tradition. The artist drew one by one all the parts of his painting, according to the academic method, before reporting them using the square method on the canvas. The nude torsos of the planers are those of heroes of Antiquity, it would be unimaginable for Parisian workers of those times. But far from closeting himself in academic exercises, Caillebotte exploited their rigour in order to explore the contemporary universe in a completely new way.

Caillebotte presented his painting at the 1875 Salon. The Jury, no doubt shocked by its crude realism, rejected it (some critics talked of "vulgar subject matter"). The young painter then decided to join the impressionists and presented his painting at the second exhibition of the group in 1876, where Degas exhibited his first Ironers. Critics were struck by this great modern tableau, Zola, in particular, although he condemned this "painting that is so accurate that it makes it bourgeois".

Currently showing at the Impressionist show at the De Young Museum in San Francisco

Thursday, May 20, 2010

De Young Museum: The Birth of Impressionism - Masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay

Go, look and marvel. Don't let any "expert" tell you that you've seen it all before. Yes, it's a blockbuster. SO WHAT! Even if you've visited Paris (and how many of us have), the opportunity to see these paintings is not to be missed. Look for the details - how the subject matter, frames, finish, even paint texture change as you move through the galleries. Stéphane Guégan, the Orsay's lead curator of the show said, "It's not just another exhibition of Impressionism. It's an occasion to look differently at these masterpieces." And, Buchanan said, "this will never happen again. The Orsay is very generous in lending single pictures to exhibitions, but it will never again loan these pictures in this configuration — never, ever."

Masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay opening at the De Young this Saturday, May 22nd. (Images from the Musee d'Orsay).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay Come to the De Young

For the second time in a week, I'm (almost) speechless - but this time, it's with awe. Here are a few quick impressions while I work on a longer piece. The installation is one of the best that I've seen and the lighting is superb. There's not a misplaced track light or a piece that you can't see because of the glare of light on glass. The first three rooms are full of the academic and salon painting of the time, which I didn't find that compelling except for a still life of a trout by Courbet. The show is very light on Manet - there are a couple of portraits, the Fifer and two exquisite, small still life pieces. I think that the bulk of the Manet pieces will come in the fall. There's a room of Monet's iconic masterpieces and pieces by Cezanne (you can never have to many Cezanne's)

When you enter the first room, you are facing Bouguereau's Venus, the epitome of 19th century academic painting. The piece takes up the entire wall and is a textbook example of 19th century attitudes toward women (carefully coy, eyes averted) and nudity (mythological references, therefore socially permissible). He's completely out of fashion yet I found the painting fun. It's a frothy, creamy, wedding cake of a painting, certainly beautifully painted with a glossy finish, satin skin tones and an eroticism that was fashionable in the time (look Ma, no pubic hair).

Bazille's painting of his family is far more stunning than any reproduction will show. It takes up almost all of one wall and the strong contrasts show Bazille's liking for the light of the South of France. The group is in the shade of a large tree, which accentuates the bright colors of the landscape and the sky. The light filtered by the foliage enhances the pale clothes, contrasting with the dark note of the jackets, a shawl or an apron.

Degas - what's enticing about this is his incredible draftsmanship. It's not a large piece and the perspective is flattened but that makes the graphic design stand out even more. I also had never thought of his color palate; here it's muted tans, blues and grays yet the piece is not drab or somber.

I have a confession to make. I've never liked this painting. I find it cold, dark and boring. But it's installed in a place of honor and it's certainly important in the history of art. I'm glad that it's showing but I wish that the Orsay had shipped some of Whistler's more colorful works.

more to come...
Masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay opening at the De Young this Saturday, May 22nd.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eugene Brancoveanu: A Musical Interlude

  •  Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu (photograph by Robert Bengtson courtesy of Barrett Vantage Artists)
 Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited to baritone Eugene Brancoveanu's last performance at the SF Conservatory of Music. Every time I go there, I am marvel at how well the the small recital hall is designed, full of light and elegant modern design, but still containing enough of the original Oak St. structure to be more interesting than the usual modern interior. I had never heard Brancoveanu and my friends said that I was in for a treat. They were right. Brancoveanu, a former Adler fellow, has a charismatic presence  and is very good looking, but it's the voice that captivated me. It's rich, dark, deep and thrilling but with a top range which he used well in some of the pieces. As Jason Victor Serinus wrote:

High notes shone at full volume, and were equally gorgeous when voiced softly. Legato was impeccable, as was the ability to build phrases and sustain tension. Although the voice occasionally faltered on softly sustained highs, the performance was immensely gratifying

He began with Russian composer Georgy Sviridov’s 12-song cycle, Russia Cast Adrift (1987). I thought it was a perfect choice for his resonant baritone and hearing it in the small space made the experience even more powerful. He appeared to be reading the text as he sang. Nevertheless,  the effect was emotional, with every song given a full measure of Russian soul. I think that the program incorrectly attributed the music to Elgar; when I went looking for recordings, I discovered that the music was by Rachmaninoff which makes a lot more sense. There was nothing English about this music and when he was singing, I was often close to tears with the melancholy and love expressed through music.

This was followed by Ravel's "Don Quichotte À Dulcinée," with each song presented as a separate character sketch, which showed off his command of French as well as his acting skills. After the intermission, we were treated three Schubert songs - "The Gnome," "Upon the far Horizon," and "The Erl-King." I'm not a big fan of Schubert lieder but I admired his technique, his command of German and his acting skills as he pantomimed each song's narrative - and a pretty grim set of tales they were !  Apparently, while the Russians go for soul, the Germans go for the gruesome. It must have something to do with those Teutonic forests.

Brancoveanu's diction is very clear and I was very impressed by his linguistic skills - Russian, French and German. I even thought I could understand the German!  The encore was Strauss' Zueignung ("Ja, du weißt es, teure Seele"). The only flaw in the program came from the audience where some nitwit forgot to turn off his (or her) cell phone.

Afterward, we floated out, avoided the Bay--to-Breakers crowd and had a celebratory glass of champagne and a cheese plate at Arlequin on Hays St. It was too chilly to sit outside so we drank our champagne and listened to my friend, who was married to a musician and whose three children are professional musicians, go over the concert again - with a four star review!

We were driven out when the staff decided to turn up the volume on some coarse rap music. After what we had just heard, that was too painful to endure.
Joshua Korman's at SF Gate:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay coming to San Francisco

The first exhibition, Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, debuts at the de Young on May 22 and runs through September 6, 2010.

Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay presents nearly 100 magnificent works by the famous masters who called France their home during the mid- to late-19th century and from whose midst arose one of the most original and recognizable of all artistic styles, Impressionism. The exhibition begins with paintings by the great academic artist Bouguereau and the arch-Realist Courbet, and includes American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley are showcased with works dating from the 1860s through 1880s, along with a selection of Degas’ paintings that depict images of the ballet, the racetrack, and life in the Belle Époque.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SFAI MFA Show at Fort Mason

Words fail me. (ps - Anonymous comments will not be published. Also, saying a show is "great" does make it so.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Art Speak, Hyperbole and Cant for the Big Sell

Annie Walsh over at SF MOMA's blog, Open Space, is my cultural mentor. I don't mean a mentor in real life because I don't know her (although I'd love to meet her) but she's the one that I increasingly turn to as a touchstone. As an art blogger and now, cultural journalist for the Examiner, I always wonder if my opinions are somewhere out of the ballpark. There is so much that I don't like and don't blog about (unless I can be clever and sharky!) that I often fear that I am not only a Philistine but out of touch with the rest of the art world.

Well, Annie and I are on the same page on at least two separate issues - the lack of women artists represented at SF MOMA and Luc Tuymans who was the subject of a long discussion posted on this blog a while back:

"..... Even considering all 8 years of the Bush presidency, I’m sure I’ve looked at this photo of a Tuymans painting of a photo of Condoleezza Rice more times than any other image of the former Secretary of State, and certainly thought about it more. So I was surprised to discover what a weak painting it is when I found it at the end of the exhibition."

and further down:

"Doesn’t the bravado and theatricality of LT’s rule of completing a painting in one sitting contradict the claim that he’s a conceptualist with no interest in the romantic myth of the painter? What happens to the rule now that he’s making bigger paintings? Will he change the rule? Did that rule go stale a while ago? Where does he go from here? Why can’t wall labels ask questions like that? Do these paintings sell so well because beneath their manifest content their vision of the world is actually rather ambiguous, and all this happens in coats of creamy paint? Do we like to be reminded of cruelty not only so we prevent it from happening but also because it is in our nature?"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All Asian Focus at the Civic Center This Weekend

Well, “Three Head Six Arm Buddha” by Shanghai artist Zhang Huan was dedicated today in Civic Center but the Internets are already burning up with talk of the Rapture.

Why the Rapture?  SF Citizen has the scoop: ‘Cause this 15-ton monster portends the arrival of the Antichrist Maitreya (or something). And then things will go downhill fairly quickly after that, apparently. (Actually, we were supposed to get the Rapture on January 11, 2009, because of Barack Obama of course, but then….)

 Newsom gets into the act as well, asking a bunch of students attending the ribbon cutting ceremony what the Buddha represents. "Buddhism," they holler back. Well, that was insightful.

I went to the ribbon cutting ceremony today and didn't see one sign of transcendence or the second coming. Nobody ascended to heaven and the envelope supposedly separating this world from the next remained firmly in place. There were a lot of news people around interviewing the guys in suits. Maybe they were the manifestations of the demons of evil? You think probably not?

Personally I think that it's more a sign of expensive dubious taste ($100,000 to ship it over here - or so I read), artistic ego and my art piece is bigger than your art piece (neiner, neiner), rather than an object of real spirituality or a protest against the Chinese destruction of Tibetan culture. But it's an interesting addition to the Civic Plaza. It's much more striking than Manolo Valdez's  Infantes (aka, The Cowbells) up in 2008.

 Manolo Valdez' Infantes (from 2008)

I just wish that we have been able to keep one of Louise Bourgeois' huge spiders in the city- there could be a face off of Giant Spider at one end and Buddha at the other. Horror in the plaza at high noon (rather than the usual horror show at City Hall). But that's a lot less colorful. Where is Ray Harryhausen when you need him? We could offset the cost of shipping and installation by making a horror movie. Instead of Godzilla and Mothra destroying the Tokyo, we could have Buddha vs Spider aided by a cast of the floating denizens of the Civic Center Plaza, whomping and stomping evil Old San Francisco into rubble.

If you want to see some beautiful Buddhas, check out the marvelous ones at the Asian Art Museum, right across the street.

©Asian Art Museum: USS Powhatan carrying the First Japanese Embassy to America, approx. 1860. Woodblock print, ink and colors on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of Mr. Richard Gump, B81D10

Speaking of the Asian, there's a lovely exhibit up now to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the ship Kanrin Maru and the first Japanese embassy to the United States. This exhibit focuses on some of the first Japanese diplomats and cultural emissaries in San Francisco, and how they responded to the experience of being in America. There are more than 40 artworks and other visual media associated with the first mission, with Japanese artists and cultural leaders active in San Francisco between 1880 and 1927.
It’ll be in the Japanese Galleries ’til November 21, 2010.

Plus, there's the Asian Festival In Little Saigon this weekend. There will be a whole lot of shaking going on. I did remember reading that there will be Balut which will not please the vegan protesters that SF Mike wrote about recently.
Civic Center

Buddha and Valdez images @ Nancy Ewart.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Buddha Has Landed

@ Asian Art Museum/Pace Gallery

Sixteen tons and what do you get, sang Tennessee Ernie Ford in his 1955 popular hit.  Another day older and deeper in debt. Well, for fifteen tons (and hopefully no debt), we've gotten Chinese artist Zhang Huan's Three Heads, Six Arms Budddha. This 26-foot gargantuan statue, his largest to date, is in honor of the the Shanghai San Francisco Sister City 30th Anniversary Celebration. It has landed here, courtesy of the San Francisco Arts Commission and Zhang's representatives, The Pace Gallery, one of the powerhouses of the international art world. Because of the size, it has to be installed piece by piece, a process which fascinated local bloggers like Mike (of Civic Center Fame).  

@ Asian Art Museum/Pace Gallery

Three Heads Six Arms is part of a series of monumental works depicting the fragmented extremities of Buddhist statues. The series was inspired by Zhang’s discovery of religious sculptures that had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution for sale in a Tibetan market. He began the series in 2006 shortly after moving from New York City to Shanghai where he retired his performance art practice and embraced a more traditional approach to artistic creation.

@ David W. Sumner

According to Zhang, “When I saw these fragments in Lhasa, a mysterious power impressed me. They’re embedded with historical and religious traces, just like the limbs of a human being.” The fingers of Buddhist deities are considered highly symbolic because they convey different spiritual meanings through various hand gestures, or mudras. Zhang continued the series with several even larger sculptures combining the legs, feet, hands and heads of Buddhist deities. The artist, having been deeply moved by the sight of the desecrated statues, believes that by recreating these fragments on a grand scale, he is able to alleviate the pain caused by their destruction."

@ Asian Art Museum/Pace Gallery

"The shape of Three Heads Six Arms came from my correlation of it with the Chinese mythological character Nezha, inspiration came from Tibetan Buddhist sculptures. I replaced two of the three Buddha heads with human heads,” said Zhang. Among the sculpture’s three heads is a self-portrait of the artist. “Three Heads Six Arms reflects the changing realities of Chinese people today and also reflects the attitude that humankind has conquered nature and even reflects deeds of volition and hope,” said Zhang.

The question is, will it enable our mayor and the Board of Supervisors to embrace the Noble Eightfold Path - "right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration." Since one of the Buddha's heads is a self-portrait of the artist, it is doubtful that there will be much of an aura of detachment from the things of the world. The effect is one of artistic ego and contemporary art and power politics, erupting through the concrete floor of the plaza. Bigger is better seems to be the theme of this year's celebration of Shanghai. First, there was the 21-foot robo baby displayed in Shanghai, and now, this monster which lacks even a fraction of calm compassion or even the ferocious energy evoked by Tibetan tanka paintings.  The Buddha advocates compassion toward all sentient beings. Does this ? The giant sculpture is more reminiscent of something created by Ray Harryhausen, the movie special effects pioneer,  I almost expect it to lurch forth from the plaza and lumber toward Van Ness Avenue, menacing the less-than-evolved beings that presently occupy city hall.

A dedication ceremony for Three Heads Six Arms, (2008) will be held on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 10 a.m. in Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza, located across the street from San Francisco’s City Hall. or or call (415) 581-3500
Three Heads Six Arms (2008) will be on view through 2011.Civic Center:
David W. Sumner:
E-mail David W. Sumner at:

Friday, May 7, 2010

New pieces up at the on the various MFA Shows

From Monica Lundy's show at Mills College (up until the end of the month)
New pieces up at the Examiner on the various MFA shows.

 Erika Meriaux: "Greek Myths" at Femina Potens (2199 Market St, SF -through May 30, 2010) 
I do and don't like her work. It fascinates and yet repels me at the same time.  She tackles topics that fascinate me - mythology, tarot - but I haven't connected emotionally with the paintings and I'm not sure why. Still, she's worth checking out. Femina Potens is a "real" feminist gallery and art space - it's always cutting edge, featuring transgressive works and in your face installations, workshops and lectures. A lot of spaces claim to be feminist or transgender but Femina Potens is the real deal. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Experiments with the New Camera

First of all, does anybody know how to add my Flickr account to the blog template and also, how to link it to a face book posting. HELP!
However, I'm pleased that I've gotten this far. I got the camera yesterday, figured out how to charge the battery, load the battery, take simple photos AND create a Flickr account. Not bad for a 24-hour period.
These are all pastels, done on black charcoal paper. I haven't worked much in pastel so I am having fun, making a mess but not that unhappy with the results.

 I did this piece on red charcoal paper, mounted it on the black charcoal paper and then, extended the image onto the larger sheet of paper.

Here's a close-up with a little better light. I'm obviously still learning about the camera settings.

Starflower - again done on a separate piece of paper, mounted on the black and then, extended the image out of the frame. I like the pale, ghostly effect of this.
This was done directly on the black paper - the red that you see at the top of the frame is some of the cardboard that I put on top of my drawing board to protect the wood from messy accidents.

MFA Shows in the Bay during the Merry Month of May

It's May and while many are making vacation plans, graduates from the various art schools and departments in the Bay Area are frantically finishing up the work for their MFA. For the artists, it's an introduction to the crazy making world called "getting your art out there." For us, it's a chance to see what the next generation is working on and maybe pick out a few pieces that really speak to us. Most student work is experimental and still raw, which has it's own virtues. You may not be able to spot the next Picasso but no matter; it's fun to look, to talk to the artists who are almost always accessible, idealistic and eager to share. As always, support your local artists.

No Right Angles: The 40th Annual University of California, Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition
May 21, 2010 through June 20, 2010
What really is worth checking out at Berkeley is the exhibit:  Assignment Shanghai: Photographs on the Eve of Revolution

California College of the Arts will host opening receptions for three major year-end exhibitions on Thursday, May 6, from 6–9 p.m. "We have as much time as it takes" is the thesis exhibition of CCA's Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice, being presented in the galleries of the CCA Wattis Institute for the first time in the program's seven-year history. There's a long, long list of MFA candidates but no usable images for the web so you are on your own here.
San Francisco Art Institute is the oldest art school around. Although the faculty have seen better days (Still, Park, Diebenkorn, Hatofsky to name a few of the past teachers), it's still hanging in there, so not to go would be so square (daddy-oh)! Their MFA Graduate Exhibition will feature work by nearly 100 artists, with a wide range of approaches. The student work is usually quirky, very experimental and not too accessible to the non-art public but I've always found the students (mostly) eager to respond to an honest question. I will refrain from a "I remember when" comment but if it's your thing, go and check it out
SVernissage: Friday, 14 May 2010 from 6:00 to 8:00pm
On view: 15–22 May 2010, daily from 12:00 to 6:00pm
Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason

Monica Lundy, MFA candidate, Mills College.

Mills College : I was particularly struck by the work of Monica Lundy which showed real emotional power and technical skill.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Where are the women at SF MOMA?

I posed this question back in 2007 in one of my first posts to BAAQ:

I'm sorry to say that the question is still as pressing then as it was now and hasn't been answered in any better fashion. 

I discovered (via a post at Real Clear Arts) that Anne Walsh, a curator at SF MOMA's blog, Open Space, asked the same question of senior Gary Garrels.

"15 male artists own the majority of linear and cubic gallery-feet, 3 female artists have the rest. And of those three women, at least two could be called twofers: they're the only artists of color in the entire installation, and they're women!  (Here I am referring to Doris Salcedo and Kara Walker. If, in ignorance, I've overlooked someone, please correct me.)"

The end of the post has a long fantasy shopping list but given the prevailing sexism of the museum establishment and their long, long list of excuses, I'm not holding my breath. Part 1 appeared on April 13; the second part hasn't been published yet.

Two Views of Shanghai

From workers of the world unite! to 21-foot giant robot babies, China has something for every taste and point of view.

21-Foot-Tall Robot Baby To Defend People's Republic
The Shanghai Expo opened this week where visitors guests at will encounter a giant, cooing robo-baby built by the special-effects artists behind Alien vs. Predator. Is this ankle-biting abomination China's new superweapon? After watching this monstrosity in motion, we vote "yes" unequivocally.

Miguelín, the 21-foot baby, was created by Isabel Coixet of Spain. Even though Miguelín could be the next step in Spanish national defense, we instead (and totally uninformedly) choose to believe that this is the opening salvo in some baby-themed Cold War, complete with diaper-bombs and death rattles. Next thing you know, Gerber will be selling fatigues and Pedialyte will be laced with Old Grand-Dad to take life's edge off.

For those readers who refused to be swayed by reason, here's the "story" behind this robotic rugrat via Sociedad Estatal para Exposiciones Internacionales:

Miguelín is a 6.5 meters tall baby, electronically animated. It breathes, blinks and dreams with the cities that we will leave to future generations will smiling visitors as they walk into "Sons", the last of rooms that integrate the pavilion, which is managed by the Spanish Agency for International Exhibitions (SEEI) [...]

The baby's "Mother" is film director Isabel Coixet who has pointed out that with this collaboration she has wanted to stay accurate to the Expo Shanghai's Theme, "Better city, better life". Also that Miguelín is a reminder that tells us that "all our actions have direct consequences on our children's future and that we have to react to this", said the filmmaker in an encounter with the Spanish Press at the Instituto Cervantes in Beijing.

Inspiration for creating Miguelín, the absolute protagonist of Coixet's room, has been – according to the director- the passion for children shared by both the Chinese and the Spanish culture. "We have given this many thoughts. I have investigated along with Chinese assessors, friends and artists I know and both countries share this worship for children" – she said. (The feminist in me can't help but point out that the preference in China, if not in Spain, is for male children. But OK. Whatever you say, Isabel. )

Given its location within the Spain Pavilion, Coixet's room helps to appreciate with detail the curves of the wicker designed by Benedetta Tabliabue and looks like if baby Miguelín is receiving visitors in its own cradle. While the animated dreams of Miguelín have been created by designer Ignacio Fernández Maroto, the construction of the giant baby has been done in USA supervised by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. at the Amalgamated Dynamis Inc. studios, responsible as well for cinematographic monsters such as Alien vs Predator o Starship Troopers.

Wait, it "dreams with the cities that we will leave to future generations?" That means it's become sentient and can communicate with our urban infrastructure. Oh dear Lord — we are witnessing the birth of Skynet.

Yeah, I don't really see how this fits with the theme of "better city, better life." Unless her vision of a better city involves regular kaiju-scale temper tantrums and diaper bombings

First it was the eight-armed people eater (Really Really Big  Buddha) that may or not be placed in our Civic Center. Let's just hope our esteemed supervisors don't decided to chose the giant Robot Baby instead. The last thing that SF needs is more poo or giant infant temper tantrums.

 This is a fascinating website which illustrates the history of modern China through it's posters. Their viewpoint is just as idealistic as that of Ms. Coixet but focuses on more down to earth issues - defeating the Japanese, building a modern China, the Great Leap Forward.

From the political struggles of the 1920's through today, the Chinese government has used posters to educate and rally public opinion. Bronzed and brawny workers wave the little red book on high, indignant peoples of the world stomp out the evil Imperial running dogs and pink cheeked children sing the praises of socialism and Mao. The posters are colorful and make no pretense that they are anything other than propaganda - colorful, graphically strong images conveying basic messages - not so different from propaganda of other times and other countries but unusual because we don't have much of a chance to see them here.The current show on Shanghai at the Asian has a few posters but nothing like the range displayed at this website. But in the case of the Asian, I think that they were limited by space but it's a show that I'd love to see the Asian do.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mierle Laderman Ukeles will be speaking at the San Francisco Art Institute on Mon, May 03, 2010 starting at 7:30 PM

Take out the papers and the trash

        Or you don't get no spending cash
        If you don't scrub the kitchen floor
        You ain't gonna rock and roll no more

        from "Yakety Yak," words and music
        by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
        © 1958 by Tiger Music, Inc.

 Mierle Laderman Ukeles is an important bridge between the art of second-wave feminism and the current generation. Since the 1960’s, she has uncovered connections between women and undervalued work.

In 1969, she wrote a manifesto entitled "Maintenance Art—Proposal for an Exhibition," which challenged the delegation of housework to women. In this seminal document of feminist art, Ukeles was attempting to demystify the image of the "housewife" as someone locked into an irretrievable system of dependency. She wanted to reinterpret the conventional housewife stereotypes, not in imagistic terms, but through a systemic style of creative action. as well as confront social and political changes within the society, which were in turn affecting her attitudes about art, Ukeles chose to "perform" housework as a maintenance system—a literal art of work existing in real time. By accepting the reality of her situation in maintaining the household, she discovered the reality of maintenance/housework as a means to the survival of personal freedom, art and all other social institutions. In other words, maintenance art was a necessary part of the human condition.

In the course of redefining her own domestic role, she caught the meaning of art as action, art as gesture, art as circumstance within an appointed system or any designated structure – eventually the museums, office buildings and streets of New York. This is surely a creative and unique take on the 50’s theory of action painting but, instead of using a canvas and brushes, Ukeles used her body and the structures of civic life, our everyday life, as a platform for art, action, performance and education.

In I Make Maintenance Art One Hour Every Day (1976), Ukeles shifted her emphasis from the personal or individual scale to that of a large-scale system. For two months, she worked as part of a sanitation bureaucracy, cleaning floors and elevators in a lower-Manhattan office building along with 300 janitors and "cleaning women" during regular shifts. Touch Sanitation, (completed June 1980), involved more than 8,500 workers in the New York City Department of Sanitation. The performance itself lasted for eleven months. Her intention was "to face and shake hands" with each one of the 8,500 sanitation works while saying the words: "Thank you for keeping New York City alive."

 By shaking hands with a sanitation worker, or "san-man," she was demystifying another stereotype. There is a necessary task to be done and a necessary separation to be made between the task and those who perform it. Maintenance is a shared concern; there is both a private and public aspect to the work cycle. Waste products are not created by "garbage men," but by individuals who designate leftovers as trash. "Are we to assume," Ukeles has stated, "that those who dispose of trash—being all of us—are the 'garbage people'?"

Ukeles has further extended the notion that feminism and maintenance are intertwined; to overcome the stereotype remains a challenge. She has further advocated that maintenance is the "underbelly system" of urban life and culture—a work-a-day system that keeps people alive and things functioning, whether on a public or domestic level.

Somebody has to take out the trash.