Saturday, October 30, 2010

CJM: Reclaimed: Paintings from the collection of Jacques Goudstikker

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29–1682), Sailing Vessels in a Thunderstorm, mid- to late 17th century, oil on canvas.  Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker.

The other marvelous show opening this week is at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It's a tale of tragedy, greed and great injustice, redeemed by a family's courage and perseverance. It's a great story, but the ending is bitter-sweet for the principals never saw justice done, and indeed, the price of justice has been very high.

The paintings on view at the CJM are only a remnant of the collection Jacques Goudstikker once owned. Between WW I and WW II, Jacques Goudstikker was one of the most important art dealers of Old Master paintings. He had amassed an extraordinary collection, approximately 1400 works of art, mostly Dutch, Flemish and Italian old master paintings. Renowned for his connoisseurship and scholarly catalogs, Goudstikker was a highly educated art historian and his collection reflected the international taste of the time.

But when the Nazis invaded Holland, Goudstikker, a Jew and with a superb art collection, knew that he had to flee to survive. Like so many others, he left almost his possessions behind but kept with him a notebook, now known as the Blackbook, which contained an inventory of most of his collection. He, his wife and infant son were able to obtain passage on the SS Bodegraven. Tragically, only 48 hours later, he died on the ship, falling through an deck hatch and breaking his neck. His wife, Desi, and infant son Edo were eventually able to reach America.

Days after Goudstikker died, Goering appeared at the company's doorstep. Under threat of confiscation, he ultimately obtained the entire collection for two million guilders, a fraction of its value, in a sham transaction typical of the 'forced sales' engineered by the Nazis. The deal also included the life of Goudstikker's mother who had (for whatever reason), stayed behind. Art for a life. At least, this time, the Nazis didn't renege on their deal. The rest of the family was not so fortunate. At least eighteen (of the 26) members of the Goudstikker family died in the Holocaust.

Following the Nazis' surrender, Allied forces recovered the art treasures in Germany and transferred them to the Dutch government with the intention that they be returned to their rightful owners. Goudstikker's son and wife were still alive, but when they returned to the Netherlands to reclaim their stolen property, they were treated with callous hostility by the Dutch government. For sixty years, Dutch government kept the works in the national collection but never obtained legal title to them. How could they? They knew full well that the works were stolen.

 Master of the Mansi Magdalene (c. 1510–30), St. Mary Magdalene, oil on panel.  Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker.

In a bitter seven-year legal struggle, between 1946 and 1952, Goudstikker's widow Desi tried to regain as much as she could of the family's looted property but was unsuccessful. Both Desi, Goudstikker's widow and Edo, his son, died in 1996 and never lived to see the return of their heritage.

The wrongs underlying the Goudstikker case were exposed between 1996 and 1998 by Dutch investigative journalist Pieter den Hollander, whose research brought to light how the interests of individual victims were often neglected in the post-war restitution of stolen art. The issue attracted major international attention. Because of this,  Edo's wife (now widow),  Marei von Saher, resurrected the claim. Using the Blackbook (the inventory of the collection as the basis for her claims), she and her lawyers battled in the Dutch courts until February 2006, when the Dutch government finally relented, agreeing to return 206 paintings. Estimates of more than £50 million were placed on the collection, but much of that will be needed to pay for the restitution costs.

Sixty years after the War's end, justice is finally done. With this decision behind her, Ms. von Saher (the son's widow) has indicated her intention to redouble her efforts to recover stolen Goudstikker artworks wherever they are found. Ms. von Saher adds: 'We hope that the restitution of this wonderful collection will lead governments, museums and other institutions throughout the world to act just as responsibly and promptly and return all Nazi-looted art in their possession.'

 'At long last, justice. A dream has come true for me and my daughters, Charlene and Chantal', Since the government rejected our initial application in 1998, we have waged our battle for justice, and we have finally achieved what sadly eluded my mother-in-law Desi directly after the War. Her mission to restore the legacy of Jacques Goudstikker and recover the property that had been taken from him became mine when she died in 1996. I wish my husband Edo could have been a part of this, but he passed away just five months after his mother. Still, I'm thrilled that Jacques Goudstikker's importance in the pre-War art world is again being acknowledged all over the world. Without the help of committed lawyers, art historians, government officials and friends, we could never have come this far. By uncovering the true Goudstikker story, they have restored to my family a pivotal part of its history.'

'It is a shame that so much time had to pass and so much cost and effort was required before a decision was made to return the paintings', said the Goudstikker lawyers, Prof. mr. Dick Schonis of Baker & McKenzie and Jhr. mr. Roelof van Holthe tot Echten of Oostwaard Lawyers, who have spent eight years fighting for restitution. 'But we're glad an historic error has been corrected and we hope that this important decision will be another step towards the restitution of other paintings belonging to the Goudstikker collection as well as the possessions of other Holocaust survivors and their heirs.' (PRN Newswire release, link below)

The decision in the Goudstikker case will have international repercussions, as extensive efforts are underway to reclaim other looted Goudstikker artwork. A number of Goudstikker artworks have already been restituted by governments, museums, private collections, dealers and auction houses in Austria, England, Germany, Israel and the United States. Some notable examples are a drawing by Edgar Degas, restituted by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and a still life by the Dutch female 17-th century master painter Rachel Ruysch, which was returned to the family by the Gemälde Galerie Dresden. Other artworks located include two of the most important works from the Goudstikker collection, 'Adam and Eve' by Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, as well as a major landscape painting by David Teniers the Younger in the Wallraf - Richartz Museum in Cologne, Germany. Unfortunately, the Norton Simon museum is fighting the family's claim and the case is now pending in the US Supreme Court.

Anonymous, oil on canvas. 19th century. @ Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker.

Marei von Saher and Jacques Goudstikker's granddaughter there to answer questions. To see the human face of this tragedy and their obvious emotion over sharing this story brought it all the more home. They recounted several stories of holocaust survivors, who had kept silent for all these years, now having the courage to speak out. They have even met other Holocaust survivors who were on the same ship with Jacques and Desi; one of them, an elderly women, gave the granddaughter a small Delft statue that she had carried with her from Holland when she fled as a child.

Seán Martinfield of The Sentinel, asked how the Dutch government, supposedly so liberal, could refuse to return works when their providence was so well known. How could any museum keep, knowingly keep work that they knew was stolen? The lawyer for the family said - in essence - they refused because they could get away with it. The Dutch, along with many other European governments, refused to return the spoils of war. It was only due to a series of court decisions in the late 90's, along with more Nazi documents coming into light, that opinion began to change.

In a time of rising anti-Semitism, xenophobia and nationalism - it's a story that needs to be told and retold to build a bulwark against the rising tide of ignorance, bigotry and hated.

Hatred is irrational. It is far too present and far too influential. When a gay man is murdered and his body left to hang on a barbed wire fence, there is hatred. When a mob stomps a woman down because she's supposedly a threat to a political candidate, there is hatred. When a member of any religion is labeled, denigrated, banned or silenced solely because of their religion or nationality, there is hatred. When black is told to get back or brown to get down, there is hatred.

 It's not only the Jews - whose possessions, whose lives, whose very bones, skin, teeth and hair - were stolen to fuel a psychotic regime who are at risk. We who remain silent in the face of hatred, we who forget the past - or deny it - are at risk of losing all that is important to us. The time to learn and stop the madness is now, before the thud of marching boots drowns out decency, before the howls of the mob create mindless fear, before the bodies lie, bloody and broken in the burning streets.

Lecture: Delayed Justice: Restitution of Looted Art - Tuesday, November 2, 2010, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
A discussion of the complicated interplay of justice, art, and business as it relates to looted art during World War II and beyond with George McNeely, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Christie’s Auction House. McNeely also talks about the history of Christie’s, and how auction houses negotiate their complicated role in the drama of reclaimed art.

Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker" Through March 29, 2011
Contemporary Jewish Museum: 736 Mission Street (btwn. 3rd and 4th Streets), San Francisco, CA 94103
Thanks for Nina Sazevich for her help in providing information and correcting me on some of the dates!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson at SFMOMA

One has to tiptoe lightly and steal up to one's quarry; you don't swish the water when you are fishing.

I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us.
- Henri Cartier-Bresson

James Mitchell and a blurb on ME!

James Mitchell, a poet, writer and fellow student at SFSU got one of my pieces. He was nice enough to write this lovely blurb on me and the piece. I couldn't ask for better press!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson opening at SFMOMA

I was privileged today to preview this show and I'm still mulling over the images. In fact, the show is so powerful, so beautiful (but never banal) that I'm sure I will return again and again. It will take a while for me to find the words to do justice to his vision but in the meantime, enjoy the interview which he did with Charlie Rose. Cartier-Bresson's widow was at the preview today and said that he gave Charlie a hard time. If he did, it only made for a better interview.

Opening at SF MOMA on October 30th.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rainy Day in San Francisco - and rain in the Japanese print

Rain as a motif in ukiyo-e prints was often shown as a series of black or gray lines to represent swirling gusts, heavy downpours, or gentle drops. It was most beautifully evoked in the prints of Hiroshige, particularly Night Rain on the Karasaki Pine (see previous post ), in which the dark band of clouds seems to have opened up and released a torrent. Dark bands of color in the sky, most often seen at the top of the sheet for a graded effect, were created with a technique called bokashi, in which the printer hand-wiped pigment onto the block. This method is seen again in two of Hiroshige’s famous prints of rainstorms, Evening Squall at Shon and Evening Rain at Atake on the Great Bridge (see below).

Ando Hiroshige. Other names used: Utagawa (Ando), Tokutaro, Jubei, Juemon, Tokubei, Ichiyasai, Ichiryusai, Ryusai, Tokaido, Utashige. This  last major master of the Ukiyo-e School was born in 1797, son of an Edo fire warden. He succeeded to his father hereditary post early but in 1811 entered the studio of the ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro, soon receiving the artist name Hiroshige. His first published work, in the field of book illustration, dates from 1818; during the following decade H. published capable work in the field of figure prints: actors, warriors and girls. From the year 1831 he began (under the influence of the great Hokusai) the series of landscape prints that were to make his name: Fifty three Stations of the Tokaido, and later, Famous Views of Japan, Famous Views of Kyoto, Eight views of Lake Biwa, Sixtynine Stations of the Kiso-kaido Highway.  Though not the prodigious eccentric that Hokusai was, H. nevertheless made a large contribution to the development of the landscape print, as well as to the field of flower-and-bird prints (these revealing his inclination toward the Kyoto Shijo School more than toward ukiyo-e).   In effect, H. consolidated the landscape form and adapted it to popular taste, thereby diffusing the form to all strata of society. But eventually this also led to overproduction and declining standards of quality. At his best, however, H. was a master of the impressionist, poetic view of nature, and he remains the best-loved of all Japanese artists.  Among his pupils were Hiroshige II, Shigekatsu, Shigekiyo and Hiroshige III.  (Wikipedia)

The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism (now showing at the Legion)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Night and Open Studios

Utagawa Hiroshige, Night Rain on the Karasaki Pine, from the series Eight Views of O¯mi Province, ca. 1834–1835. Color woodcut, 22.7 °— 35.3 cm (815⁄16 °— 137⁄8 in.)

Anna Conti (of BAAQ and A Working Artist's Journal) has gathered a group of friends together for a Friday Night Round table. Now that I am an art journalist as well as a painter,  I'm often as busy as I was when I worked the "real" job before retirement so this is a chance to meet with a group of like minded friends, look at art, dish out the gab, go for a bit of food and, in general, have a delightful time.

Last Friday night, the group (or Anna's posse as I like to call them) visited my Open Studio on Friday night. Even though the studio was baking hot after our scorching week, they brought a breath of fresh air and friendship that helped me get through the evening.

Tonight we decided to visit the Open Studios at Fort. Mason. I got there late so wasn't able to see the show at the Italian-American museum but I sure was in time for the Off the Grid Food trucks. We all made the rounds several times, sampling as much food as the tummy could comfortably hold, (leave no taste behind!)and introducing a visitor from Hawaii to SF's foodie scene. She admitted that this was a nice change from Spam Sushi. I enjoyed the crowds and the music. Watching the little kids boogie to the music and get all excited was charming - and even more so because I don't have to deal with the inevitable meltdown. I don't know the name of the musician but one of them played a mean sax.

Afterward, we went to look at the work of the print-makers and photographers - two of whom have work that I really admired (Elizabeth Tana* and Martine Jardel). Even later, we climbed the steps back to the parking lot. When I looked back across the bay, the view reminded of this piece by Hiroshige which I had seen at the show at the Legion. The air was misty with a light drizzle and the lights of Alcatraz shimmered across the bay. Sometimes SF really is a wonderful place but it's not the view, the weather, the food or the art that makes it so. It's the friends.

Utagawa Hiroshige, Evening Rain at Atake on the Great Bridge, from the series One Hundred
Views of Famous Places in Edo, 1857. Color woodcut with mica

*Elizabeth Tana will be doing Hunter's Point Open Studios next week and I will write about her later. Martine Jardel has a studio where I am (689 Bryant) and I'll put up a link to her website when I find itl
Images from Japanesque: The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism
October 16, 2010 - January 9, 2011

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Masami Teraoka at Catherine Clark

The Last Supper/Pope's Mega Squid Thrust

Teraoka's  "The Last Supper/Pope's Mega Squid Thrust"  purports to address the Catholic Church’s millennium long sexual crisis with imagery right out of Ensor, Bosch and Penthouse Magazine. Rather than portray the Vatican's avoidance of the scandal or it's tenacious grip on its centuries old misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and culture of status and privilege, Teraoka revels in sexy babes and a bit of S&M. That's fine but then, he also wants this to have deep, serious meaning. His imagery is so very personal that it's impossible to know what the various items represent - are the cherries representing virginity or defilement? Are the red shoes the Pope's or a sideways reference to Dorothy clicking her red heels three times with the wish "There's no place like home?"

According to one blurb I read, Teraoka's art is perhaps best explained by the artist himself. "I don't want my paintings to preach," Teraoka has said, "I am interested in that moment of confrontation with life when our psyche becomes shocked and naked--a vacuumed mind-set situation. A strong art is direct, but does not have any facade. It comes in a raw state."

I'm not shocked. I'm not feeling any particular confrontation.

I just see an artist intrigued by glitz, glitter and a great deal of self-indulgence masquerading under the pretense of artistic integrity and societal critique.

Compare this with his earlier work where he successfully Integrated traditional imagery and subject matter with pop art. That work didn't have to shock to make its point.

Teraoka portrayed contemporary issues—from AIDS to computers, environmental degradation, and drive-by shootings—in historical guise. Humor and satire combined with a vibrant iconography drawn from Japanese and Western sources—catfish, trickster, fox, ghost, snake, ninja, samurai, geisha, Adam and Eve, punk rockers, and television. The line was clean, the colors subtle, the imagery direct and compelling.

His work is now dark with imagery that's difficult to understand, within a picture frame that's cluttered with unresolved pictorial issues which can't be masked by his undoubted skill or the glitter of gold leaf.

31 Flavors Invading Japan

Mid Month Recommendations (better late than...)

 @ Masami Teraoka/Catherine Clark

Masami Teraoka at Catherine Clark - where Teraoka's love of gold, glitter and pseudo-Renaissance imagery are demonstrated in over-the-top triptychs demonstrating a contemporary version of horror vacui. In the work of the last decade, he's criticizing the Catholic Church for their sexual peccadilloes. All of the clergy in the paintings have faces right out of an Ensor nightmare but the women portrayed are right out of some bizarre version of Penthouse with gorgeous bodies, perky breasts, trimmed pubes and leather boots. His skillful technique never falters but walks a fine line between parody and critique - and sometimes goes over the line into kink for kink's sake. If you want to be kinky that's OK by me but then, don't pretend it's anything else. My friend Mike Strickland of Civic Center blogging fame, asked the artist if he wanted to be provocative. Apparently Teraoka laughed and said that he just wanted to avoid boredom. So, it's not so much a politically focused critique of the Catholic Church but one artist's remedy against ennui.

Masami Teraoka. Thirty One Flavors. (@ the artist)

His older work, often done in ukiyo-e style ranged from AIDS to computers, environmental degradation, and drive-by shootings, all handled with humor and exquisite skill. The gallery has a small, but beautifully chosen samples of that work.

 Ms. Lasky Gross (@the artist/Cartoon Art Museum)
Cartoon Art Museum: While the history of women in comics is well-documented, and the Jewish contribution to the art form widely acknowledged, Graphic Details:  Confessional Comics by Jewish Women will be the first museum exhibit to showcase the singular voices of female Jewish artists whose revealing diaristic and confessional work has influenced the world of comics over the last four decades.

Some bare their bodies.  Some expose their psyches.  All are fearless about sex, romance, politics, body functions, experiences, emotions, and desires.

On October 21, the Cartoon Art Museum will host a panel on autobiography in comics featuring several of the featured artists, experts, and the curators.  Graphic Details is co-curated by Michael Kaminer, a New York journalist and collector whose December 2008 story on confessional comics in the Forward provided the impetus for the show.  His co-curator, Sarah Lightman, is an award-winning fine artist, curator and arts journalist based in London who is researching a PhD at The University of Glasgow in Autobiography in Comics.

The Cartoon Art Museum is located at 655 Mission Street (between New Montgomery-3rd Streets) in San Francisco. Telephone:  415-CARTOON.

Open Studios:  Next weekend is the third weekend of Open Studios where the focus in on the Richmond, Sunset and Ft. Mason. Although may of the galleries are far apart, there is a lot of work that's well worth going out of the way to see.

Buena Vista, Diamond Heights, Fort Mason, Haight, Hayes Valley, Marina, Mount Davidson, Ocean Beach, Pacific Heights, Richmond, Sunset, Twin Peaks, & West Portal

Marianne Kolb at Hespe. I have been following Ms. Kolb's work since I first saw it at Hang. Even then, her complex and emotional work pulled me in and it's just gotten better over time.

Triangle Gallery celebrates its 49th anniversary

Hackett Mill has reincarnated as as art dealers and advisors with a current show on Manuel Neri. Collage 1958 - 1960

George Krevsky - Helen Berggruen. Itinerant regionalist.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Song of Seikilos (1st century Greek song)

As Long as you live, shine :
Ὅσον ζῇς, φαίνου,
Hoson zēs, phainou,
While you live, shine,
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ·
mēden holōs sy lypou;
don't suffer anything at all;
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν,
pros oligon esti to zēn,
life exists only a short while,
τὸ τέλος ὁ xρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.
to telos ho chronos apaitei.
and time demands its toll.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Drawings from the Elgin Marbles

I didn't have all of these out as there wasn't room to display them as I would have wished. If you want to sell work, it's best not to have too many unframed pieces on display. In my experience, they don't sell and the point of Open Studios IS to sell. If I were to get them framed, the price would skyrocket so I'm always conflicted about what to do. But I'm proud of this continuing series. It's my attempt to come to grips with Greek sculpture, the foundation stone of Western art and something that I find both beautiful and compelling. So far, they are all on paper but then, I like working on paper. I like the rough texture of heavy watercolor paper and the freedom that I feel when dealing with water based media, the fluidity of ink and acrylic over charcoal and the spontaneity within form that I am striving for.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Open Studios, 2010

It was an exhausting - and for the most part - slow three days. Friday night was made bright by the visit of Anna and friends (Read her report here:

Anna captured some wonderful images of my new work, mixed media work based on the Elgin Marbles

I love showing my work to friends but they couldn't stay long as they were off to cover several more exhibits after visiting me. Saturday and Sunday were also slow but with the rain on Sunday, I didn't expect anything different. In fact, I enjoyed the slow start today with the sound of rain on the sky lights and the quiet bustle of us setting up our spaces. But again, the time went faster by various discussions about art, visits from friends and even former customers who came back to chat (no sales, alas).  I have to smile when a potential client comes in, loves the work but tells me that he or she will think about it and be back. They seldom are but I suspect that it's just a face saving device.

But money isn't everything, is it? The pieces that I sold are:

Astrolabe, collage on paper.
White Line, Black Sun
Rocking Chairs

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010

I'm doing Open Studios tonight so there isn't time to do justice to the show at the Legion on the influence of Japanese prints on Western art. All I can say is that it's a fantastic show and if you are an artist or interested in art, you will set your karma back several lifetimes if you don't go see it. I will be doing a much longer post later because it's a fascinating show, beautifully presented and artistically and historically important.(Image from the show/courtesy of the Legion)

Japanesque: The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism: October 16, 2010 - January 9, 2011:

Today is Blog Action Day, an event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about one important issue with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year, Chez NamasteNancy is joining with over 4500 blogs in 133 countries that have pledged to publish posts on the subject of clean water.

Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use.

Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe.

Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. 

Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters.

Waste Overflow: Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities.

Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year.

We’re not powerless—there are things we can do right at home to ease the world’s water crisis. We’re all wasting water in our homes and yards–the bathroom and toilet use nearly 40% of all water in the home. You can save many gallons of water every day by easy actions like putting a half-gallon bottle in your toilet tank to cut down on the water needed to flush.  Here are some helpful sites:

Tips for saving water inside your home:
100 Ways To Conserve | Water:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beyond Golden Clouds at the Asian: Begining October 15th

 Landscape, approx. 1602, right screen. By Kaiho Yusho (approx. 1533-1615). Pair of six-panel screens; ink and gold on paper. Left side. Saint Louis Art Museum, Friends Fund (59:1962.1-2)

Using ink with deceptive simplicity, Yusho created a landscape ideally suited to a pair of folding screens. Large expanses of water and sky are broken by fishing boats, pavilions and boulders. The only other pigment used, other than the black ink, is the delicate wash of gold paint, almost equal in tone to the ink wash. The effect is so subtle in tone that it is unnoticeable, unless a shift in the light catches the golden glow.

Landscape, approx. 1602, right screen. By Kaiho Yusho (approx. 1533-1615). Pair of six-panel screens; ink and gold on paper. Right Side. Saint Louis Art Museum, Friends Fund (59:1962.1-2)

In no other screen can you see so clearly the mark of the maker's hand. His technique is so masterful that he captures the fisherman's boat with only two strokes. But nothing here is by chance. The seeming spontaneity is achieved by a technique called hatsuboku (splashed ink), involving quick brush strokes that appear unplanned but could only be executed by one with complete control of the medium.

These pair of screens were probably commissioned by a follower of Zen. The contemplative mood of the painting, the ambiguity of the images, the unsubstantial nature of the landscape all speak of the need for simplicity, clearing the mind as an aid to discovering the ultimate nature of reality.

Beyond Golden Clouds will be on view from October 15, 2010 – January 16, 2011.

Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

200 Larkin Street (between Fulton and McAllister Streets)
San Francisco, CA 94102

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beyond Golden Clouds

Did the hullabaloo over the post-Impressionist show make you forget about the rest of the exhibits coming to San Francisco?  Your secret’s safe with me, as long as you see this exhibition,  “Beyond Golden Clouds"  - opening this weekend at the Asian.  (real review to come)

An ideal combination of function and beauty, Japanese folding screens have inspired generations of artists to create career-defining masterpieces. This exhibition showcases large scale examples from the esteemed collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and Saint Louis Art Museum, celebrating the full range of the format in various media. Artworks range in date from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, demonstrating the longevity of this art form as well as its currency among modern-day artists.

Monday, October 11, 2010

RIP: La Stupenda. Joan Sutherland, 1926 - 2010

I remember seeing her in Lakmé. The reviewer was not kind about her costume; I think it was referred to a Christmas tree with reindeer horns or something like that. But when she and Marilyn Horne sang their duet, their honeyed tones could have melted the iciest heart. I know that it melted mine. I always had a fondness for cheesy operas set in exotic places and Joan may have looked like a Valkyrie but she sang like an divine angel.

From her Violetta to Marie in The Daughter of the regiment, her voice is the only one in that range that I return to time and time again. There was a warmth and lower register that kept her from the shrillness that besets so many coloratura voices. When I was young and going to boarding school in the UK, I saw her a number of times. I was lucky that my music teacher shared her love of opera and was willing to chaperon us to the theater. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have been allowed to go. I think that I put her in the pantheon of Goddesses of the Opera at a very young age and never saw any reason to change my mind.

I saw her only once in the US. When she came to SF, I hocked my jewelry to buy a ticket to see her sing Leonara in Il Trovatore. I have never regretted it.

I've now lived long enough to say that I've seen several of the great opera singers of our generation, starting with Maria Callas. Callas had more drama and fire but oh, Joan had that range. When she tripped off those high notes, you could not believe that a human voice could accomplish such bell-like clarity and tone.

Joan Sutherland, soprano: born Sydney, Australia 7 November 1926; CBE 1961, DBE 1979, OM 1991; married 1954 Richard Bonynge (one son); died near Geneva, Switzerland 11 October 2010.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10-10-10 (The power of ten at the Exploratorium)

The date 10/10/10 will only come around once, and one way to honor it is to see "The Powers of Ten," a film by Ray and Charles Eames at the Exploratorium. The Eames' pioneered innovative technologies, such as molded plywood, the fiberglass, plastic resin chairs and the wire mesh chairs designed for Herman Miller. Charles and Ray would soon channel Charles' interest in photography into the production of short films.

From their first film, the unfinished Traveling Boy (1950), to the extraordinary Powers of Ten (1977), their cinematic work was an outlet for ideas, a vehicle for experimentation and education.

The film depicts the relative scale of the Universe in factors of ten (see also logarithmic scale and order of magnitude). The film is an adaptation of the 1957 book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke, and more recently is the basis of a new book version. Both adaptations, film and book, follow the form of the Boeke original, adding color and photography to the black and white drawings employed by Boeke in his seminal work.  A simple word search at the Library of Congress brought up 256 items, testifying to the continuing importance of the their work

Exploratorium @ The Palace of Fine Arts
3601 Lyon Street. San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 561-0360 - general information
(415) 561-0362 - Tactile Dome reservations
Open Tuesday—Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The mathematical importance of 10/10/10 (or not, YMMV):

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Marie Guillemine Benoist: Portrait of a Black Woman

Marie Guillemine Benoist: Portrait of a Black Woman 
(1800, oil on canvas 81x65cm, Louvre)

This is one of the very few black faces in the Louvre and, even more surprisingly, it was painted by a woman. It was exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1800 to considerable acclaim, although the critic Jean-Baptiste Boutard was shocked that ‘a white, pretty hand … had created such a horror’. The French revolution promised equality for women and slaves, but in the end didn’t deliver; this painting is a glimpse through a window that opened only briefly. (From the Guardian, on line) 

Hanging on one wall of the Musée du Louvre, in the company of the gargantuan machines by Jacques-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, and others, is an exquisitely crafted and modestly sized painting of a black woman. She is shown seated, half-draped, with her right breast bared to the viewer. She sports an intricately wrapped and crisply laundered headdress that appears similar in fabric to the garment she gathers closely against her body just below her breasts. She stares out at the viewer with an enigmatic expression. Although there are no background details that indicate precisely where the sitter is placed, certain details of her physical surroundings—namely, the ancien régime chair and luxurious cloth that drapes both it and her—suggest that she is in a well-to-do domestic space. Portrait d'une négresse (fig. 1) was painted in 1800 by Marie-Guilhelmine Benoist (born Marie-Guillemine Leroulx-Delaville) (1768-1826), a woman of aristocratic lineage who belonged to a small elite circle of professional women painters... (more at the link below)

Slavery is a Woman: "Race," Gender, and Visuality in Marie Benoist's Portrait d'une négresse (1800) by James Smalls

Get Over It!

from Chloe Vietman on the decline of the old media:

People have been voicing such laments for about a decade now. Chafing at this point isn't going to bring back full-time arts critics at all the newspapers. It won't even bring back the newspapers. The fact is that the media landscape is irrevocably changing and we need to look to new alternatives for trusted, engaging writing and thinking about the arts. The blogosphere is full of people who aren't trustworthy as commentators. But I don't think it'll be long before trustworthy commentators rise to the top. It just takes time and patience for this to happen.

My response:

I understand the resentment and grief of those in the "old" media who are losing their jobs but we aren't the enemy. I may be a free lance journalist for the but I'm not some mindless shill, as some of us "new" media types are being portrayed. Arts bloggers, to pick one area, do come in assorted sizes, including the good, the bad and the just plain silly. But then, you could find the same thing in print media, back in the day. I remember when food blogs took off and many top chiefs were hostile and tried to forbid anybody from taking a photo of the food. Heavens forbid that a "regular" person write about a fancy restaurant. That was reserved for the newspaper food critic.

Well, that was then and this is now. Food bloggers became respectable because they can be good, very very good. I still wait for the day when that happens in art criticism because some of us (cough, cough, cough, ahem..) are good. We aren't as good as Robert Hughes in his glory days or the guys (mostly guys) who write for the current lot prestigious papers and magazines but a lot of us "ain't" chopped liver either.

What's past is past and maybe it's time for more to embrace the potential of the new media.

From the list of disappearing jobs:
Reporters and Correspondents
Employed in U.S.: 61,600
Change expected in next decade: -8%
Average salary: $34,850
Consolidation and convergence are the top reasons the news industry is shrinking. News outlets are increasingly sharing each other's content, which means they need fewer reporters and correspondents.
The news business gets hit particularly hard during economic downturns as most revenue comes from advertising, and companies spend less on advertising during a slump. Improving technology is one bright light, which could drive some employment in online or mobile divisions.
Competition is expected to be intense for jobs at large and national newspapers, broadcast stations and magazines. The best opportunities are expected to be with smaller, local news outlets as well as for online news organizations, as technology generates demand for online reporters or mobile news units. Writers who can handle scientific or technical subjects will have an advantage.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Masami Teraoka at Catherine Clark

Ensor meets Kabuki, nightmare visions combined with Renaissance craftsmanship (fuller review to come).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A list, a list (I've got a little list) of art events not to be missed

 For October 8, 9 and 10:  There is certainly enough going on this weekend to keep me on the streets -- but out of trouble.

Two Blocks of Art: Friday, October 8, 2010, 4 - 8 p.m.
Sixth Street from Market to Howard
In conjunction with the Central Market Arts Festival (September 24 - October 17, 2010), the "2 Blocks of Art" art walk will take place on Friday, October 8th from 4-8 pm. Local artists will exhibit in 25 galleries, public spaces, and businesses along Sixth Street between Market and Howard. Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs along the way are offering discounted food and drink specials during the event. Visit and support cutting edge spaces like Fecal Face and the Luggage Store and art spaces like Ujima Collective and DA Arts who are working to establish an arts district along Sixth Street.

For more information, you can also visit or call 415.553.4433 x115

Alexandra Blum. "Spring Fever" Screen print mounted on wood box. 2/6 2008 $300.00 (I saw Ms. Blum's work a month of so ago when she was the artist-in-residence at the De Young. I am really looking forward to seeing more of her work this coming weekend at her studio at 661 Castro St.

Open Studios: Weekend 1: October 9 & 10, 11am to 6pm
Bernal Heights, Castro, Duboce, Eureka Valley, Glen Park, Mission, Noe Valley, Portola
This is also the first weekend of Open Studios, the start of four weekends where over 400 artists open their spaces to the public, to meet, greet and hopefully sell. You can browse the Artspan website by artist, location, technique or subject matter to pinpoint what you might want to see. Or you can take pot luck, launch yourself into the space and see what comes up. You can also preview the works at SOMArts Main Gallery which is located at 934 Brannan Street (between 8th and 9th streets; entrance at the end of the long driveway). It's right around the corner from Trader Joe's but don't be tempted to park in their parking lot. They are watching and you will get a ticket.

Plus: A goodie for the techies among us: ArtSpan and Live Colony are proud to present the free SF Open Studios iPhone App: Swerve. If you are an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch user you can download the application for free at the Apple App Store - find out which studios during SF Open Studios, plan your studio visits, view artists' profiles on, and share information about your favorite artists with others.

SoMArts Main Gallery: 934 Brannan St, SF Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Friday, noon-4pm / Saturday & Sunday, 10am-5pm now through October 24. Admission is free.

Gelede, Nigeria, West Africa, 20th Century, wood and pigment, 16" x 14.5". Courtesy: California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA.

 The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) presents the Art/Object: Re-contextualizing African Art

The exhibit includes masks, costumes, sculptures and objects of everyday use that show through multimedia recreated environments, photographs and archival footage how African objects from public and private collections were used in their original settings often to mark important rituals and ceremonies. On view until January 16, 2011. Opening reception: Friday, (7:30 PM)

Folktales from the African Diaspora : Starting Sunday, October 10 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
The Museum of the African Diaspora will be presenting a Sunday series of interactive storytelling, performance and crafts for a multi-generational audience of children and their families. The program will include folktales and activities including writing, painting, drawing, sculpture, collages, mask-making, costume-making, and mural-making. The first event in the series features Ms. Luisah Teish, a reknowned storyteller and author who will tell stories inspired by the current exhibition, Art/Object: Re-Contextualizing African Art.

685 Mission St, SF (415) 358-7200

Passport 2010: On October 9 and 10, 2010, the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery presents Passport 2010, an affordable do-it-yourself art collecting experience. Purchase a customized Moleskine® journal and stroll Hayes Valley while collecting artist-designed passport stamps from 16 incredible local artists! At the end of the day passport holders have met an amazing group of artists, and have a limited edition art book to take home!

Buy your $25 Passport today at
Or stop by the SFAC Gallery, Electric Works, Rare Device, Park Life or the Baer Ridgway Gallery.
Buy your Passport this weekend at the Kick-Off Party on Saturday or at Passport Home Base on Sunday.

Located in the heart of San Francisco's Civic Center, the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery makes contemporary art accessible to broad audiences through curated exhibitions that both reflect our regional diversity and position Bay Area visual art production within an international contemporary art landscape. By commissioning new works, collaborating with arts and community organizations and supporting artist's projects, the SFAC Gallery's programs provide new and challenging opportunities for contemporary art to engage with a civic dialogue. The SFAC Gallery was founded in 1970 and is the exhibitions program of the San Francisco Arts Commission, the arts agency of the City and County of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery has three exhibition sites:
The Main Gallery at 401 Van Ness, open Wednesday through Saturday, 12-5pm
The Window Site at 155 Grove St, viewable 24/7
Art at City Hall, open Monday through Friday, 8am-8pm
San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery:

Monday, October 4, 2010

 I was curious to find out more about my "employers" at the - who I work for, how it works, how I get paid - in short, how the whole citizen journalist thing works out. I had a basic understanding of the who, the how and the why, but this article fills out the details. I'm glad to know that I am part of the cutting edge in the media and even more happy that nobody censors my writing. Even though my writing about art is not primarily political, I'm pleased that I don't have to fear censorship (unless I published a cartoon of Muhammad)!

With the demise of print media, we've stepped in to fill in the void. In the case of arts coverage (which is woefully lacking in the Bay Area), writers like me are often the only ones covering a variety of art and art related events. When I first found out about the and the potential of getting a job there, I almost didn't apply. I didn't realize how my world would expand, what doors would open, who I would meet and what I would learn. Thanks to my becoming an arts and museum examiner, my ideas about what I want to do and what my talents are have radically changed. I'm connected in a way that I wasn't before and all the happier for it.


Few have heard of Clarity Digital Group, the owner of and a property of Denver-based The Anschutz Company. But that may change as news of its success spreads. Started in the spring of 2008, now has 19 million unique visitors a month and 54 million page views a month for its local news and reviews.

“There is a lot of talk about AOL and how they are doing cover local communities with Patch,” said Leonard Brody, president of Clarity Digital. “We feel like we are already there.”

While there are some professional news journalists producing material, most of its is produced by 55,000 amateur writers who know the local neighborhoods that they’re writing about. It’s applying the concept of crowdsourcing, tapping the wisdom of the masses, to journalism — though in’s case, the amateur writers are all paid based on ad revenues and measures of engagement with their stories. (that's probably why I keep making more money - last week, there were 3200 hits on my web page - not too bad for art in today's world. I never talk about Brad Pit or Angelina Jolie or the latest folly. It's pretty straightforward writing about art. It's a shame that I don't get extra for art scoops because I've reviewed several shows weeks before the Chronicle got around to it).

The rush is on to claim the turf of hyperlocal news and advertising, where billions of dollars are at stake. Newspapers are dying, yet no one has come to replace them in local online markets. deliberately avoids the role of being an online newspaper, whose role is more like being the watchdog of a community. Rather, Brody sees his company’s role more as reinventing the town square.

“We want to connect those who are passionate about their own community,” he said in an interview.

While national and global audiences have been aggregated by the likes of CNN, Yahoo, and Google, nobody really dominates hyper local, which is the opposite of a mass market and which is defined by its neighborhood focus where the content is created by locals and consumed by locals. As mentioned, billions of dollars are spent in hyperlocal venues, but big corporate advertisers find that the customers hard to reach. That’s because it’s like trying to become a millionaire by picking up all the pennies in a field.

One big difference is that newspapers hire journalists while hires examiners. Examiners are local experts, usually not journalists, who are passionate about subjects such as pets. They are not the conscience of the community, but a reflection of it, Brody said. They could post about local dog parks or write restaurant reviews. They are paid based on a complex formula that includes how many page views they get, how many views come from local readers, and how much users are engaged with their posts, said Rick Blair, chief executive of Clarity Digital. Most of the examiners do not make a living on their posts, but view the work as an avocation. For instance, a former New York Times writer is an examiner focused on cycling in New York City.

“We give the examiners a platform for their passion and they find that very rewarding,” Blair said. “The more exposure and recognition they get, the hapier they are.”

It seems to be working. The company started with just six markets covered by 100 examiners. Clarity Digital got funding from telecom billionaire Phil Anschutz, who owns the San Francisco Examiner and the Washington Examiner. (Aside from having an investor in common, is not related to those news properties, which operate on their own domain names.)

With Anschutz’s backing, it was able to patiently add new markets. Now the company serves 238 markets in the U.S. and Canada. Some 150 cities were added this year.

In Los Angeles alone, the company has 2,000 “examiners,” its name for its local writers. That’s larger than the journalist staff of the Los Angeles Times. During the recent Los Angeles fires, one examiner who had firefighting skills was blogging and fighting the fire at the same time.

About 35 percent to 45 percent of the network’s examiners are active in a given month. On average, they write six or seven articles a month. Over time, that has added up. Examiners produce 3,500 articles a day, and the archive of articles is 1.5 million on everything from where to find parking in Chicago to good places to eat in Los Angeles. Blair said the company’s core competency is recruiting good examiners and grooming them.

While these writers aren’t doing investigative journalism, they aren’t paid shills either, Blair said. He actually approached major advertisers to see if they wanted to pay writers to produce articles about their goods and they said they wanted genuine work. Advertisers may sponsor campaigns such as a major series on pets, but the work is not paid advertorial. Advertisers can sponsor an examiner if they want a certain kind of topic covered. The ideal examiner post will produce water cooler talk, not straight hard news.

While the pay isn’t huge (and officials wouldn’t provide details), is now getting 10,000 applications a month fo examiners. It vets each application and accepts about 40 percent of them, after looking at sample stories and writing skills (and doing criminal background checks). The writers can focus on any of 200 categories or subcategories. the writers can look at a dashboard and see how much money they have made in a month. is making money through local ads, examiner sponsorships, and campaigns that are targeted via Examiner Connect, which combines content creation with social media and search engine optimization techniques. The company did a campaign with pet food maker Iams related to pet adoption. That resulted in much better search results for searchers on the words “pet adoption” and “Iams.” On such campaigns, the competition isn’t as fierce.

Even as it adds examiners, the costs expand only as more revenue comes in, Blair said. has about 100 employees on staff.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Things Japanese - prints at the Legion, screens at the Asian

There will be so much gorgeous Japanese art around later this month that I wonder if it will influence my style. If it does, I'm in good company with Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Mary Cassat (to name a few)

The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism introduces audiences to the development of the Japanese print over two centuries (1700–1900) and reveals its profound influence on Western art during the era of Impressionism. This exhibition complements the de Young Museum’s presentations of paintings from the Musée d'Orsay, many of which are aesthetically indebted to concepts of Japanese art. Culled primarily from the holdings of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, the exhibition of approximately 250 prints, drawings, and artists' books unfolds in three sections: Evolution, Essence, and Influence. Opening October 16th

Coming to the Asian: Beyond Golden Clouds: Five Centuries of Japanese Screens (Opening October 15th).

Their blog has a post about installing the screens. It's always fascinating to look behind the scenes and realize just how much hard work goes into installing a museum show.

Plus a new video up on their video channel - What does the Asian Art Museum mean to you?