Friday, September 30, 2011

The Asian responds to comments. The logo is dead. Long live the logo.

 New logo on the Asian Art Museum's web page.
Tim Hallman, Director of Communications & Business Development at the Asian Art Museum wrote to me and fellow blogger Mike of Civic Center blog fame regarding our critical posts about the Asian's new logo.

Hi Michael/Nancy,

....I need to clarify some misconceptions.   

The project was a staff-led initiative. The board agreed that it was necessary, and helped fund the project. We weren’t “conned into it,” as an uninformed colleague may have suggested.

We invited more than 20 firms to respond to our RFP. Three of the top five who made the initial cut were from SF, including some big famous shops. We chose Wolff Olins because they had a wealth of experience in shepherding highly regarded art museums—including The Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the New Museum, and the Fine Arts Museums of SF, among others—through similar transformations. The project was comprehensive in scope—not just a logo--and included audience research, strategic analysis of our current offerings, and a review of the competitive landscape— plus some great creative thinking and design that we will use for years to come. Btw, we used their NY office, not London.

Also, sometimes good to go out of your comfort zone, and try working with folks with a different perspective than the neighbors. We hired WO because we knew they would challenge us--and vice versa.

But I can understand how you feel about the logo. I, frankly, disliked our previous logo. I found it to be a bit of a tired cliche with an overly East Asia feel to it. A stylish (though now dated) re-imagining of a scholar's seal (read 'elite') stamped at the bottom of a hanging scroll, completely ignoring the power and significance of other regions, cultures, and art forms that are represented in our collection. And I'm not the only one who felt that way.

Though the new logo itself may not appeal to everyone (it is just a logo, after all), it reflects a bold new perspective. You recognize the symbol, but you're looking at in a new way—this is what our curators try to do when presenting the collection. “You may think you know this, but look at it this way.” That's why Holland Cotter of the NY Times started his 2003 review of our new home with this line:

''ASIA'' doesn't exist; it never did. It's a fantasy, a fiction, one of those words the ancient Greeks put on their maps to indicate everything ''out there'' to the East. Nor is there such a thing as ''Asian art,'' though San Francisco has just opened a $160.5 million museum devoted to it.

I especially like the neutral nature of the new logo--it doesn't play favorites--no stereotypical leanings toward Buddhas, bamboo, dragons or geishas. I like the 3-D aspect to it--the left side faded into the back, the right side jutting forward--a bit like past and present converging.  Must of all, we LOVE the fact that an upside down A is the mathematical symbol signifying "for all." We want to be for everyone. For all.

Choosing that logo was definitely not the safe choice. But that's the point. Time for us to a bit bolder.

What's more important than a logo, and most exciting, is our new vision and brand promise -- to spark connections across cultures and through time, igniting curiosity, conversation, and creativity. Engaging everyone is what it's all about, whether you're already an art lover, or new to the museum. We want to awaken and inspire.  This is not a slogan or tag line--it's a guiding principle for our work. 

The fact that the museum's staff, board, volunteers, supporters, and friends participated (as a member, you were invited to provide input through online surveys) in the very rigorous process in developing our promise convinces me that it was hardly a waste of time or energy. It was actually quite thrilling, and has given the institution a sharper focus--just what we needed to navigate these challenging times.

Tim Hallman
Director of Communications & Business Development

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The SF Asian Museum unveils its new logo

SF's Asian Art Museum launches a new logo to announce their "new" philosophy. Let's hope that it works better than the new signs. To this artist's eye, it's clumsy and ugly. Here's a case where the old adage, "if it aint' broke, don't fix it,' applies. 

SF Mike has an even better review with pictures up at his blog. As he accurately points out, with all the incredible design talent in the Bay Area, why use a British firm - that's already made a hash of the logo for the upcoming Olympics.

Do read the comments; they are even more critical than mine. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

MOCHA, Muddle, Machiavelli and Middle Eastern Politics

The week to come

It's going to be quite a week! Libra is supposed to be about balance, about beauty and sweetness but this new moon is going to be bombarded with hits from Uranus and Pluto. The sun is also going to be stressed by the square from Pluto, the god of the underworld, power struggles, manipulation and fear.

Oh joy.

I am struggling with a piece on the controversy over the "children's" art from Gaza, looking forward to an explanation as to why the Asian is changing its logo and previewing the show on Houdini. That's the week's symbols in a nutshell - power, manipulation, lies, changes and escape from the underworld. If anybody's reading, well, we are in for a rocky ride.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Autumn Day by Rilke (Trans Stephen Mitchell)

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Life and Times of Philip Dick

Ever since I first started reading science fiction, I've been fascinated by Philip Dick.  At a time when a lot of science fiction has degenerated into mediocre swords-and sorcery or Tolkein wanna be's, Dick's writing still captured the zeitgeist of the 20th, now 21 century.

You won't find beautiful heroines in his books or space travel either. His "robots" in Blade Runner seem as human as the conflicted main protagonist. His main characters are ordinary people, caught up in a web they only dimly understand, where they are relentlessly lied too and manipulated.

 "People cannot put their finger anymore on what is real and what is not real," observes Paul Verhoeven, the one-time Dutch mathematician who directed Total Recall. "What we find in Dick is an absence of truth and an ambiguous interpretation of reality. Dreams that turn out to be reality, reality that turns out to be a dream. This can only sell when people recognize it, and they can only recognize it when they see it in their own lives."

In a 1978 essay he wrote: "We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

Filmed in 1994 by the BBC, A Day in the Afterlife looks back at Dick’s short and often troubled life and his sprawling body of literary work – 44 novels and 121 short stories in total. The film runs 57 minutes and, if you’re interested, you can download three of his works from Open Culture's collection of Free Audio Books.

Friday, September 23, 2011

At the De Young: Glenda Joyce Hape: Connections Through Fiber

The de Young’s Artist-In-Residence Program returns after a short hiatus with Glenda Joyce Hape: Connections Through Fiber, October 5–30, 2011, in the Kimball Education Gallery. Hape, a Maori artist living and working in New Zealand, has had an interest in weaving for as long as she can remember. In recent years, she has enjoyed challenging technical boundaries and combining multimedia in her form making.

Hape’s strong passion draws attention to traditional and contemporary weaving techniques in the context of Maori costume, especially as it relates to kakahu (cloaks). Hape acknowledges her family, kinship group and community as strong informants in her thinking and inspiration for creating artwork. “My artwork speaks of and acknowledges the exquisite taonga (treasures) created by our tipuna (ancestors),” explains Hape. Read more at:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ten mermaids and a raven

I scanned in all the work that I created from that one day of sketching at Ghiradelli Square. Ten mermaids and one raven! Not a bad total for a day in the fresh air then, a couple of weeks working off those sketches.

Smithsonian Museum Day, Sat 9/24/2011

Ji-Young Lee. Be Tinged, 2010 . Naturally dyed silk and silk yarn, traditional surrender technique, handstitching. Museum of Craft and Folk Art, SF
In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket...for free.

Check out the link for a list of Bay Area Museums offering free admission. The beauty of this offer is that it's nation wide so where ever you live, there's probably a museum participating in the program.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday at the Asian

I was surprised to find the Asian almost empty yesterday but I was glad to have the museum almost all to myself. I ran into a charming couple from Canada with two delightful children who were awed by all the remaining decorations, dating from the time when the museum was a public library. I had a lot of fun showing them around and giving them my admittedly potted view of the history of the building. Lunch was a nice salad combined with some so-so samosas (the crust wasn't crisp enough for me.) The staff in the cafe were relaxed because there were only two customers, a gentleman who was engrossed in his book and me.

Then upstairs to see the new exhibits of Korean art. When I go to write my review, I'm giving this five stars - sensitive drawings on mulberry paper, 500 year old ceramics that look contemporary in their freshness and bold design, vases by a young Korean artist that seem to be made of ethereal glass but are make of soap! The whole exhibit is enchanting and I wandered from room to room, delighted by all that I saw.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tom Otterness, who shot a dog for an art film in the 1970s, given a $750,000 grant by the SFAC

When the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) sent out the press release for the artists chosen to decorate the Central Subway project, I filed it in my "ticker" file with a note to keep checking back.

I didn't give it much further thought except to note, with irritation, that some of the larger grants had not gone to local artists.

Like many San Franciscans, I was dubious about the value of the subway project. The price tag of $8 million and rising was high to begin with and a few extra million to various artists didn't seem more than a drop in the bucket of political patronage.

The name "Tom Otterness" didn't ring a bell.

Read more:

Friday, September 16, 2011


Off to see another opening - this one of Korean ceramics which I love. Last week I saw some "new" ceramics at SFMOMA which I thought were grotesque lumps of nothing. I could not think of anything positive to say about them --- so I didn't. But the Asian is reopening the Korean wing with new ceramics and new art by Korean artists which I know I will enjoy, having had a sneak peak at it earlier this week.

I am struggling with the second of the "Blue Serenity" paintings but it's not exciting me. I think the piece is too boring and blah and I don't know what to do. Maybe I will give up on the idea of having it as a duo and just start over with something else.

But in the meantime I took out one of my sketches from the Ruth Asawa Fountain in Ghiradelli Square and dashed off a quick piece with Walnut ink highlighted by Sumi ink. I really like the freshness and looseness of it. I didn't even clean up the edges because that's part of the charm for me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brighten up your day - think tomatoes.

Bet you thought I was going to say "think about sex" but this blog is PC 13. You say tOmAto, I say toMAto. but however you say it, it is September bounty season for the Bay Area

Two new articles up about tomatoes - one on the Heirloom Fair in San Mateo and today's is on my Middle Eastern inspired tomato salad with pita chips

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Art walkabout...

Do you know the way to San Jose? And Ft. Mason? And downtown San Francisco? The fall arts season has opened with a grand slam so get your art walking shoes on.

Untitled. Ed Handelman at Nieto Fine Arts (Downtown San Francisco).

Sunday, September 11, 2011


There are numerous discussions on face book today about the events of 9.11. One of the commentators was struck by Bernie's powerful work and put this quote up by Lao Tsu.
"To rejoice over a victory is to rejoice over the slaughter of men... even a victory is a funeral."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9.11

 9/11/2011. The Day. Bern Rauch. acrylic on canvas, 9x8'. At Driftwood salon.

I was sound asleep when one of my friends called me with the news. She was an early riser and told me to turn on the TV. I could not believe what I was seeing and it took quite a long time for what was happening to really sink in.

I was so touched by the world wide outpouring of support and grief. For once in my life, I felt unabashedly patriotic. I watched the ceremony in Washington DC to honor the fallen and cried Kathleen Battle sang so powerfully.

Then came the rest - restrictions on our civil liberties, a bombastic jingoism, a hijacked election, a right wing Supreme Court, endless war, endless death. How many have died since 9.11?  I can't even begin to count.

I hate the meaningless rhetoric wrapped around the American flag. I refuse to accept that it's been the "worse catastrophe" since ever and I know too much to believe the fraudulent claim that nobody has suffered like we have. We didn't even attack the right country when we invaded Iraq for the majority of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia!

But if Bin Laiden and his followers wanted to destroy America, I think they have succeeded in ways that they may have never predicted. We have a debt that will probably destroy the country, unless we can reverse the tax breaks given to the most wealthy. The right wing and the mega-rich have a death grip on our economy, seeming not to care if the majority of people fall into an abyss little better than medieval serfdom.

We have lost thousands of our young and killed more than thousands of people in countries that we knew little about before 9.11 and probably still know little about. Our political discourse has become toxic. The middle class that supported our democracy is under attack - not from outside terrorists but from an equally ruthless right wing plutocracy.

I love my country. I want her back.  

There are a few artists and a few events that approach this anniversary with sensitivity and political acumen - locally Driftwood Gallery is featuring the work of Bern Rauch (my friend Bernie from Project Artaud) whose paintings are a powerful look at 9.11. Ben Wood will be showing a new video at an interfaith service, the Cartoon Museum is sponsoring an on line exhibit and SFMOMA is offering free admission to active duty police, firefighters and first responders (and their families) this Sunday, September 11.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Getty acquires the Abby Bible, a 13th century Italian masterpiece

The Getty Museum has just added to their already superb collection by the acquisition of the Abbey Bible, an Italian illuminated manuscript that exemplifies the highest achievements of the Gothic era. The Bible is named for a previous owner, who was a celebrated collector of Italian manuscripts.

Produced for the use of a Dominican monastery, the Abbey Bible is one of the earliest and finest in a distinguished group of north Italian Bibles from the second half of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, most of which have come to be associated with Bologna, one of the major centers for the production of Gothic illuminated Bibles.

More at (plus more images);

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bay Area Fall Arts Preview

 Maharajah: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts: A panorama from London's Victoria and Albert Museum of artifacts representing three centuries of royal and colonial rule in India. Oct. 21-April 8. Asian Art Museum,

Mark your calendars for we are in for a glorious fall. You will be able to travel the world without leaving the Bay Area - Dada, Houdini, Maharajahs and masterworks collected by the Hapsburg Dynasty - including Titian, Mantegna and Giorgione.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day, Part II: 1860 fight for a 10-hour day

An important reminder of who Labor Day is supposed to be for and about - from the City of San Francisco museum, a look at an 1860 labor fight for a 10 hour day. It makes me angrier than I can say that we seem to be going backwards and in danger of losing what generations of workers fought for.

"The first concerted drive by labor in San Francisco was for a shorter work day. In 1860 the work day was usually 12 hours. Laborers struck for a 10-hour day. They were working from 6 a. m. to 6 p. m. spreading sand dumped at the foot of California street by the cars from David Hewes’ steam paddy.

According to The Bulletin the laborers “argued that 10 hours a day is enough for any man to sweat.” The men who left the job were paid off."  more at...

San Francisco Sentinel

Labor Day

 Around the World Quilt"  Oil on canvas.  20" x 24"  Artist:  Sherry Miller

If you can make it to the East Bay, my friend Sherry Miller and other Sausalito artists are showing their art at:  SAUSALITO ARTISTS @ WORK

Twenty-five artists actually working in their studios making and displaying paintings.
Family, senior and handicap friendly. Special lectures on collecting and encaustics.
Gallery show.

Industrial Center Building. 480 Gate Five Road at Harbor Drive, Sausalito, CA 94965Labor Day Weekend. September 3, 4 and 5
11-6 all three days.

The de Young will be open on Labor Day even though it’s normally closed on Mondays. The Picasso exhibit will be closing soon. If you don't care for Picasso, there are two superb exhibits to catch - kilms (rugs) from Turkey and an exhibit of works on paper/

SFMOMA is also open today and even if you can't get in to see "The Steins Collect," there's plenty of art on view on the other floors. Local artists Andrew Schoultz does an artistic riff in response to Klee.The design wing of the museum features the work of Dieter Rams, whose design philosophy of "less is more" has been enormously influential

For more than 40 years, Rams was the lead designer for the German household appliance company Braun. He has also been the active designer for German furniture company Vitsœ since his start there in 1959. This exhibition includes more than 200 models and objects by Rams and his team, as well as contemporary designs influenced by his Ten Principles of Good Design, such as Apple computers.
Ten principles of good design:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Copyright infringement and a death in the family

Now, how is that for combining disparate items in a headline?

I thought I was too far under the radar for this to happen but apparently not.

I was shocked to find this website where the owner has posted parts - or all - of my articles but with no links back to the Examiner or any of my websites. The links in the articles go back to Asian Arts so I'm being cheated out of even more of my small earnings.

They even have an RSS feed but no way, that I can find, to contact the owner. There are a lot of ads on the site so somebody is making some money. I've already posted this up on FB and on a number of sites where I am active, asking if there is anything we can do. Useful suggestions are welcome!

Otherwise, it's a cool day here and I'm recovering from the funeral yesterday of my cousin. Her death was unexpected (age 55) and the family is still in shock. The memorial service was quite moving as she was very much loved. There was a fantastic feast back at the family home but it was hot and I was ready to go home by 2 PM. Actually, I was ready to go right after the service with mutual friends who lived in SF, but didn't want to appear rude by leaving too soon.

An elderly couple, friends of the family, agreed to drive me back to BART as it was on their way home. Unfortunately, the male of the couple was in no hurry; Senior Slowpoke took his time, eating a plate of food in the slowest fashion possible while peppering me with rude-disguised as humorous comments.

I have never seen anybody eat a small bunch of grapes so slowly! I must have showed my fatigue and impatience because he snipped at me about "being in a hurry." I kept explaining that I knew there was a ball game on and I wanted to miss the crowds.

Unfortunately, I didn't. There's a hot of hostility there and I was sorry to be the target of it. Even his adult sons were urging him to hurry up but to no avail.

By the time they managed to make their way to the BART station, getting lost on the way, the trains were so crowded that I had to stand until a very nice lady gave me a seat. I was so glad to sit, having been up since 6:30 AM to get over to Lafayette in time to help decorate the church with pictures and mementos of Janet (my cousin) that I had put together for the family.

Naturally, several people were already drunk and there were a number of kids who were noisy and excited to be going to the game. The train was hot and it seemed to take forever to get back to SF.

I kept my cool, realizing that you can't blame kids for being kids but really annoyed at Senior slow poke who took a nasty delight in causing me (a complete stranger) a lot of hassle and inconvenience.

So, today I'm wiped but recovering. The boys from upstairs seem to be away for the weekend so I was able to get a full night's sleep. I am heading over to the Civic Center Farmer's Market and the library and will probably treat myself to lunch. It's good to be home.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blue Landscape #1

I'm gearing up for Open Studios, finishing a half dozen pieces in my studio, getting my water colors matted and shrink wrapped and - finally - getting some of my better pieces professionally photographed. This little canvas is 20 x 20 and I'm pleased with the results. I don't quite know where the peace in this painting came from but I'm happy that it's there. It's a sweet little piece and I am hoping that it will sell.