Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kurt Schwitters - opening at the Berkeley Art Museum in August

 Schwitters: Mz 601, 1923; paint and paper on cardboard; 17 × 15 in.; Sprengel Museum, Hannover, loan from Kurt and Ernst Schwitters Stiftung. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage - opening at the Berkeley Art Museum the first week in August..

Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) was an integral part of Germany’s revolutionary art and intellectual movements in the tumultuous wake of the First World War. A loner, an epileptic, a visionary, an odd-man-out, a late developer, he went through every style of the post-war period before settling on his unique vision as a connoisseur of urban debris, rearranged into miniatures of Persian delicacy. 

A master of collage, Schwitters’s diverse body of work cuts across boundaries, hierarchies, and media to include painting, sculpture, typography, poetry, sound, and architecture.

The more one sees of Schwitters, the more we see his influence, not only Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.  but Kleinholtz, the SF Beats with their love of urban decay, the contemporary conceptual artists with the hanging rope and deformed wire props. He's the inspiration for Pop Art, Fluxus, Conceptual Art to site-specific art, and the forerunner of present day artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Gregor Schneider and Rachel Whiteread.

Like a prophet scorned in his own day, he saw it all, made it all and, as is true with so many great artists, came into his own only after his untimely death.

One of his avant-garde friends, on first viewing the Merzbau's bizarre grottoes and columns (which included such elegancies as a "Sex-Crime Cavern" and a bottle of the artist's urine with artificial flowers in it), thought it "a kind of fecal smearing--a sick and sickening relapse." Would it look so violent today? 
more to come....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hiroshige - One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

View of Nihonbashi Tōri I-chōme (Nihonbashi Tori I-chōme Ryakuzu) (8th Month, 1858)

Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, actually composed of 118 splendid woodblock landscape and genre scenes of mid-nineteenth-century Tokyo, is one of the greatest achievements of Japanese art. In order to protect these very special prints, the Museum can only physically display them periodically, but they are presented here in this ongoing online exhibition. The series, reproduced online in its entirety, contains many of Hiroshige's best loved and most extraordinary prints. It is a celebration of the style and world of Japan's finest cultural flowering at the end of the shogunate.

Hiroshige’s views of the city, known as modern day Tokyo, show the city and its environs in the four seasons. You can view them organized that way, browse by keyword, or browse them all in a single page of thumbnails.

The larger images also have a magnifier feature, that you may find useful although I did not - the zoom feature prevents viewing a larger image without the magnification which distorts the picture. The regular images are large enough, however, to be enjoyed on their own.

 It is a murky winter night as the Oumayagashi ferry approaches its landing on the west bank of the Sumida River. The two figures in the bow of the ferry are yotaka, "night hawks"—the lowest class of prostitutes in Edo. This image is the closest Hiroshige ever attained to depicting the vicissitudes of the life of Edo's lower class, and he did so in a manner calculated not to offend. The faces, for example, are shown as amusing caricatures of the thick lips and pug noses for which yotaka were known. In fact, many such women were disfigured by disease, which led them to hide under the sort of thick make-up we see here. The yotaka suffered a brutal life, and their painful existence was long associated in Japanese art and literature with the cold of winter.

There are a series of essays on the website, from a biography of Hiroshige, to how to read a Japanese woodcut to informative captions on each image.

On an entirely different site, I found a series of poems in honor of Hokusai but the sentiments can apply equally to both artists.

Monday, July 25, 2011

R. Crumb, "The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb at San Jose Museum of Art


The San Jose Museum of Art is exhibiting the work of legendary underground comic artist R. Crumb this summer. The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis will be on view from June 23 through September 25, 2011. The exhibition will feature 207 individual, black-and-white drawings from Crumb’s critically acclaimed 2009 adaptation of the first book of the Bible, which incorporates every word from all fifty chapters. 

Crumb, who is known for his underground comic creations Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, and other characters, spent five years on this ambitious endeavor, which has garnered praise from comic book aficionados and art lovers around the world.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What she said

It's a beautiful day in San Francisco and I am going to my studio and make art. The week has been a disaster and the only bright spots are the CJM's response to a temp guard's bigoted stupidity and our cool weather. There are bombs in Norway, right wing idiots in Washington DC and an East coast heat wave that's killing people. I can't even bear to look at some charts to try and figure out what the universe is trying to tell us. 

As always, Ronni Bennett nails it:

 Hand Holding Day on Sunday:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SFMOMA buys a work by Sol Le Witt

 Sol LeWitt,  3x3 Wall Grid. 1966

I often wonder how work that is this intellectual and non-emotional will hold up. Will the next generation look at it? I don't find him very interesting myself but I do realize that, for some,  conceptual art is the flavor of the last couple of decades.

Yesterday, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced the acquisition of Wall Grid (3 x 3) (1966), an important early work by Sol LeWitt, one of the key artists of the postwar period.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India at the MoADSF

 My grandmother used to make quilts but nothing like this. These are amazing works of art and if they were painted by men...well, you know the drill. It's only been in the last decade that quilts and other works on cloth, mostly made by women, have been looked at seriously. Now many are collector's items! But my mind boggles at the realization that these were made for everyday use. These beautiful objects are created out of the philosophy of "waste not, want not," in cultures where nothing goes to waste. We could learn a lot from them.

As part of its exploration of how traditional practices are adapted over decades throughout the African Diaspora, the Museum of the African Diaspora's (MoADSF) current exhibit is yet another stunning example of textile art made by women.

 Khatumbi Muzavar (Mainalii), 2004/courtesy MoAD

The colorful, patchwork quilts are known as kawandi and are made only by craftswomen living in the little known Siddi communities of Africans in India.

Continue reading on Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India at the MoADSF - San Francisco Museum |

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Barnes Foundation

Collector as Artist: The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation, an extraordinary collection of art amassed by Albert C. Barnes, has been one of America’s strangest art museums from the day its doors opened in 1925. Barnes’s unique juxtapositions of paintings and objects were intended to help the viewer learn to look closely at art. The original building, in Merion, Pa., closed at the end of June — the collection will be relocated to a new one in Philadelphia next year — but The Times has created an interactive tour of some of the old museum’s highlights

Henri Matisse, Madras Rouge. 1907. from Wikipedia.

From a couple of articles that I've written - various commentaries on the collection and the controversy over the move:

Barnes Website with an online database:

As with so many things about the Barnes Museum, it's got major glitches. A simple search for "Matisse" brought up pages of "image not available." When an image is posted, it can't be enlarged. So even now, Barnes is preventing the public from seeing "his" pictures - just as he did when he was alive. The CD put out by the Foundation several years ago had restricted access. You could not save an image to your HD or print it out. All you could do was look - and $40 in 1995 was a pretty hefty price for poorly photographed pixels.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor

The last review in the series - I've enjoyed researching and writing this but suspect that I have the smallest readership ever. Next time, I'll figure out a way to mention Lady Gaga or or the latest boy band. I'm sure that will put my statistics over the top. But it's a sad commentary on art in America that a decently written article on a site with a huge readership gets only 5 clicks.

Ambrosius Bosschaert, Flowers in a glass vase. 

Ambrosius Bosschaert, a pioneer in the history of Dutch still-life painting, infused his flower bouquets with a sense of joy. He had an unerring compositional awareness, and delighted in combining a range of flowers with different colors and shapes to create a pleasing and uplifting visual experience

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor

This is the next part in my continuing series on the current exhibit. 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam), Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, 1632. Oil on panel, 29 x 22 inches (73.7 x 55.8 cm). The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Prosperous Dutch Burghers: As the Dutch merchant class became ever more powerful and prosperous, they demanded art that reflected their social status. Portraiture became a genre a genre that ranked only below history painting in the traditional hierarchy of subject matter. 

Continued at:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor, Part II

Second part of a four part series:

Van van der Heyden (Gorinchem 1637–1712 Amsterdam), View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, ca. 1667–70. Oil on panel, 21 x 25 1/4 inches (53.5 x 64.2 cm). The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor

Willem van de Velde the Younger (Leiden 1633–1707 London), Fishing Boats by the Shore in a Calm, ca. 1660–65. Oil on canvas, 11 7/8 x 14 3/4 inches (30.1 x 37.4 cm). The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection

Part two coming soon. ....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dutch and Flemish masterpieces at the Legion of Honor

 Young Girl in Profile, 1631-2. Jan Lievens
Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo began collecting horse carriages, until they completely filled their New Hampshire barn. So they switched to horse and sporting prints, until about two decades ago, when Peter Sutton, then curator of European painting at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, encouraged them to get into Dutch and Flemish art. It seemed a natural fit for the Marblehead couple -- she a native of Belgium, he a Dutch-born investor and developer who had co-founded the Boston investment firm Grantham, Mayo & Van Otterloo in 1977.

The result is the current exhibit at the Legion of Honor, nearly seventy paintings  from the 17th century.  It's the most astonishing show that I've seen in San Francisco in a long time - and that includes the current Picasso show at the De Young and the Stein collection at SF MOMA (with a few exceptions for Matisse). 

Gerrit Dou (1613–1675), Sleeping Dog (detail), 1650. Oil on panel, 6 ½ x 8 ½ inches. The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The show comes to SF from the Peabody Museum in Salem where it was originally organized in conjunction with the Mauritshuis. Dr. Frederik J. Duparc was the guest curator, and Karina Corrigan, the H. A. Crosby Forbes Curator of Asian Export Art at Peabody Essex, was the coordinating curator.  The Legion's curator of European art has followed in their footsteps, hanging a show where every painting is in superb condition with an impeccable provenance.

Don't be shy; a click on the link earns me a whole .05 percent of one cent. Spoil the local artist and blogger and exercise that clicking finger:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New work: sunset over marshes. Jan

  Oil on canvas, 28" x 30" 2001

I seem to be on a roll. If I'm not painting, I'm writing either for the blogs or for the It's fantastic to have such energy and I'm taking advantage of it while I can. I also uploaded four small new pieces up at my Flickr page (all 8 1/2 x 11"). They are all works on paper, either watercolor or pastel and Buddha themed. It's interesting to observe what works and what doesn't work as well. 

I though that the stucco heads from Thailand would be more dramatic but maybe it's my treatment that makes them not stand out more. Still, I liked dotting the paper with the brush in a vigorous fashion and producing a rougher edged image. 

The Kwan Yin/Chinese goddess is almost perfect but I want to push back the dark shadows outlining her eyes. The bust of the Buddha is almost the way I want it but then, I think that I control pastel better than watercolors, and, of course, that's the nature of watercolors -- to allow for the accident when color mixes with water. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pstars and Pstripes at Psycho Donuts

The pstars and pstripes doughnut at Psycho Donuts.

How can you not love a place that writes about itself as the "world's first and only light-hearted asylum for wayward donuts." The staff dresses up like nurses and provides "bubblewrap therapy. It also doubles as a quirky, offbeat art gallery, offering inexpensive original artwork from local artists

Continue reading on Pstars and Pstripes at Psycho Donuts - San Francisco Budget Grocery |

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Art from trash

I am horrified by what we are doing to our world. Like a horde of locusts, we are picking the planet clean and one of the worst areas is what is happening to the ocean. The amount of trash that ends up there is staggering - I don't know how large the "floating plastic crud" is that's out in the Pacific and I'm not sure I want to know. 

But Angela Pozzi and her fellow artists at the Marine Mammal Center at the Marin Headlands are using that trash to make art and trying to create a greater awareness of the problem. This is even more relevant on the 4th of July when everybody makes speeches about American the Beautiful while leaving trash on everything in sight. Read more at my column at the

Saturday, July 2, 2011

She Blogged By Night

This is one of the funniest and most insightful movie blogs around (see, I do read other things besides art and food reviews). I have often watched a movie just on her recommendation - she points out many undiscovered gems and more than a few campy ones that I would have otherwise missed. Her descriptions are often funnier than the movie. There's a hilarious review of Maneater staring a completely loopy looking Gary Busey who has gone way past a few lifetimes worth of drugs and a cast of almost complete unknowns plus one real tiger. I'm almost sorry I missed it. 

Check out the fabulous special effects - image from "She Blogged By Night."

It looks like July will be prime movie viewing month - tonight (11 PM) is the campy Batman (1966) version and on July 5th, Fox Movie Channel will be showing the gorgeous Delores Del Rio in a timeless ? classic. Other recommendations are:
Bird of Paradise (1932)
July 5,
Dolores Del Rio plays a native girl about to be sacrificed to a volcano god until she falls in love with Joel McCrea.  Must be a documentary. 

Call Her Savage (1932)
July 6, The July SBBN "What The Shit Is This" runner up. This is an absolutely batshit insane pre-code with an unbelievably hot Clara Bow. It's creaky in acting and pace, but progressive (so to speak) in sexuality and adult themes.  You will be horrified and entertained.  I suggest bringing a bucket for all the drool from seeing Clara in her barely-there shirts and painted on riding pants.

There's more on the blog including a whole list of pre-code movies that I am very curious about. But go and read her blog - she's got a unique voice and an incredible sense of humor. Just my kind of blogger!

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Moon in Cancer AND a Solar Eclipse

Friday, July 1, 1:54 am PDT, 4:54 am EDT

This New Moon in protective Cancer is a very powerful Solar Eclipse. Instead of planting seeds of security in our gardens of desire, we are challenged to break up the old soil of expectations about what will make us safe and happy. Cancer wants closeness and continuity but eclipses break patterns, especially when forming stressful 90-degree squares with volatile Uranus. Yet while Uranus sparks surprises, constraining Saturn and transformational Pluto also form tense aspects to the New Moon. Pressure is building that can affect major institutions, individuals and the environment and is best met with innovation, passion and commitment. Being a well-prepared and patient agent of change will radically improve lives while desperately holding onto the past can be futile and frustrating. (From Jeff Jawer's Star IQ)

Anna and the "posse" are meeting at the beach, bringing items to throw onto a bonfire - items that represent old fears, old habits, old ways of doing and thinking that are holding us all back. It looks like we will be in alignment with the Solar System and if nothing else, will be having a heck of a good time!